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UDL at NCI – ‘One to Watch’ Award

Emer Thonrbury

NCI Computing Support Tutor, Emer Thornbury, has been designated ‘One to Watch’ at the 2022 John Kelly Awards for UDL (Universal Design for Learning).

President of NCI, Gina Quin, offered her congratulations: “Universal Design for Learning provides all individuals with an opportunity to learn, and very much aligns with NCI’s mission ‘to change lives through education’. I am very proud to see an NCI lecturer excel in this field: well done Emer!”

The John Kelly Awards for Universal Design in Further and Higher Education, organised by AHEAD and UCD Access and Lifelong Learning, recognise further and higher education practitioners who have demonstrated their emergent commitment to UDL by undertaking the Digital Badge for Universal Design in Teaching & Learning and making exciting changes to their practice above and beyond their initial redesign, to deliver a more inclusive learning experience for their students.

We asked Emer to share her approach to UDL, to further inform those new to the concept:

How can I make things better?

I try to keep UDL in mind always, to never forget that we are all individuals and what works for one may not work so well for another. What that means is that I’m asking myself, how could I make things a bit better? 

What one change can I make this semester?

UDL can seem quite big so I started with the following approach: what one change could I make this semester that will help many? 

This can be a simple change: the first thing I did was ensure, when using names in class examples, that I would choose them from all different nationalities, to be more inclusive. 

How can I make it easier for students to engage with information?

I consider, when I am sharing information (for example, on Moodle), that this may be the first time a student has seen this Moodle page, possibly even their first time using Moodle (or whatever other platform you may be using) so how can I make it clearer, less stressful? A student won’t necessarily ask for help at this point but will try to persevere on their own.

I consciously ensure essential information is there, that could be easy to rush past, like including my name. I also try to have less clutter, so it is less overwhelming, and then to group things in a consistent way throughout the page. So, I try to be clear, consistent and informative, 

How can I encourage students toward more independent learning or learning journey? 

To be independent learners, students need to be able to identify what the issue is and then know how to find a solution. I encourage them to more independent learning by talking through my processes, showing troubleshooting techniques in class, asking them what resources they found helpful and including their links on our shared Moodle page. This can be a challenging one, as it’s about being comfortable with the possibility of having errors in class and collectively troubleshooting them. 

Universal Design for Learning

AHEAD defines UDL as “a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn, including Students with Disabilities. UDL aims to improve the educational experience of all students by introducing more flexible methods of teaching, assessment and service provision to cater for the diversity of learners in our classrooms. This approach is underpinned by research in the field of neuroscience and is designed to improve the learning experience and outcomes for all students.” You can learn more here