The shock is over, sadness comes and goes, and the stretch waistband pants become a mainstay. As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic lingers, it may be time to settle into an educational environment that will be more online than previously imagined.
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Universal Design for Learning (UDL) may offer a unique goal or path to some semblance of normalcy in this anomalous time.
UDL comes from an educational framework first conceptualized in architecture with universal design – creating spaces accessible to all – and the challenges of special education, where student-based learning and teaching ” medium âwere not effective.
In this pandemic, nothing in learning is average. Especially for business training and certifications. A framework that takes into account the great differences in human behavior and teaches every student is more essential than ever. UDL provides a framework to reach every student through online teaching using neuroscience for learning and following the 3 main principles of engagement, representation, action and expression.
The first step for educators looking to transition to online training and effectively teach all students is to start with the concept of engagement. There are a number of ways people can start teaching and learning online. But it’s critical to start by tackling the anxiety and destabilization that results from training center closures and the loss of the in-person and community connections they create.
If we don’t all leave room for sadness and acknowledge the anxiety and frustration of this new normal, students and teachers will find it difficult to embrace and explore the potential of a new world of online and digital learning. .
The following strategies for engaging learners are based on the principles of the CDU. This commitment is essential before teaching content:
- Check in with students often. Email or message frequently during instructional days. Make it a neat summary of what is expected of them. While this may seem redundant to you, it’s important to make sure every student is engaged.
- Create a short poll each week for students to let you know where they are in the material and to see how they are feeling.
- Share your own feelings with your students / learners.
The second step is to pay attention to the different ways in which students understand, perceive and apprehend the information presented to them. It means providing multiple means of representation.
- Make sure you provide all the information and content in multiple ways. If you are providing information by text, also have a video or voice recording with it. If you are delivering by Zoom or another webcasting service, prepare a text version as well. There are great tools like Screencastomatic, YouTube, Screencastify, and Zoom recording.
- Use existing resources that have the same learning objectives or information as your regular course or textbook. Without the face-to-face connection and personal attention that face-to-face classes provide, representing class material in different ways becomes even more important. Explore Google, reach out to your librarians, and venture into TEDx discussions and YouTube territory.
Keep in mind that learners may feel particularly disconnected from their own emotions at this time and may find comprehension even more difficult. It helps to give you and your learners the opportunity to explore different ways of viewing content and providing different sources of content.
- When presenting new information to learners, promote understanding by highlighting patterns, critical characteristics, and big ideas more than you would in the past.
- Find ways to clarify the new vocabulary.
- A very powerful way to support learning is to use metacognition. Register (Zoom, Screencastify, video) while discovering new content.
How do you know students are engaged and interacting with new content? Teachers need to understand what students know and what they don’t know. This can be addressed through different forms of formative and summative assessments, giving a grade on an assignment or a final grade. If we can’t figure out what the students are “getting” then education gets stuck.
- Be sure to ask students / learners to show what they know in a number of ways. If you are requesting an essay, also let students choose to share the same information in a video.
Action and expression. The use of assistive technologies increases accessibility to materials and benefits all students. Now is the perfect time for educators to learn, understand, and use assistive technology. An interesting thought experiment is to think of all of your students as anything but average. Think of a bell curve of skills and abilities. Take a moment to think of all of your students at one end of the curve or the other, with no one in the middle.
If everyone’s on edge, then using assistive technology gets you connected again. While newer technology can be intimidating, it is not that difficult or time consuming, and the benefits can be substantial. When assistive technology is applied, understanding and retention is greater than when the assistive technology lever is not used. Google is doing an impressive amount of work around accessibility.
- Record your presentations, with captions, (YouTube) for students to watch or listen to as homework. This frees up time for Google Meet or Zoom to be more interactive.
- Ask students to write down their understandings.
- Encourage students to listen to podcasts and analyze how information is organized. Then ask them to emulate the organization with the information they need to demonstrate their knowledge.
- Allow students to show their understanding by having them choose how they convey information. Allow students to write, video or podcast, and other creative ways for learners to demonstrate their knowledge. Using a simple rubric will help you keep the content knowledge goals in mind.