Design principles for any context to increase accessibility
Universal Design is an approach by which it is intended that all products and environments are designed to be usable to the greatest extent by the greatest number. Adopting a Universal Design approach can lead you to increase the accessibility of your practice, whatever your role.
You can learn more about Universal Design from:
What is Universal Design? | Centre for Excellence in Universal Design [external website]
Top Ten Tips for Universal Design
Learning technology could be helpful to students and teaching staff, lowering barriers to access, but it has to be used in such a way as not to be an extra burden. These tips have been designed to help you find practical ways to apply the principles of Universal Design to increase accessibility in your practice.
For more information, including specific examples relating to learning technology, join the Learn course 'Increasing the accessibility of your teaching using learning technology' or access the OER (open educational resource) below.
Building in flexibility means that your teaching methods and the materials you use will automatically be accessible to more people. This means that learners are less likely to have to ask you for help (not everyone will feel comfortable in revealing they need help, and often shouldn't need to).
It’s not always possible to make a format or technology flexible to students. If you find yourself in this situation, first ask yourself if this is the best or most appropriate way to deliver this material, and if not find a more flexible route. If it is essential, then you need to look for ways all students can access the learning.
Learning technology often has a variety of options available in terms of its appearance or functionality. Some of these options are available for the student user to set to suit themselves. Some, however, are only available to an administrator (say, you or a learning technologist). Look to see how many options you can make available to student users so that they can use the tool in whatever way suits them best.
The same goes for resources. It is possible to inadvertently reduce the options available to students when they use resources because of your choice of format.
A clear layout helps students locate the information they need, meaning they are much more likely to use the resources provided and less likely to have to ask for help in finding them. Given that students typically study multiple courses at one time, having consistency between courses can increase their efficiency further.
Having a more standardised approach can also help increase the efficiency of producing and maintaining resources and online courses.
Like layout, consistency in terminology help overall understanding and avoid unnecessary confusion. It also helps students become accustomed to using the terminology expected in their discipline / profession.
Decide when it is better to give guidance on the best way to do something, rather than leave students to find out for themselves. Is finding the best way a valuable experience for them, or could it just lead to a lot of frustration?
You are a role model for the thoughtful choice and use of technology from which students will learn. Think about how you model the behaviours you would wish students to exhibit themselves when they make choices; for instance, they may not think about data security and their digital footprint as much as they should, and you can show them how you do this.
We all benefit from being able to test our ability in something new before we use it extensively / in front of an audience / for credit.
Providing an opportunity to test something can help when:
- someone is reluctant to try something new
- we want to find out if how something works
- we want to find out how students experience something, and use that feedback to improve it
Scaffolding is useful for new students or students new to a task. It is there to help support the student until they have sufficient confidence and competence to support themselves, by which time the scaffolding has been gradually reduced until it is taken away.
It's important that students learn how to assess themselves and use this knowledge to work on their own development. This also allows students to measure their progress in a way and at a time that suits them, focusing on their ability without worrying about being formally assessed.
Anything you do to improve accessibility, improves the student experience for all students, plus it can reduce the number of individual requests you could receive for additional help. Don’t let ‘I can’t do it all’ be the reason to do nothing; this is about the possible.
And if you are already doing any of this already, then find an opportunity to pass this on, to your colleagues and your students.
Training in Universal Design
We offer a self-paced, self-enrol course on 'Increasing the accessibility of your teaching using learning technology' as an introduction to Universal Design. You can find guidance here on how to enrol:
Guest and self-enrol course access
We also offer scheduled training and can offer a bespoke session to suit a specific group of staff or students (request this via IS Helpline).
Open Educational Resource (OER)
We have also created this OER which summarises this advice:
Increasing the accessibility of your teaching using learning technology [Xerte object]