Universal Design: Curriculum

Think College Learn

Section 4: Key Component of Universal Design: Curriculum

The key to a universally designed course is to plan for diverse learners by providing all materials in flexible and multiple formats.  The LEARN MORE Section has a template to help faculty plan for Universally Designed Syllabi, with specific tips shared. 

Whenever possible, faculty should try to incorporate multimedia materials. Multimedia materials can be used to present key course content or supplement traditional course materials. Most faculty know that multimedia and digital course materials will engage students, but they often don’t know why they are useful as a teaching strategy. The following are examples of how multimedia can be used to support the learning process for students from diverse backgrounds.

Videos: Videos help both visual and auditory learners. All videos should be closed-captioned to ensure accessibility. If you are making your own videos, there are easy-to-use tools to caption your own videos. Captioning helps ALL students including English language learners, students with language processing disabilities, and students who are hard of hearing. Captioning can help with course materials that contain content-specific terminology or technical jargon.


Podcasts/Audio recording Podcasts or other audio recordings are great ways for students to learn who are on the run, or for those who may need to listen during class and take notes later. If you allow students to record your lectures, they will be able to go back to key points that they may have missed later. Just as closed captioning is important for videos, a professionally produced podcast should always include a transcript. Following the text along with the audio is helpful to students.


Graphics: Graphics and images can illustrate a concept or complement other teaching strategies. Research tells us that the primary learning style for 20-35 year olds is visual. Graphics can be inserted in Word documents, PowerPoints, handouts, and may even be drawn on a white board. Selecting appropriate images may help students to connect to the information and retain the content in a deeper, richer way. All graphics should include a description to meet full accessibility.


Text-to-speech: Text-to-speech is technology that transforms text into audio using a synthesized voice. If course materials are made available in electronic formats, simple technology solutions can be used to convert the text to speech. Text-to-speech software is built into all computer operating systems and on most tablet/mobile devices. A wide variety of students benefit from both hearing and reading information.


Speech-to-text: Speech recognition (also known as speech-to-text, automatic speech recognition, or computer speech recognition) converts spoken words to text. Like text-to-speech, many computers have this built into their operating systems. Speech recognition software is not perfect, but can be a great way for students to brainstorm ideas or dictate complex thoughts.


Learning Management System: Learning Management Systems (such as Blackboard, Moodle, etc) are used at almost all college campuses to share course information in a consistent platform. Course materials that are posted online are more readily available to students; they can download, print, or manipulate the materials. Here is an example of how this works. If a student needs to have large print text or prefers to color code certain words, and the document is made available to them in advance of the class, the student can prepare materials according to his/her specific needs.


Finally, whenever possible faculty should make sure that all course documents are as universally designed as possible. The rule of thumb for creating a universally designed document is to present information in at least two different ways. For example, in a course syllabus, text can be used to explain your office hours, but it also helps to show that same information in a calendar grid.Since the syllabus is a document that faculty spend a lot of time creating as their contract with students, it is especially important to make sure that the content is fully accessible.


This video features two college faculty talking about how to build in the use...Read more

A list of questions that faculty members can consider to assist them in putting together a "learning-centered" syllabus.  Questions for each section of a typical syllabus are provided.Read more

Provides specific strategies that professors can use to assure that their course syllabus is universally designed and accessible to all students.Read more

A form faculty can use to plan a more accessible and universally designed course syllabus.Read more