For this post, we bring you a very interesting article, originally published in Moodle.com from Amy Foxwell, from ReadSpeaker. Today, we talk about Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles and how you can bring them into your LMS environment, using ReadSpeaker, a certified integration of Moodle LMS.
UDL advocates for a multimodal presentation of content as a native function of an LMS. Platforms should offer lots of options for learners, to personalize their learning experience, directly from the LMS interface. Sometimes we may go about this in the wrong way by adding plugins that require users to open new tabs, download files, or engage in complicated set-up to get materials into the format that works for them.
Do you know what UDL is?
Universal Design for Learning is a research-backed education framework that starts by admitting the obvious: Every learner is an individual with a unique set of strengths, barriers, and preferences. You can’t change a self, UDL says, but you can change the learning environment, allowing every learner to curate an educational experience that works best for them.
The caretakers of the UDL model, a non-profit called CAST, offer guidelines that help teachers personalize education for every learner. The goal is to create a more inclusive, equitable, and effective classroom, face-to-face and online.
How can we deploy UDL principles?
In the context of an LMS or online classroom, UDL recommends that educators provide learning materials in a variety of digital formats. After all, some learners retain information best when they read it; others when they hear it; some when they feel it. Most learners benefit from a specific combination of these modalities. This flexible approach to content is called multimodal presentation, and it’s a core strategy for achieving the aims of UDL.
Examples of multimodal presentation tools include:
- Visual elements illustrating key concepts
- Video clips
- Text adjustments like resizing and high-contrast mode
- Focus tools such as page masks, reading rulers, and automatic highlighting
- Text-to-speech (TTS) engines, which read written content out loud
- TTS MP3 downloads for offline listening anywhere, anytime
Multimodal presentation also lends itself to another approach that’s consistent with UDL: bimodal learning. Some learners retain information best when they consume it through two senses at the same time. For example, LMS tools from ReadSpeaker allow learners to listen to text while following along on the page with simultaneous highlighting. That delivers information through the eyes and ears at once – a winning strategy for many learners.
You may recognize the tools listed above as assistive technology. It’s true that TTS, for example, was originally developed to eliminate barriers for people with disabilities. The technology remains essential for accessibility in learning environments and beyond. But viewed through the UDL lens, which advocates for personalized learning for all learners, TTS isn’t just assistive technology. It’s a tool that benefits learners of every description.
A true UDL tool operates entirely within an LMS, providing TTS, speech-to-text dictation, focus tools, text resizing, instant translation, and more at the click of a mouse (or a quick keyboard command; in keeping with UDL principles, it’s the user’s choice). Good news: These tools are already available for native use within Moodle, thanks to a partnership with voice technology pioneer ReadSpeaker—and educators testify to the value of this native TTS capability.
- Have you considered building your courses to allow multimodal access to the content?
- Do you feel that your learners are not interacting with the content enough?
- Do you find that specific content types are used more than others?
If you’re ready to offer your learners the benefits of UDL within your Moodle implementation, the solution is just a click away. Learn more about ReadSpeaker UDL tools for Moodle.