Universal Design for Instruction at UConn: Project Overviews
The Universal Design for Instruction (UDI) Online Project is the third project related to UDI conducted by the Center on Postsecondary Education and Disability (CPED). The current project represents a unique collaboration between CPED and the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) at the University of Connecticut (UConn).
An overview of the three UDI projects follows.
Project One: Assuring Equal Academic Access for College Students with LD by Implementing Universal Design in the Instructional Environment (1999 – 2002)
The first project focused on the task of applying Universal Design (UD), a concept from the field of architecture developed by the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University (1997), to college instruction The seven principles of UD are widely acknowledged and cited as seminal in the field of UD. They delineate considerations for the "usability of an environment" based on a broad spectrum of human abilities including vision, hearing, speech, body function, mobility, and cognition. The focus of this project centered on extending the concept of UD to college teaching to enhance the instructional environment and to assure programmatic access for diverse learners. By focusing on methods and strategies that promote learning, this project and the subsequent two are grounded in an inclusionary approach to a quality higher education regardless of underlying cognitive/learning difficulties that students may have.
The literature on Universal Design was examined, in conjunction with literature on effective instruction in higher education and effective strategies for teaching students with learning disabilities in both secondary and postsecondary educational settings. Other sources that were reviewed included the seminal principles of good practice in undergraduate education by Chickering and Gamson (1987), guidelines for inclusive teaching practices at the K-12 level from the Center on Applied Special Technology (CAST,1999), and the six major features of effective instruction developed by the National Center to Improve the Tools of Educators (Kame’enui & Carnine, 1998). These sources were viewed concurrently with particular attention to overlaps across principles as well as gaps in the literature base. From this work, the nine Principles of UDI© were developed. Faculty from institutions across the country submitted examples of instructional methods that underwent a peer review process and were determined to reflect these principles. These examples are posted on the project website, www.facultyware.uconn.edu.
Project Two: Designing Inclusive College Teaching: Empowering Faculty to Promote Equal Educational Access for Students with Cognitive Disabilities (2002 – 2005)
The second project focused on the convergence of UDI and cutting edge practices in the field of faculty development. Learning Communities, an approach to professional development for faculty that is designed to maximize faculty motivation and investment, were established at five institutions across the country. These institutions were divergent in type (i.e., 2 year, 4 year, public, private), and the Learning Communities included faculty and professional staff representing different disciplines. These Learning Communities developed and field-tested materials to orient faculty to inclusive instruction based upon the Principles of UDI©. Widespread dissemination of orientation materials and instructional products occurred via the project website, www.facultyware.uconn.edu.
Project Three: UDI Online (2008 – 2011)
Our current project, UDI Online, extends prior work in UDI into the online and technology blended learning environments. There is rapid growth in online and blended course offerings and enrollments, but limited evidence related to effective teaching practices for diverse learners, particularly those with mild cognitive disabilities. The project focuses on the concept of "faculty as designer" and targets electronic teaching tools (called e-Tools) that faculty can implement in their courses without requiring the support of an instructional or web design team. It is important to note that the e-Tools will not be universally designed in and of themselves. Rather, it is the manner by which individual faculty members integrate and implement these e-Tools in course planning, delivery, and assessment that will determine how the use of e-Tools reflect the Principles of UDI©. For example, the same e-Tool may be used in a different manner or for a different purpose by different faculty members. This may result in the same e-Tool reflecting different Principles of UDI©, or in some cases, more than one Principle. Collaborative relationships are being established with a range of postsecondary institutions to implement, field-test, and review these e-Tools. Information about project results will be made available via the project website, www.udi.uconn.edu.
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