Despite the great technological advancements in many areas, especially in education, there stll are areas for improvements. Specifically in online learning there is a lot to enhance the way content is created and delivered to students in the different Learning Management Systems. This is when Universal Design (UD) concepts and principles can be applied in education to provide more accessibility for all students. Universal Design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design as defined by the Center for Universal Design at North Caroline State University. We will explore the seven principles of Universal Design and how they relate to Education.
Most online courses content has been designed for normal students or the majority of them, but not for all. When preparing content for online learning, intuitively the content is targeted for the majority of students. Simultaneously, this does not include other students that might be in the class. As the Universal Design suggests, when designing a course, it should be inclusive of all students that might enroll in the class without adjusting it to target a specific group of students.
There are seven principle designs which have been put in practice in other fields such as architecture, engineering, computer science among others. They are Equitable Use, Flexibility in Use, Simple and Intuitive, Perceptible Information, Tolerance for Error, Low Physical Effort and Size and Space for Approach and Use. As mentioned in the paragraph above, instructors should make sure that the content they deliver is geared for every student and not creating content for different groups of them or creating special content for special students.
Design Principles dictate that course organization should be consistent throughout the course and links should work at
designs also account for different learning styles and focus the instructor to include visual, contextual, media elements as part of the course. These course contents provide a better and richer learning experience for different students who learn differently. The LMS or CMS nd the reading materials should be able to be read using screen readers and have the ability to be zoomed out.
In summary, the Universal Design brings clear and precise ways to tremendously improve the learning experience in online teaching. Course content can definitely be inclusive of all students by designing it in such a manner that it includes different learning styles and provides accessibility. Adding captions to audios and videos help students who have visual and audio impediments as well as those who English is a second language. Providing websites that work with screen readers and having a consistent design in the course development greatly enhance the learning experience. All the above is possible due to the Universal Design principles applied to online learning.