Happy Friday, everyone!

I’ve been sitting here for 45 minutes trying to decide what to write about, so I’m overthinking it again.

Relax!

Relax!

OK! I'm relaxing! I'm gazing out the window. That means I'm relaxed.

OK! I’m relaxing! I’m gazing out the window. That means I’m relaxed.

Now that you’ve worked through 4 days of the UDL institute, reflect back on that growth and understanding. Consider one goal in your curriculum/practice and reflect across the 9 UDL guidelines. Explain why you need multiple methods and materials to reach that goal.

One of the goals for post-secondary writers in ENG 271W is that students should be able to demonstrate the ability to be understood by their supervisors and peers through their written words. The students in ENG 271W Technical Communication at Minnesota State University, Mankato are pursuing majors in Construction Management, Nursing, Environmental Science, Landscape Architecture, and other technical paths of study. When they take ENG 271W, they are usually in the 3rd or 4th year of their program, and many students are also working in their field by that point (it’s a very practical program). The ENG 271W class meets synchronously with audio/video once a week for 90 minutes, and we use a discussion board for communication during the week. Some topics covered in the course are audience/purpose, visual rhetoric, critical thinking in research, formal reporting, technical presentation, creating technical instructions, or other comprehensive genres.

Much of the variability in these students comes from their ability to generate workplace-related content. Students have already been through a Freshman Composition course, so they should have mastered creative expression, but we need to work with career content in this course. Some of the students know enough about their chosen field and the work world to be able to write about it, but others are just not there yet. As well, English language learners struggle with cultural relevance–they have often not worked in a career-type job in this country. I need to find a reliable way to separate out content generation, but I don’t want to use a lorem ipsum generator (even if it’s a cupcake lorem ipsum generator or a zombie lorem ipsum generator) because I want students to complete the course with a small portfolio of error-free usable documents (like a cover letter for a job and other useful stuff). Also, this is an online course, and many students struggle with engagement. The students often want assignments clearly spelled out for them–just tell me what to write, and I’ll write it (or ask my roommate to write it). So, I need to keep them accountable for the executive skills they need in order to take an online course because they will need those skills in the workplace.

When I rework the curriculum for this course, I will focus on UDL Guidelines 5, 6, and 8. I think I will find some success in using graduated levels of support for students and varying demands and resources. I also think need to re-think content generation in order to alleviate the stress that less experienced students feel because that type of stress in online learning leads to missed assignments and disengagement (we call it “thrive or dive,” a term coined by the researchers Sapp and Simon (2005)).

My perspective has changed since Monday in the areas of separating Goals from Means/Materials/Assessment and learner variability. Even though separating goals is probably the most important part of the course, learner variability was my biggest AHA(!!!) moment. In my work as a researcher, I’ve written a lot about personalized learning which is an idea that I’ve always liked, but it seems like a misuse of resources. Personalized learning, according to the National Education Technology Plan, “refers to instruction that is paced to learning needs, tailored to learning preferences, and tailored to the specific interests of different learners. In an environment that is fully personalized, the learning objectives and content as well as the method and pace may all vary (so personalization encompasses differentiation and individualization)” (2010, pg. 12). I don’t know about you but to me that sounds like 700 different curriculum plans for a school of 700 students, though I could be taking that a little too literally. At any rate, that’s why I like the idea of planning for variability so much. I think it’s a brilliant way to reach all students and still ensure a standard of mastery. Learner variability is a concept I’ll bring to my own teaching as well as my work with the GWUOHS and other research projects.

I enjoyed getting to know you all this week. Thanks for sharing your expertise and stories. I have learned a lot from all of you.

References

Meyer, A., Rose, D.H., & Gordon, D. (2014) Universal design for learning: Theory and practice, Wakefield MA: CAST

Sapp, Dale Alan, & Simon, James (2005). Comparing grades in online and face-to-face writing courses: Interpersonal accountability and institutional commitment . Computers and Composition , 22, 471-489.

U.S. Department of Education. (2010). Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology . U.S. National Technology Plan, Department of Education Technology, Washington, DC.

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One Response to Happy Friday, everyone!

  1. drfrannie says:

    Wonderful reflection Julie. I love your links to examples! I do understand your thinking in taking this UDL lens to the online classroom and how challenging that can be. I trust you’ve also gathered some new UDL nuggets to expand your thinking and planning. One resource I find invaluable for the college instructor who thinks with UDL is from the work of my colleagues in California. Take a closer look at this website, UDL Universe – http://enact.sonoma.edu/udl Thank you as well for all of your contributions in class — invaluable!

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