A Brief Thought on Universal Design

Greetings, dear readers!

Please accept my sincere apologies for the silence these past few months. Birthdays and a thrilling venture into the realm of local theater have kept me incredibly occupied. However, amidst the whirlwind of excitement, I recently engaged in a conversation with a colleague about universal design in online learning, and it inspired me to share a few personal insights.

In my current role, I collaborate with several post-secondary institutions in the same province, and let me tell you, every school and every teacher has their unique approach to building lessons and utilizing their learning management systems (LMS). Sadly, despite the internet’s longevity, the academic realm appears to treat it as an untamed frontier, teeming with lawlessness. I’ve witnessed LMS practices that are best left unmentioned.

Whenever my team and I propose a user experience (UX) oriented design for a course, we often encounter cries about violations of academic freedom, and regrettably, little to nothing changes.

So, let me offer an analogy to explain why universal design is not something to be feared but rather a necessity.

Imagine someone wants to write a book—a good old-fashioned paper book. Now, a book has a cover, a front and back, a table of contents, a story, and perhaps some pictures. But think about how many different types of books exist! Despite their diversity, they are all still unmistakably books.

An online course is akin to a book. Academic freedom resides within the pages, within the content itself. An instructor can add their unique touch to the course, just as authors do with their books. However, the course should still retain recognizable elements, like a cover, a table of contents, and so forth.

This is a simplified explanation, but I find that simplicity often resonates best. Universal design aims to bring a semblance of order to the world of online education, fostering an environment that boosts the success rate of our learners. And, at the end of the day, isn’t that why we’re all in this field—to empower and support our learners’ journey towards success?

As always, I appreciate your readership and thoughtful engagement.



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