2019 Summer Seminar on Universal Design for Learning

Spend four days in June with colleagues to infuse inclusive teaching into your course through the student-centered framework of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Register by June 4.

Date & Time:

Monday, June 10, 2019
9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
June 10-13, 2019 from 9 am to noon


St. Paul Campus

Co-sponsored by the Center for Faculty Development, STELAR, the St. Thomas Libraries, and the Office of Disability Resources

The Faculty Development summer seminar offers a supportive environment and resources to focus on infusing new strategies into a course. It’s a great way to connect and share ideas with colleagues around a specific teaching topic.

About the Seminar

This summer we focus on Universal Design for Learning (UDL), an inclusive teaching-learning framework grounded in learning sciences and framed around three principles: the “why” of learning; the “what” of learning; and the “how” of learning. The “universal” in UDL doesn’t mean that there’s one approach to teaching or learning; in fact, the catchphrase for UDL is “multiple means” – many ways to convey content, to engage students, and for students to demonstrate their learning. Universal Design for Learning supports a flexible and accessible learning environment and is aligned with inclusive teaching practices.

If you are interested in hearing from colleagues about ways to apply UDL principles to course materials, assignments, and assessments; learning about apps and resources to support UDL; and finding ways to use UDL strategies to design flexible learning experiences for students in your course – this seminar is for you! 

The seminar is open to all St. Thomas faculty and will be held on June 10-13, 2019 from 9 am to noon each day. Because each day of the seminar builds on the learning and activities from the previous day, we ask that attendees be available to attend all four days of the seminar. Faculty who choose to complete the seminar's "application activity" will receive a modest stipend upon submission of the work. An overview of the activity is below; more details will be given out during the seminar.

Seminar Application Activity

You don't have to do a major course redesign to increase flexibility and accessibility for students. UDL principles can be implemented in small ways that make a difference for all of your students. The seminar assignment is to develop a plan for one way that you would use UDL to address a barrier, challenge or teaching or learning goal in one of your courses.  Assignments must be submitted no later than the end of August.

Seminar Topics (Please note that topics are subject to change as the seminar schedule evolves.)

  • Monday, June 10: Rachel Kruzel (Accommodations & Assistive Technology Specialist) covers the foundations of Universal Design for Learning and the intersection of UDL, accessibility and accommodations. We will start to consider applications of UDL principles in a course. 
  • Tuesday, June 11: UDL and Accessibility Expo -- choose your own topics and hear from faculty presenters Leah Domine (Biology), Justin Donato and Tom Marsh (Chemistry), Shersten Johnson (Music), and Jennifer Trost (DFC) on ways that they have infused UDL into their course; try out different apps and technologies with staff from STELAR, Libraries, and Disability Resources.
  • Wednesday, June 12: STELAR instructional designer Michael Wilder and Rachel Kruzel facilitate a closer look at the UDL principle of Multiple Means of Representation (MMR) and ways to create accessible, inclusive course materials.  Ann Zawistoski, Greg Argo, Karen Brunner and Cindy Badilla-Melendez from the St. Thomas Libraries highlight the rich array of library resources and Support for MMR and discuss the Library's role in supporting UDL. 
  • Thursday, June 13: Karin Brown, STELAR instructional designer, explores Multiple Means of Action & Expression (MMAE) and ways to give students flexible options for demonstrating their learning through assessments and assignments. 

Here's what some of the participants from the 2018 seminar had to say about how UDL supports inclusive teaching. Read more of their insights here.

All students can benefit from increased accessibility, simply because different teaching approaches appeal to different learning styles. Last summer’s seminar on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) helped me to distinguish course content from instruction method, to be more creative in supporting overall student success. I learned tricks for creating accessible documents, insider tips for designing effective slides, and research-supported ways to balance activities for maximum class participation. I still lecture too much (but at least I know it), and not every method I try is an unqualified success (just ask my PHIL 115 students about Venn diagrams). I will continue to adjust to specific student needs every semester. But knowing how to proactively incorporate UDL principles goes a long way toward meeting students where they are, thus enhancing accessibility and inclusion. -- Michelle Hirschboeck (Philosophy Department)

Everyone instructor knows that each student in our classroom is unique with different learning backgrounds, preferences, and needs. UDL is an approach for course design and implementation that helps make a course accessible to this diverse population of learners. Ultimately, UDL is all about making sure that students have the opportunity to learn about course material, engage with course material, and demonstrate mastery of course material using a variety of different formats (such as through reading, writing, drawing, audio). In a “Universally Designed” course, when appropriate, students choose how they engage in the material and demonstrate understanding. In biology, as with other STEM disciplines, many biology interested students do not continue past our introductory courses. By having more ownership of their learning through the flexibility offered by UDL, hopefully students will become more engaged in course material, retain/gain self confidence in their ability to master biology concepts and feel supported in their educational goals. This change in student experience may help to increase student retention and ultimately lead to a more diverse population of students in our program. -- Kerri Carlson (Biology Department)

The aspect of UDL that I connected with the most was the idea of variety -- students learn, think, and demonstrate their knowledge in different ways. UDL encourages teachers to acknowledge this idea and use it to design their lessons, activities, and assessments before the class even begins. It’s about creating an equitable classroom environment that provides all students with the opportunity to succeed. -- Paula Cisewski (English Department)

To make an accessibility request, call Disability Resources at (651) 962-6315.