Towards Inclusive eLearning: Improving Accessibility of eLearning in Higher Education from Universal Design for Learning perspective
The overall ambition of TINEL was to contribute in a shift from the notion of accessibility for separate so called “vulnerable” or “disadvantaged” groups to an inclusive mindset based on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) thinking. As the project had a triple focus on improving inclusive eLearning from UDL perspective, it also produced new knowledge for greater understanding and responsiveness to social, ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity on three levels: firstly, tryout of best inclusive eLearning practices and use of UDL in facing different needs of higher education students on national and transnational levels; secondly, innovative pedagogical and technological skills and support network for educators; thirdly, a model to begin sensitizing faculty and staff on the issues for designing inclusive e-learning within the context of Universal Design for Learning.
The project objectives were:
- to map and explore inclusive practices of eLearning and implementation aspects of UDL approach in HEI
- to develop an evaluation tool and a training model for improving eLearning accessibility from UDL perspective
- to develop pedagogical and technological skills of staff for improving inclusive eLearning from UDL perspective.
The Erasmus+ funded project was carried out during 1.10.2018-31.12.2021 in cooperation between six partners, The Association of Finnish eLearning Centre (NGO), University of Jyväskylä from Finland, Lund University from Sweden, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) from Norway and University of York from United Kingdom. The project was coordinated by Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK).
What is UDL and UDeL?
UDL (Universal design for learning) is a framework that provides scientific guidelines for design and development of curriculum. UDL is focused to make learning accessible for all. UDeL (Universal design for e-learning) has the same guidelines but they are focused to make e-learning more accessible for all.
Intro 2 to Inclusive learning and UDeL
In this introduction video 2 Elinor J. Olaussen, Senior Adviser from Universell, Norway presents from the UDeL perspective the concepts of universal design, universal design of ICT and universal design of learning (UDL) as well as related international regulations.
More about UDL
Universal Design is a framework originally created to make products and buildings accessible for all. The most used definition is from the UN Convention on the Rights for People with Disabilities (CRPD:2008):
“Universal design” means the design of products, environments, programmes and services to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. “Universal design” shall not exclude assistive devices for particular groups of persons with disabilities where this is needed.
It is important to understand the ideas of universal design before we try to implement these ideas in a learning context. So how do we use these thoughts and this definition to plan for a diverse student population? What will the practical implications be for students and staff working in higher education?
Universal design of the physical learning environment is quite easy to understand. As an example, entering a higher education building should be possible for all. The entrance should be easy to find, without any obstacles or physical barriers, with automatic door openers and with good contrasts at the door. This is the same entrance for everyone, regardless if you use a wheelchair, have your hands occupied with books and study material, or if your hand function is reduced. In a university campus, universal design should be the strategy for forming the physical environment everywhere. Universal design of the digital learning environment has more recently emerged as a strategy in planning for the use of ICT in an educational context. General information, learning management systems, literature and other digital study material should be presented in accessible formats, and in compliance with standards that include students with difficulties in accessing digital study material. For example, a video used for learning reasons should be captioned to the benefit for the hearing impaired, and better quality for all students.
Universal design for learning (UDL) is a framework for instruction, dialogue and learning, which uses the principles from both universal design and from learning science and neuroscience. The result is scientific guidelines for design and development of curriculum – learning goals, means of assessment, teaching methods and learning materials – that are inclusive and valuable for all learners.
The development of guidelines will promote an educational practice that provides variation and flexibility in the way information is presented, in the way students respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills, and in the way students are engaged in their learning process.
UDL will reduce barriers in all kinds of instruction, and provide support and challenges to the diversity of learners, regardless of disabilities of any kind. The UDL principles will be important to the development of new teaching and learning methods, and affect how we look at teaching in the classroom, in group activities at campus, and at all kinds of digital learning, as well as at assessment.
All learners are different, they learn differently and the diversity that truly exists in your class is a normal variability that actually reflects the population. The differences in how students learn are expanding, and the context – the learning environment – is itself complex and dynamic. UDL addresses the variations between the learners and focuses on the learning process by providing
- Multiple means of engagement
- Multiple means of representation
- Multiple means of action and expression
In this context, the differences between students in any context is an actively positive force in learning. UDL will provide an approach for designing learning environments that support high expectations and results for all students.
The first objective of the TINEL project was to map and explore inclusive practices of eLearning and implementation aspects of UDL approach in higher education institutions. For these purposes, an open Call for Submission was announced 2019. From all proposals four were selected and compiled to a freely available corpus of best practices to help staff in higher education institutions to support the widest diversity of students, regardless of backgrounds, experiences, learning styles and abilities. The four chosen best practices are:
- FIN, Aalto University: Nordic Rebels: A Blended Approach to Fix Higher Education
- NO, University of Agder: Digital competency – An introductory course to digital tools for education and collaboration
- FIN, HAMK: The Video Documentary “Songs from the Life” as a part of final thesis of three students (Bachelors of Social Services)
- FIN, University of Jyväskylä: Crossing borders without travel: Virtual exchange practices for student.
TINEL Conference on universal design for blended and e-learning in higher education
Only online, 8.-9.12.2021
Organised by the University of York, United Kingdom
The coronavirus pandemic has thrown many higher education institutions (HEIs) headlong into e-learning and greatly increased the emphasis on blended learning, for both the short and longterm.
How have students with disabilities, students from a diversity of backgrounds and living circumstances coped with this situation and how have HEIs supported them? What has worked, what has not worked, what are the challenges for the future?
The Erasmus+ funded TINEL Project (http://hamk.fi/tinel) has been investigating universal design for learning in blended and e-learning situations since before the pandemic hit. Our work has become even more relevant since the pandemic.
In December we will host a conference to share best practices and challenges for the future in supporting a diversity of students in the post-pandemic era of blended and e-learning in higher education.
The conference will be a mixture of workshops, short presentations from participants and from the TINEL team about the work of the project. There will be plenty of time to network and we aim to start an ongoing support network of staff from HEIs to continue the discussion of these issues after the conference.
Presenting at the conference
You are welcome to submit an abstract if you would like to make a 15 minute presentation, although it is not required to attend the conference.
Your presentation can be about a successful practice or a problem you need help solving. You can present at the conference online either live or by pre-recording your presentation.
You can submit an abstract as a 500 word text, using the template available (in Word and PDF formats) or as a 5 minute video clip or podcast (there is also a very short text document to complete with information about the presentation).
We will publish an online proceedings of all the conference presentations. The online proceedings will comprise the abstracts and optionally a captioned recording of the presentations at the conference.
A special issue of the journal Interacting with Computers (https://academic.oup.com/iwc) will be organized, with presenters invited to submit longer versions of their paper.
Further details will be available soon.
If you have any questions, contact the organizer in your country (or Helen Petrie for all other countries):
Finland: Merja Saarela, HÄME University of Applied Science (merja.saarela(at)hamk.fi)
or Tarja Ladonlahti, University of Jyvãskylã (tarja.ladonlahti(at)jyu.fi)
Norway: Anne-Britt Torkilsby, NTNU (anne.torkildsby(at)ntnu.no)
Sweden: Håkan Eftring, Lund University (hakan.eftring(at)certec.lth.se)
UK (and other countries): Helen Petrie, University of York (helen.petrie(at)york.ac.uk)
Conference invitation (PDF)
Addressing the needs of diverse learners in online and blended learning with Universal Design for Learning in the post-pandemic Academy: opportunities, new alliances, hurdles, shifting ground, U turns, quick sands, and other surprises of the journey
Frédéric Fovet is Associate Professor in the School of Education and Technology at Royal Roads University. He has previously held the position of Assistant Professor within the Faculty of Education of the University of Prince Edward Island. Over the duration of his PhD., he was Director of the Office of Students with Disabilities at McGill University. He has also served as a teacher and principal in the K-12 sector.
He is an inclusion specialist with a specific interest in social, emotional and behavioural difficulties (SEBD), critical pedagogy and universal design for learning (UDL). Frederic also has a strong grounding in
Disability Studies. He acts as a consultant, both nationally and internationally, in the area of UDL and inclusion – in the K-12 and the post-secondary sector. He was the instigator and program chair of the first three pan-Canadian conferences on UDL in 2015, 2017 and 2019.
The Best European Universal Design in Higher Education Conference 28.-29.8.2019, Jyväskylä Finland
What is the TINEL training model
The TINEL training model is a framework that has been developed and tested during the Erasmus+ project TINEL (Towards Inclusive e-Learning). The purpose was to find a model for:
- training staff at higher education institutions (HEIs) in inclusive e-learning and blended learning based on the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). As we focus on e-learning, we call it Universal Design for eLearning (UDeL).
- creating an international peer support network for staff interested in inclusive teaching and Universal Design for eLearning.
The TINEL training model uses other results developed at the TINEL project:
- Learning materials consisting of videos with experience from students and teachers, articles with teachers’ experience from development projects, UdeL Context Cards showing situations a proactive teacher can prepare for, and participants’ case studies from the UdeL “camps” run during the TINEL project.
- The Enhancement-Led self-Evaluation Tool (ELET) for structuring everyday practices and reflecting on their effectiveness with peers.
Do you want to improve your staffs’ knowledge about Universal Design for eLearning?
Then have a look at the components of the TINEL training model below, how we organised activities for staff in higher education institutions (including invitation letters and agendas), the Learning materials and the Enhancement-Led self-Evaluation Tool we have developed and how we used them. You are free to adapt and use the documents for your own activities.
Components of the training model
National webinars for staff at other higher education institutions
The TINEL project has developed learning materials to be used for training staff at higher education institutions in inclusive teaching and Universal Design for eLearning (UDeL). The learning materials have been developed iteratively and tested during four Universal Design for eLearning (UDeL) camps with participants from Finland, Norway, Sweden and the UK. In addition to the learning materials used at the UDeL camps, participants also learned a lot from other participants’ experiences and case studies and related discussions.
The learning materials consist of:
- Text introduction to Universal Design for Learning and eLearning
- Video introductions to Universal Design for Learning and eLearning (UDL and UDeL) (Links)
- Video with an introduction to how to make accessible documents and videos (Link)
- UDeL Context Cards showing a wide variety of situations a proactive teacher can prepare for (see below)
- Videos with student experiences and perspectives of inclusive teaching (see below)
- Videos and articles with staff experiences of inclusive teaching (see below).
The articles can be used in staff training courses when the participants do not have prior experience of inclusive teaching. Instead of just discussing the topic, participants could prepare for a discussion by choosing to read one of the articles and present it to the other participants. This will create discussions about the article in relation to the participants own experiences and create a deep learning about the topic.
We have also collated links and other kind of resources (videos, articles and websites) that can be used as learning materials.
UDeL Context Cards
Enhancing UDeL in Higher Education Institution with the Enhancement-Led Evaluation Tool
For enhancing UDeL in the higher education institution (HEI), the TINEL project has developed Enhancement-Led Evaluation Tool (ELET). The purpose of the Enhancement-led evaluation is to support HEI to develop activities by providing self-evaluation questions to structure everyday practices and reflect on their effectiveness with peers. A goal-oriented atmosphere of positive change is created by exchanging and disseminating practices with peers. The Enhancement-led evaluation consists of two self-assessment questionnaires: 1) status of HEI’s current UDeL activities, and 2) the enhancement-led self-evaluation form.
About Enhancement-Led Evaluation and Enhancement-Led Evaluation Tool
How the Enhancement-Led Evaluation Tool was developed?
How to use and apply the Enhancement-Led Evaluation Tool?
- Online TINEL Conference on universal design for blended and e-learning in higher education on 8th and 9th December 202101.12.2021
- Näkökulmia saavutettavaan korkeakouluopetukseen 1.9.2021 klo 14-1618.08.2021
- Tule mukaan TINEL-hankkeen webinaariin: UDeL – näkökulmia saavutettavaan korkeakouluopetukseen 1.9.2021 klo 14-1609.06.2021
- Helen Petrie
- University of York
- Anne Torkildsby
- Kaisa Honkonen
- Association of Finnish eLearning Centre
- Håkan Eftring
- Lund University
- Tarja Ladonlahti
- University of Jyväskylä