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Faculty Perspective: Digital Badge

Faculty Perspective: Digital Badge for Universal Design in Teaching & Learning

This academic year, 2020-21, has seen increased engagement with Universal Design for Learning in the Higher and Further Education sector in Ireland. Many of our colleagues here in UCD have successfully completed the Digital Badge for Universal Design in Teaching Learning this year as we’ve seen the ripple effect of inclusive practice spread. In this article we hear from two members of UCD faculty who completed the badge this year in different ways – one through the national roll out and one through an embedded approach with UCD Teaching & Learning.

In the current period of challenges and transition as we look for online and blended approaches to education, Universal Design for Learning offers a framework to ensure inclusion and flexibility are built in at design stage, ensuring inclusion of all students.

Dr Freda Browne, UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems

In Trimester 1, I undertook the UDL digital badge with the National Forum For the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education. I have previous experience of instructional design and undertaking the UDL digital badge was the next step for me in exploring and further developing my inclusive education practice.  Undertaking the digital badge involved online modules and peer group meetings. I was in a peer group with other staff from UCD.  I found the peer groups of great value as we were able to discuss the challenges and benefits of applying UDL into our teaching practice. For the redesign activity for the digital badge, I used the principles of UDL to design an assessment for a teaching practice module which I co-ordinate on the MSc in Health Professional Education. This proved a challenge for students who are more familiar with traditional written assessment methods. For me, I am now choosing to embed the UDL principles across my teaching as it is student centred, recognises that students learn differently and allows me to provide an inclusive curriculum in the modules I coordinate.

I also completed the Facilitator’s Badge and I am currently supporting Dr Lisa Padden in the roll out of the UDL Badge for my colleagues in the School of Nursing Midwifery and Health Systems as well as other colleagues across UCD.  This roll out is now coming to an end and participants have enthusiastically made changes to their teaching and assessment practices which reflect the UDL principles.

Associate Professor Brendan Williams, School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy

I undertook the Digital Badge for Universal Design in Teaching & Learning as part of Dr Terry Barrett’s module UTL40200 Designing Curricula, a module in the University Professional Teaching Qualification, offered by UCD Teaching & Learning.  All participants who take this module have the opportunity to also complete the Digital Badge as UDL is built into the assessment of the module and one of the module’s workshops is co-facilitated by Dr Lisa Padden who facilitates the badge. The only additional component then is the completion of five self-paced online modules.

l found the self-paced online materials very useful including Helena Farrell’s video on ‘Flexibility in Presentations’ using examples from Kinsale College Cork, with great advice on ensuring that we stimulate the initial interest of learners and help them to sustain that interest. In addition, in the readings on sustaining effort and persistence, I found the ideas from the Cast UDL Guidelines (2020) on varying the demands and resources to optimize challenges and foster collaboration and community to be highly relevant to the changes I am implementing in my own teaching.

My change from an exam-based assessment will provide space for student creativity and learning while ensuring that essential concepts are covered. The intention is to have a more engaging curriculum.  From UDL principles I have learned to design flexibility from initiation so that diverse students can participate in all aspects of my modules and assessments. The first major change I have made is to allow flexibility in student presentations of assignments from the outset rather than only for exceptions when requested.

Especially relevant in the COVID 19 online period, I now check with my students regarding digital access and their abilities to meet academic demands. This can include taking notes, cooperating in groups, accessing technology, undertaking specialised assignments, or engaging with authority figures.  Our task is to remove barriers, make modules equitable and encourage engagement. As academics and students know, change is an ongoing process which may or may not succeed, however the important thing is to try and be aware of the potential for improvements.

Interested in UDL training?

You can complete the Digital Badge with us in the Autumn Trimester 2021-22 either as part of the National roll out or as part of Dr Terry Barrett’s module UTL40200 Designing Curricula. We will send more information about the national roll out in the coming weeks. You may also want to take a look at our University for All Faculty Partnership Programme (closing date 19th May 2021).

University for All

University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
E: UniversityforAll@ucd.ie