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Universal Design for Online Courses: Applying Principles to Pedagogy

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Open Learning Volume 30, Number 1, ISSN 0268-0513


Universal design (UD) educational frameworks provide useful guidelines for designing accessible learning environments with the intention of supporting students with and without disabilities. This article describes how one university instructor defined and applied the principles of Universal Instructional Design (UID) to pedagogy, while designing three online courses. The paper presents the course design process, detailing how UD principles can be operationalised to increase "cognitive access" through a variety of pedagogical practices. The paper illustrates ways in which instructors can consider UID during the five phases of instructional design (analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation). The courses highlighted in this study incorporated varied assignment formats, flexible options, a highly structured format and regular interactions with peers and instructors. Results of the study show that students valued the organisation, instructor interaction and flexible options provided. Implications for practice are presented for instructors seeking to design inclusive course environments.


Rao, K., Edelen-Smith, P. & Wailehua, C.U. (2015). Universal Design for Online Courses: Applying Principles to Pedagogy. Open Learning, 30(1), 35-52. Retrieved August 8, 2020 from .

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