Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a popular framework in education right now, largely for good reason. It incorporates different types of learning and stresses motivation and engagement as important elements of the learning process rather than focusing solely on information retention and regurgitation. Properly applied, UDL provides multiple opportunities to obtain, synthesize, and express ideas. My online mini-course, Thinking About Thinking Digitally, has to incorporate UDL concepts because of its nature: it is a personalized course that stresses communication, expression, and self-reflection as part of the learning process. TATD is project-oriented and requires engagement with oneself and others to complete its assignments adequately. All studies that allow for the insertion of oneself will, to some extent, provide motivation, encourage planning, and give opportunities for categorizing information in new ways.
One assignment called Digital Literacy: Mapping the Soul? addresses the issue of attention and its importance in the digital world. Becoming aware when being online is the first step to looking critically at the digital world and engaging with it in a meaningful way. The steps to being an attentive digital citizen are firmly based in UDL concepts: student learn the information required to understand what digital literacy is, plan how to use the Internet differently, then engage with the digital world thoughtfully, on their own terms.
I’ve tried to varying degrees of success to make all of my assignments thoughtful in this way: the success of this remains to be seen. I can see three areas that I could improve upon in this course: I believe having more access to images rather than text is one way, and that designing more assignments that use multimedia options would be another. These would assist in making the course more accessible. I also look forward to exploring new options for communication that would allow students to collaborate more and hear more of each other’s ideas. UDL depends on engagement, and I find that students motivate each other more effectively than we think.