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Universal design for learning

The ability to have multiple representations of content can be used to clarify as well as enhance the learning experience for students

For many students, a course of study can be disabling. Barriers often exist that prevent the student from gaining access to the information.

The classroom of today is not made up of a homogeneous group. Instead, it has students with disabilities, students from different backgrounds and students with different educational and cultural experiences. Therefore, trying to teach content using a ‘one size fits all' method is not always an effective strategy.

David Rose, the co founder of CAST, which is a US-based nonprofit research and development organisation, argues that when designing a course, all learners would benefit if Universal Design for learning (UDL) principles were considered at the outset.

David Rose is a developmental neuropsychologist and educator who has done a lot of work in the development of new technologies for learning. He's also the co-founder of CAST, whose mission is to improve the access to learning, for all learners. This work has developed into what's known as Universal Design for Learning (UDL) which influences educational policy and practice in the United States.

UDL has three principles that can guide teachers when planning their lesson. They are as follows:

  • Present information and content in different ways (eg audio, graphically as well as text). This way all learners will be able to benefit, including those with a disability.
  • The student should be allowed to demonstrate his or her knowledge and skills in different ways.
  • Understand how and what motivates your students and then use this to stimulate and engage them.
  • Finally, the development in digital media means that content can now be manipulated and presented in many different ways. Previously, text was fixed and there was a "one size fits all" approach. The ability to have multiple representations of content can be used to clarify as well as enhance the learning experience for students. This can lead to a diverse and flexible palette which caters to the learning styles of the different learners. And the importance of this should never be underestimated .