Universal Design for Learning, the JIBC Perspective

Jessica Motherwell McFarlane and Marion Craig, two JIBC instructors with a lot of curiosity and desire to learn, went to the online UDLHE Digicon Conference a few weeks back. Many of the presentations were recorded and are available at the UDL IRN You Tube Channel. There was a lot to learn, more than anyone can take in at once, but fortunately for the rest of us, they took notes. Here are some highlights. Jessica and Marion have presented us with a model for how to maximize our learning and professional development when participating in an online conference.

If you want to know more about UDL, this is a great place to start.

UDL Concepts that Deserve Further Attention

Getting started with UDL

  • “First, do ONE thing” approach – There is sooo much to do, first start with one thing. What is the most important thing that needs to be done first?
  • Ask faculty: “Can you align what you are already doing with UDL principles”
  • Find out what others are doing. For example, in the presentation Accidental UDL, Tufts University faculty discuss how they respond to COVID conditions with a UDL response. A good case study to consider.


  • Neuro-diverse learners have less energy, are inaccurate self-assessors, experience humiliation failure, and exclusion.
  • Education system is unfriendly to young people with dyslexia.
  • What are you doing to make learning a more positive experience for these learners?

Learning spaces

  • Use the 5 Es of user experience to help consider learning spaces:
    • Entice
    • Enter
    • Engage
    • Exit
    • Extend
  • “Culture eats Strategy for breakfast” — “This means that no matter how strong your strategic plan is, its efficacy will be held back by members of your team if they don’t share the proper culture. … The actions of the founders and executives speak louder than their words in the process of culture creation.”

Tools for Teaching

  • Padlet: an online tool that encourages engagement and provides greater visual cues than a discussion board.
  • Wakelet: for co-collecting important resources and links
  • Deck of Spaces: play and invent new games with this deck just to get more familiar with the big ideas (currently on order)

Some Lessons about Online Conference Attendance

Here are a few ideas for JIBC folks attending future online conferences.

  • Go with a friend.
  • Text/message/Facetime, etc. each other before and after sessions. As members of the JIBC community, think about how the ideas presented relate to your courses/programs. What can we be doing better at JIBC to make our courses more accessible and relevant to the lives of our students?
  • Keep a document open to collect all the resources that come your way during the conferences. Often people add important links in the chat area. Other times, you want to go back over a session’s powerpoint. You will lose track, so keep a notebook!
  • Faculty would benefit from debriefing opportunities relating to their courses, especially now with so much change in the past year. It helps to know that others are trying and experimenting and working to improve their teaching. Good for ideas as well as general emotional support.

Further Reading on UDL

In our library:

Gunawardena, C. N., Frechette, C., & Layne, L. (2019). Culturally inclusive instructional design : a framework and guide for building online wisdom communities. Routledge.

Sheryl E. Burgstahler. (2020). Creating Inclusive Learning Opportunities in Higher Education : A Universal Design Toolkit. Harvard Education Press.


Karen Costa’s Trauma-Aware Teaching Checklist 
“This checklist has been prepared for higher educators as a tool to reflect on their teaching and courses, regardless of modality. The six principles of trauma-informed care developed by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) are a foundational concept in the trauma field. In this checklist, they are adapted to the field of education to assist teachers in creating more trauma-aware classrooms.”

Trauma-Informed Teaching Practices by Martha A Diede
“2020 has not turned out the way that anyone imagined. Many of us continue to experience anxiety due to the uncertainty of the coming months. Neither you nor your students is sure what happens next. A variety of experiences are producing or re-activating trauma, including senseless deaths, loss of the Spring semester that we envisioned, loss of the pre-pandemic world, perhaps loss of loved ones. So responding to ourselves and our students using trauma-informed teaching and learning practices can help.”

20 Tips for Teaching an Accessible Online Course By Sheryl Burgstahler Ph.D. Resource suggested by Ben Coulas, another conference attendee.

Accidental UDL Chart: Resource suggested by Amy Severson, another conference attendee.

Creating Authentic  Assessments with UDL. Lynn Truong, Instructional Designer at CTLI recommends this presentation for its handy tools and tips for integrating UDL principles into your assessment work. Throughout the presentation, the lead facilitator, Jenn Pusateri from the University of Kentucky, offers some very practical advice for designing UDL-informed assessments. Pusateri also includes a number of useful and visually appealing tools to help with your assessment work.

“This session scaffolds the process of developing a choice-based assessment so that postsecondary instructors, faculty developers, and instructional designers can utilize a step-by-step process for moving from no choices (for example, only offering an exam) to one or two choices (exam, paper, presentation, etc.). “

If you only have time to view one session, maybe choose this one!

Conference Presenters Whose Work We Should Look At:

We have more resources to share from this amazing conference. So look for them in future issues of the Hub.