Higher Education

“UDL for You”: Why Universal Design for Learning is Needed Now More Than Ever

Get four strategies to implement Universal Design for Learning (UDL) effectively with examples and best practices

Watch this interactive and dynamic presentation that will transform your approach to inclusive education. “UDL for You” dives into the world of Universal Design for Learning, showcasing why it’s more essential now than ever. Through a mix of quick polls, word clouds, practical examples, and best practice “30-second” chat discussions, viewers will leave empowered and equipped with four strategies to implement UDL effectively. This presentation is not just a learning experience; it’s an active, “impulse buzz” tailored for those passionate about making a real difference in their classrooms.




A well-known and recognized e-Learning expert, Richard Powers is currently a Professor, Trainer and Learning Designer with Stuttgart University’s Professional School of Education Stuttgart Ludwigsburg in Germany, where he teaches blended learning courses in Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and learning design to develop competences in digitalization, inclusion and diversity for pre-service teachers across five universities. He is one of three German eTwinning/Erasmus+ Ambassadors training other teacher trainers throughout Germany. Professor Powers won the 2022 Teaching Award for Excellence at Stuttgart University, receiving Euro 10.000 for his research and future projects. He won the 2023 European Union’s Award for Top Initial Teacher Education (ITE) eTwinning Program in Europe. Remotely, Professor Powers develops, implements and evaluates UDL and synchronous “online-live” training programs for 4,000 faculty at City Colleges of Chicago. He routinely teaches and trains faculty in Stuttgart and Chicago how to teach online with Moodle, ILIAS and Brightspace.


Richard Powers:

A little bit about me. Okay. My accent isn’t very German, isn’t it at all, right? You heard I’m in Germany. My name is Rich Powers. I work at a place called the Professional School of Education in Stuttgart-Ludwigsburg. I got stationed here in 1982 with the Army after ROTC, and I’ve been here ever since. So, I like it. Maybe some of you know the German context of lots of Army bases over here.

So, for many years, I worked with University of Maryland and with military learners and that background, working on their college degrees and moving forward. And then, we moved online with that. So, this universal design idea of trying to design from the beginning for all types of learners and all types… well, learners type is hard to say, but learner preferences or just thinking about an audience who’s going to be in your lesson or your course and what might they want or need for a lesson putting it all together.

So, that’s how I wound up over in Germany. The Professional School of Education Stuttgart-Ludwigsburg is for pre-service teachers. So, it’s really working with five universities that train different types of teachers and we take the courses together. Usually, they’re five different universities. Blended learning makes it really easy. We have our class on Moodle and Zoom.

So, we have primary school teachers learning with secondary school teachers, with special needs teachers working all together in the courses. So, I’ve learned a lot about universal design in practice just from that because my audience is so different from the normal teacher training types of activities in there. End of slideshow already. That’s probably going all backwards for it.

So, this is maybe backward design or Universal Design for Learning. Some of you know there are preview of… and if you don’t like scrolling, please look the other way as we hit these areas too. Okay, excellent. Now, what would a good interactive session be without a Zoom poll? So, we’re going to take a quick little Zoom poll and talk about our background or experience with UDL.

So, if you could pick one of these, which applies to you. I’m a newbie to UDL. I know a little bit about it. I know a lot about it. And how about I’m hungry, is there a virtual lounge here? Which means that maybe you ended up in the wrong place or universal design, I would say it’s also fun with test and assessments to kind of have a fun question in there, so people with test anxiety won’t be so overwhelmed with the test while they’re taking.

It doesn’t hurt to smile while you’re taking a test, even if it’s a multiple choice test. So, give it probably about, I don’t know, 15 more seconds. This one isn’t a hard one. Newbie, know a little. And then, we’ll ask Erin to show the results and see who we have, what would be a little bit strange in there too. Excellent. That’s great. UDL people out there.

It’s kind of funny, once you learn a little bit about UDL, you like it and learn a little bit more. So, the people that have… the 23% out there know a lot, chime in. Be my co-presenters with this as we’re moving through the presentation because as we all know, exciting, or maybe we don’t know, but I meant the people that know about UDL know.

UDL 3.0 has just been released for us as a community to review and give proposals for until April 15th. And after that point, they’ll take the reviews and the comments for UDL, the framework, and about July 2024, 3.0 will come out. Now, for those of you who don’t know anything about or UDL, the current… UDL is a framework. I’m going to see it in a second.

The current version is called 2.2 in versions and it comes from 2018. That’s the last time any kind of really significant changes to the framework have been made. That’s why a lot of us who work with UDL are so excited because the problem with 2.2 was really that it talked a lot about learner variability. In other words, people’s brains are different so they’re going to learn differently.

And we all know maybe some of those little style things like some people are audio, some people are visual, some people are haptic, and it’s really changed. It’s not like one has one set way of doing it anyway. But what a lot of people were coming back and saying, you know what, learner variability is great, but what about cultural variability?

Things like where people come from, how welcome they feel in the class, their sense of belonging. All of those things are important for learning too, as well as whether I like the radio on or whether I like to use videos. So, that’s what all the hard work and the research would put in to do with the 3.0. And so, I’m happy today to be able to show you some of those.

So, if you’re an expert at UDL or you know a lot about it, we can talk about that. And if you’re brand new to it, I’ll show you some of the things that have changed from it and maybe you can put in the chat if you think that’s a good idea or not. You can see why that’s so important and what’s happening. All right, I wanted to put some impulse thoughts as we get started.

UDL isn’t about changing students. There’s nothing wrong with students. It’s about changing schools and colleges. So, UDL, that’s a framework. It’s not a set of rules or standards, a mindset or a paradigm shift that doesn’t say the student needs to work harder, the student needs to plan time better, doesn’t put all the emphasis on the student.

So, when a student comes or learner comes up to you and says, “Hey, I received a D or C on my test, what can I do better?” The teacher is not just saying, “Well study more. Sit down with your book and study twice as hard.” It’s a typical type of way going too. UDL then says, “Look, how are you learning this subject?” And then, the student responds with how they’re learning the subject and the teacher begins to brainstorm, almost like a mechanic with the car diagnosing.

What could it be? If the student is saying, “I’m reading this book and I’m just studying and studying.” Maybe they need to make a list or they have to ask ChatGPT for some questions and take a practice test with it. Or maybe they need to watch a few videos or maybe they need flashcards. So, then the teacher becomes somebody who’s learning to help the learner understand how to learn.

It’s really the key. A lot of UDL is helping learners learn how to learn so that when they’re in a class, they come to the teacher and they say, “Hey, you’re doing this. I don’t learn well with that. I need this.” So, very much like here’s another metaphor, you get in a car, you have to adjust the seat, you have to put the seatbelt to make it fit. You have to move the mirror all around.

It’s adjusting to you getting ready to drive. And that’s really what homework assignments, what tests are really, the learner gets in there, and now needs to adjust it instead of really trying to operate that the way it was where all the adjustments and the abilities to make it right for me. So, that’s a lot of what a teacher would then do with UDL figuring out how they’re learning.

The other part is then the teacher might say or think, “Is it the test? Is it the test or the assessment of the measure that’s the problem here?” And then, the other way is it the course materials, the representation? Maybe there’s something in the course materials, the way it’s being formatted. Literature classes sometimes use those anthologies with the 12 font pitch, and difficult to read and lots of pages.

Maybe if there were a way to enlarge the text, or get it as an eBook, or are there accompanying videos with it, or is there an audiobook with it too? All of those things might help with representation so that the student is able to engage with it a little bit more. So, that’s what number one, don’t get anything else out of this session.

UDL is really a set of tools and a framework to help you figure out how to help that student learn better, whether through the way that they’re learning and studying, the test itself or the course materials and try to move in there too. All right, here’s another neat little t-shirt or coffee mug slogan that would be great with UDL and it’s an idea for UDL to start using.

A teacher doesn’t teach Math, English or Science. Let me clear this out of the way, there. A teacher shows learners how to learn these subjects, and anything else, and life learners want to learn. So, somebody says, “Hey, I’m a teacher.” And then, somebody says, “Well, what do you teach?” He says, “I teach English.” UDL will say, “No, you show learners how to learn English or you teach learners how to learn English.”

And that mindset sometimes helps with UDL because then the whole burden is off of the teacher’s thinking that everything is in my head, now I have to put it in your head. No, the teacher is not there while the student is taking the test or being assessed. So, when the student is studying, they have to know how to learn so they can help themselves and do well on the tests.

So, you’re helping students learn to learn Math. You’re helping students learn to learn Science, learn to learn Chemistry. And of course this third one, if you’ve understood the first two or if they resonated for you, let’s move from emphasizing teaching to emphasizing learning. So, the whole focus then becomes, I’m a teacher I’m teaching, I’m a teacher I’m helping learners learn.

So, how’s the learning in a classroom? So, for evaluations, it’s not so much how is the teacher teaching, how are the learners learning? And it’s working that way. So, those three thoughts coming into the subtitle for my presentation is Why Now More Than Ever with UDL. And so, I want to see these pictures and if you do a lot of course reviews or you walk into classrooms and you’re observing, these are some of the things that you can see where UDL people would go, “Oh-oh, there’s another way.”

So, just that you can see people not really actively engaged in the classroom and yet still the teacher teaches. You have people with their backs to the wall writing complicated things that people are trying to take cameras and do things too. We already talked about the text and then these kinds of tests, people with test anxiety in there.

Other reasons for, our classrooms are diverse, our classrooms are digitalized. There’s cultural variability in our classrooms. There’s neurodiversity. Nobody’s brain works the same way. There’s learner variability. People like to learn in social situations. Some people are solitary learners. There’s learner’s mental wellness. All kinds of things are happening to people and they’ve always happened to people.

And now, we’re more interested in the state of the brain while it’s trying to learn and being clear for whatever is being come. Then there are first-generation learners who might not feel welcome in the classroom or have family support systems that really understand what they’re doing in college. Equity in education is important to us.

The sense of belonging and connection, we’re finding out, especially if you work with first-year students in college or newcomers who’ve come into your school. How do you achieve that sense of belonging, connection, so that they’re engaged and interested? And of course, the workforce area preparing for a diverse world. So, all of those things have to do with that.

All right, so let’s do another poll here. Let’s Interact: Is the learner the Problem? Is this one is about, and this one’s going to show a number of statements here. And really, with this, is pick one that really resonates for you. When I say resonate, it could be something personal that you feel yourself, or it could be something that you hear very often.

I’m not good at Math because I had a bad Math teacher and you could substitute that with Chemistry or English, whatever. I’m not good at X because I had a blank X, I had bad X teacher. Or I’m not good at tests. If there were another way to do it or just, I hate school, hate school, or this is an interesting one, I can’t do the homework. And we’ll talk about maybe why that one is so interesting after we see the results.

And then, what we’ve talked about these other two, UDL isn’t about changing students. And the other one, a teacher doesn’t teach Math, English, or Science. So, let’s see which one of those resonates the most for you. And it doesn’t even have to be necessarily one that you’ve agree with, but that it’s something that you work with and are trying to solve. And this is also a single choice.

So, maybe about 10 more seconds. Get Erin to show the results. Nice. So, the highest at 28% there is I’m not good at tests. So, if you think about university and how you get into tests, I was still part of that era. Maybe it’s still today with the SATs and the PSATs and that was a big part. Taking those standardized tests is a big part of getting in there. And then, your high school average was too.

So, all the people that weren’t good at tests, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you picked it because you were. It’s just something that resonates with you. But let’s say 28% of the people, it’s probably 28% of the population out there that didn’t get into college or then has to go in other ways to try to make up for that. So, if tests are the best way that we’re assessing learning, it’s not inclusive and we’re leaving all kinds of people out too.

Now, the other one I wanted to talk about here is this, I can’t do the homework. And why that one is so important is if a student comes up to you and says, “I can’t,” that that’s kind of a cry for help. And most of us then say, “Oh yes, you can just believe in yourself. You got this. Go study some more.” And really, after a little bit of UDL, when they say, “I can’t,” that’s when the teacher goes into, “Uh-huh. They’re coming to me, they can’t.”

Now, figure out why can’t they do the homework? Is it a time issue? Is it a textbook issue? Is it a social issue at home? What’s the can’t? So, you say, “Why can’t,” and then use this echo technique for trying to draw out information. They might say, “I can’t do the homework.” You say, “Can’t do the homework. It’s too hard. Hard? Yeah, the text is too small or hard,” they say, “It’s too loud in my house or I need too much time with it.”

So, the I can’t do the homework is the student coming for advice. They just don’t know how to phrase the question to help me with this homework. I’m trying it, I’m trying it and I’m trying it. So, that’s a nice one to put in there too. And then, I think another large one everybody saw was that at the end, and maybe the people that picked that one, you’re probably maybe an educator or a teacher.

The first time I heard it, I did a whole, “Whoa, I like that.” It’s not like I’m teaching English, I’m teaching learners how to learn English. Okay. So, let’s get into Universal Design. First, before we say Universal Design for Learning, Universal Design is an architectural term. It’s attributed to Ronald Mace. He coins the concept of universal design for buildings.

It’s really responsible in the 1970s for accessibility-based building codes in North Carolina. In 1989, the Center for Accessible Housing is there. So, things like sliding doors, and ramps, and what they all found out, not just Ronald here, when sliding doors came out or ramps, they were great for people who had physical challenges to open doors or to go upstairs, but that everybody benefited from them.

Sliding doors, if you were carrying children or you had books in your arms, whatever, a sliding door made everything easy, just the same way a ramp was good for people with strollers, and bikes, and all kinds of things. So, he comes up with this great another t-shirt or coffee mug type of thing. Consider the needs of the broadest possible range of users from the beginning.

And when he’s talking about that, it’s really houses and infrastructures of communities. So, when Universal Design for Learning comes all about, then this whole notion of accommodation and universal design of equity and equality come in. If you see the picture on the left, accommodation, the steps were there first.

And so, then what people had to do is come up with accommodations and put a ramp beside it so you have two. That’s not universal design. Universal design has one. So, the one on the right, they were thinking at the beginning when they designed, okay, we have to have people move upward, so let’s put something with every possible kind of person. So, who would be using this?

People with bikes, people with wheelchairs, whatever. And then, the design from the beginning is there. So, CAST.org, if you’re following with your phone, you can use the QR code and go right to that website. It’s CAST.org if you’re on your PC and you just want to find the website where all this is, but it’s the Center for Applied Science and Technology, CAST.org. And the website is in purple if you can see those colors.

You’re looking for Our Impact, and then click on Universal Design for Learning. And that’s where you’ll find UDL, and the principles, and how all that has evolved. About 2016, the federal government, the US government, and America, and a lot of the educational grants, the proposals before the request for when the RFPs went out, a lot of the words in there then started to say proposals that have Universal Design for Learning in them will be greeted friendly.

They’re looking for those types of things. Went out and promoted Universal Design for Learning, and that’s when it really took off. So, for 2016, you find lots of school districts and other agencies that are might be state or federally funded using universal design and putting it into their practice. Those of you that are researchers and you’re looking at the evidence-based research behind CAST’s framework that we’ll look at in a second, there’s been an evolution.

The founders of UDL, David Rose, they really say UDL is a river, and it’s changing, and it’s not meant to be static at all. And the books will show you how it’s developed that way too. 1999, Learning to Read in the Computer Age, you can see really where this coming out, it’s computers were helping us learn or show that learners who were challenged in other forms of communication could learn using the computer.

So, how do you use the computer to enhance learning? And then, Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age, 2005s the first time it’s in the title, well, there it is in the subtitle, The Universally Designed Classroom Accessible Curriculum, 2012, Universal Design for Learning in the Classroom and the current book, 2014, Universal Design for Learning Theory and Practice.

And that’s available free at clusive.cast.org. So, clusive.cast.org, you go there, you join, it’s free, and you can get access to this book that I’m sure will be updated, if not this year, then next year with the new framework and having in it. But that’s the current practice with the book and how they work them in. We said it’s a framework, here they are. Super simple, really, and in that, it has three principles.

ERA is what I coach students into remembering. ERA, if you can remember that era part. The E is for engagement, the R is representation and the A is for action expression. The idea is that parts of the brain, systems of the brain, the effective networks for engagement, the recognition networks for representation, and then the strategic networks for action and expression are how learners learn, but that they’re different.

So, engagement is this curious, and if the student is interested in something, then the idea is that they will learn better. So, the what of learning is the representation of it, how it’s coming to the learner, and then the how is how it’s transmitted back to the teacher for assessment. So, you think of representation as how the material is presented to the brain and to the learner, how it’s coming that way.

And then, the action expression is then how does the learner show the teacher, the professor, the assessor or whatever that they’ve learned the material. So, those are the three principles. And then, there’s a framework that these guidelines are then called. And they use these colors, if you can see color, this column is all about engagement. Here’s the one about perception, and here’s the one with action and expression.

And within there, they have these guidelines that go with the principles, three principles, and then three guidelines for each one. And what’s interesting, these used to be called checkpoints, the little bullets, and don’t try to read them. That’s not the idea. Just to see that this is what is going on in there. And the new changes to UDL changes checkpoints, these bullets or circles to prompts.

Because they said the problem with the checkpoint is a lot of people were feeling that this was some kind of list that all learning had to do that. So, they’ve just changed that into prompts. What’s interesting, we’ll look at the new changes and what they’ll do. So, I won’t cover that too much, but the whole key of UDL, a lot of people get hooked with this stuff up at the top.

Down here is where the gold is. The whole purpose of the framework is so that we develop expert learners that are purposeful and motivated, resourceful and knowledgeable, and strategic and goal-directed. And UDL uses this term expert, an expert learner. And by that, they mean they say it takes probably people about eight to nine years, maybe 10, to become an expert at anything.

So, to become an expert at, oh, I don’t know, winning an Olympic gold medal or Rubik cube and be able to do that, I mean 10 years. So, if it takes us that long to really become expert at learning, what are we doing to help learners reach their potential to become purposeful and motivated, resourceful and knowledgeable, and then strategic and goal-directed?

The whole idea is whenever they leave school, if it’s after 10th grade, 11th grade, or if they go on to university, is that when a life situation comes up and they need to learn. They know what they know to do to have to learn. So, maybe a new family, a baby comes to a young mother or a young father, and now they want to learn how to put diapers on or how to…. instead of freaking out, getting all nervous and scared, but they say, “Okay, I need to learn this so I’m going to go learn this.”

Or if somebody’s moving to a foreign country, now I need to learn the language. Instead of going, “Ah, ah, ah,” they say, “Okay, I need to learn it. And here is what I do to learn. This is the type of learner that I am.” So, UDL is really all about helping learners know what kind of learner they are and then what learning aids help them. They’re the different versions on the right.

You can see 2008, the firmware appears. And now, what’s exciting is we’re at version 3.0. So, those of you who are newbie, here’s this proposal. I’m going to go back just to show you, that’s the one that’s set in stone right now. And here’s the draft, and the draft, we have until April 15th to give our feedback about what we think about it and then it will come out in July.

But let’s look at this column on the left first. Go back to the old, notice they had access, build, and internalize, and they were going horizontally across this way. What a lot of people were saying that it’s super confusing. They didn’t see really how this was moving forward and it seemed to just move in one direction. The new framework has access up here and then student agency for the empowerment part.

And then, having it being a reiterative thing so that access and agency reflect each other, rather than this way of access, building, and internalizing, which was always a psychological turn that took a lot of time for people to explain. So, that’s one of the changes that they are asking for our opinion about and saying, “Hey, is that a better way to put this whole thing together?”

And then, down here at the bottom, you see the goal, purposeful, motivated, and now we have reflective, instead of just purposeful and motivated. And authentic, resourceful and knowledgeable, whereas the other one was resourceful and knowledgeable. And then, the last one, strategic, creative. And now, look at this, liberatory.

Now, you can do a lot with that, liberatory, and try to think of what does that really mean. The other version of this had strategic and goal-directed. So, strategic, creative and liberatory trying to, I don’t know, make it more reflective of what we’re working with learners as educators and how that all moves in. Another chief change, notice up at the top here was provide, provide, provide because UDL is really all about options.

So, with this one, if we’re saying engagement, provide multiple means of engagement, so multiple means of engagement, multiple options. The new term is design for that. Multiple means of representation, it might come as a book, might come as an audio, it might come as a video or as flashcards coming in. But now the key word is then design.

So, in each of these top things, design with multiple means of engagement, multiple means of representation, and multiple means of action and expression. So, when we get into some of the guidelines, the old one was recruiting interests, almost sounded like the military. This one is options for welcoming interests and identities, options for sustaining effort and persistence, and then options for emotional growth to bring in all the social and emotional learning that I’ve done.

The other one had self-regulation, which was always an interesting term to try to describe to people what that meant. Now, it involves things like emotional growth and we’re going to have lots of time, but some other new changes here. See this one, nurture, joy, and play is coming into engagement for that part in there too. Practice empathy is in this part, moving up through it together.

Comprehension was the old term here and now it’s building knowledge instead of that. So, it looks at knowledge as a constructivist type of point. Options for interaction, and the other version, it had been physical action, which was really hard to explain what that meant. The other term that was difficult here with action and expression was executive functions, and what that really meant for people taking intro to UDL webinars and seminars.

The new one is just strategy development. So, if it’s a learner and the learner knows I have poor time management, so I need a checklist, or I need a scaffold, or I need to make sure that my outline is done in this week, my rough draft is done in this week. And then, they’re able to do it for themselves or at least work with a coach or a mentor for that.

They’re seeing learning as a strategy, especially if they’re taking four or five courses in college. Okay. That was a lot. Sorry to combine two frameworks for you. If you’re new to UDL, this is the one that you’re going to find everywhere because it’s still out there. And if you’re an expert at UDL, you’ve been there for a while. We’re so used to this one, so it’ll probably take some time getting used to this one.

The purpose of our talk today is really why is it important and what can we do with it so that these three principles, engagement, representation, and action and expression are framework tools that an educator can use with learners to help them improve. And here’s the proposed graphic. If some of you out there want to use your phone, and it’s also on images in there too, but I think it’s neat to try to have that.

Now, some of these principles we’ve gone through already, this first one is all about engagement. People are different. Not everyone is interested in the same things. Our curiosity is sparked differently. That’s probably why, if you go to any, I don’t know, any place just about today, you’ll see people on their phones and they’re all on their phones because their curiosity is being sparked in that many different directions.

There’s not just one, or remember the days of three TV channels, maybe people say that it was better, all right. But there’s a wide variety of motivations for learners, and there’s an appeal to real world applications and relevancy. So, welcoming interests and identities are important. Sustaining effort and persistence with this.

How do I, in a 16-week college course, keep people’s interest from the beginning to the end? Or while you’re in something, and if you’re not varying it and doing different things with it, people will get bored very quickly. But what are we doing in our classes? So, often, we’re just worried about the academics. But what are you doing about fostering belonging and community, offering action and oriented feedback with that too.

Some tools, some of you have LMSs out there, textbooks, videos, graphic depictions, audio, hyperlinks and text editors. These are all different ways. Ally Blackboards tool, which is anthologies, has different ways that you can have different formats that are coming in there too. You can also use boldface and text editors with different areas as well.

And we talk about representation, how’s the content coming to you? Does the information appear with options? Does it have ways to help all learners move in there? Their perception, how is it moving in? Language and symbol, are those explained at the beginning? We have sometimes difficult charts and graphs trying to understand. This prompt is new. Address the biases in the use of language and symbols.

So, what biases might there be in the language being used or the symbol? So, are there alternatives for translations if the goal is not to read in English. This especially Ukraine, Yulia is with us today in Germany. We have a number of students that have come out of the war into Germany, into the classrooms. So, having translations of the text for Math helps them do well in their schools.

Okay. And then, building knowledge. SEL comes here to play a little bit into representation, so emotional growth, practicing empathy. It’s also sometimes helpful right now if you think about engagement, think back to a time when the educator did a poor job with engagement in your life. And you don’t have to put it in the chat or anything, but think about how that teacher might’ve been able to do that a little bit better with getting you interested in a subject matter.

LMSs that we use have different online tools for engagements. There’re awards, there’re document templates, banners and images, those types of things too. The Rise to Equity Initiative, David Rose publishes this essay about Cracks in the Foundations that have pretty much been used to put this 3.0 together. A lot of us have seen this graphic before. It’s this movement from equality.

Everybody has the same thing. Equity now, it’s balanced according to limitations and development. And the other one, someone just says, “Hey, throw that wall out. Get rid of all the barriers.” And then, you’re at an area where everybody can just see without trying to overlook something and move forward. Here’s a QR code for Tesha Fitzgerald’s work with antiracism and UDL, a wonderful book to use with classes and moving forward with that to try to show that UDL is moving out of just learner variability for this.

And this last principle of action and expression are really the tests and how they give it back to us in classes. So, options for interaction, maybe if it’s only a written test, could a oral test be given for that expression and communication? So, if you see the swimming pictures down there, the teacher is a coach and a mentor, the student is doing it a little bit.

And then, there’s joy with that as they learn to do it themselves with some prompts in there too. So, strategy development, we talked about. LMS and online tools for action and expression are out there. Checklists, rubrics, announcements, emails, notifications, apps for the LMS’s intelligent agents, which are just those automatic emails that come through it too.

If we had a little bit more time, we’d talk about this, which of these is your weakest area when you’re dealing with students in here? UDL shows you, one, students setting the goal themselves. Two, students are planning their activities to meet their goal. Three, they monitor their own progress. Four, evaluate their results. And then, five, reflect on their learning.

And notice in that graphic, the teacher is behind, it’s really the student that’s doing all of this. So, if you’re in high school teaching that, primary school and that, what are your students doing in this and what could they be doing better in that area too? So, in summary, I want to leave a little bit of time for some questions here. These four best practices that I tried to lure you in here, “Hey, four things,” like a marketing probe.

Design with multiple means of representation is certainly that, you think about the content and the materials that your students are using. This is just a textbook. It needs to be more. Is it an audiobook? Does it have abilities to regulate the size of the text? And moving through, foster engagement through choice and cultural relevance, design, flexible methods of expression and assessment.

And four, emphasize learning, not teaching. It’s all about the learning. It’s not you being a perfect teacher and getting the teacher. It’s all about how’s the learning going, and how do you know that you’ve got learning going on in a class to build an inclusive and supportive classroom experience. Okay. So, let’s stay connected. If any of this has resonated with you, there’s a UDL International Special Interest Group, SIG.

Love to have some more people from the North America, certainly Mexico, Canada is included in that one too. We have Zoom meetings, we work on research networking and there’s a newsletter. So, sign up for that. I think the slides will be available here too. My slides are available here at this. And they’ll also be available through our great host sessions here too.

I’m going to stop the slides and see if everybody’s been put to sleep or if you’re all still with me and maybe turn it over to Matthew and see if there’re any questions or anybody has some comments to share.


Absolutely. Still here with you, Richard. Very engaging session. And we do have a question from Michelle. She is asking, is there an assessment at the beginning where we can determine how students prefer to learn to help us to design in UDL? So, any tools or assessments? Yeah, go ahead and take it.

Richard Powers:

I love this question because there are all kinds of checklists out there. You could just Google that and then find it. But if Michelle is an instructional designer, that’s one way to do it too. But if you’re just a teacher, the best thing to do, it’s a tip that I started using. I really love it. The very first class that I have, I say, “Hey, you’ve read the syllabus. You know what the material is that we’re going to breed. How are you going to learn the material?”

And you just open it up, whether it’s a blackboard question that they put on there or it’s in the classroom, it’s a Math class for example. How are you going to learn? Somebody says, “Well, I do the homework,” and somebody else is going to say, “Well, I turn on music in the background and ask my father.” Or somebody will say, “I use flashcards.”

The whole first hour of the class is talking about the different ways that people are going to learn the material for the class. So, they start seeing learning as being something that they’re responsible for. It’s not the teacher that’s responsible for making sure that they learn it. It’s really they’re the drivers of their car there.

So, I know, Michelle, you’re probably looking at where’s that golden checklist that says, “Hey, have all these things while you’re putting it all together,” but if you think about your assignments and what barriers are there for all kinds of learners, what type of learner couldn’t do it? And then, we really start a whole culture in our classes of talking about, here’s this subject, how are you going to learn it?

Rather than just assume they’re going to sit down and study, study, study, memorize, study, study, study. It might be learning and working for some people, but for other students, they’re not going to be able to do, they’re going to try it and it doesn’t work for them. So, that’s that tip. Engage them so they start thinking, what kind of a learner are you?

A strength could be coming out of a class and saying, I’m a good learner at this, this, and this because I do this. But now when I learn to need Math, I need to learn that. So, does that make sense, Michelle? I hope that answered the question.


Excellent. And another question from the audience, Jennifer is asking that wondering if there is a UDL or any specific material that you think might be more relevant or helpful for those that are engaged in American sign language? I don’t know if there’re any specific resources or pages that might be more impactful or relevant for them.

Richard Powers:

That’s a great question. I don’t have an answer. And I’ve got a wonderful person here, Kelsey. And I almost want to involve her with that. It’s hard to trying to do sign language and then talk about herself at the same time and say we need to do that. That is a great question. I just don’t have the information about that.

Sorry. That’s a wonderful part of all of the things that we’re talking about, be more inclusive. And now you’ve identified a barrier in my own presentation. Maybe people know from the chat, there are other experts that some other people put their suggestions for this.


And one last question from Christopher Dobson, how do some AI improving or impacting accessibility and faculty and student relations? Maybe it’s how do you see AI improving or impacting accessibility, I believe was the question.

Richard Powers:

Oh my gosh, Ludia, I should put that in, Ludia, L-U-D-I-A is a chatbot for UDL and it’s great. And you can even use ChatGPT or any artificial intelligence and say, here is my syllabus, or here’s my activity, here’s my quiz, here’s my test. Please revise it through the lens of UDL for representation, action and expression, and engagement. And it will come out and it will say, “Here are some ideas.”

And of course, with all generative AI, look at the results, and then see what’s valuable and what’s not valuable. But you can ask it. Here’s my assignment. Please scan it for UDL and improve it. And that Ludia, if you Ludia and the person that put it together, her name is Beth Stark, B-E-T-H S-T-A-R-K, Beth Stark, Ludia. Go to her site. You can download… you can access, not really download that. And that is a great AI asset for UDL.


Wonderful, wonderful, So, I think with that… oh, I’m so sorry, Richard.

Richard Powers:

No, it’s okay. Lynn said UDL can overwhelming who don’t feel adequate. What is your advice for building knowledge and professional development in order to equip teacher? I love this. Email me for sure. For one, go to the SIG meetings and then clusive.com, cast.clusive.com, the book, you can get the e-version. It’s called UDL Theory and Practice.

And really, all these webinars, these things that I give, they’re nice, but unless you really read that book and it’s an online book, it’s really readable, has videos that go with it. It’s really a UDL book. As you go through that, you’re going to really understand and learn UDL. I’d gone to a lot of these workshops and webinars, but until I really sat down, read the book, and I was like, “Oh, now I get it.”

Because people keep saying, “This is UDL, this is UDL.” If you’re serious about UDL and really want to learn it, read the book. It’s probably about 110 pages. It’s an easy read, six chapters, and super interesting about brain and neurodiversity.