Keynotes of the AHEAD 2020 Conference are moving online as part of the virtual “10 week Conference”

I really applaud AHEAD for their decision to switch the content of their cancelled March conference to an online format.  Not only is the content still going to reach participants, but the conference is shifting to an open format and will be able to attract a wide audience internationally.  If you have never attended an AHEAD Conference in Dublin, I think this may give you a taste you will find hard to resist.

This is just the kind of great news we need in these difficult times!  Well done, Dara, for your leadership in getting this off the ground.

If you are interested in joining us for my presentation, please register for the session at

Here is a short abstract to give everyone insight into the content I’ll be covering on March 26th.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

Through the looking glass: A Utopian vision of what HE Disability service provision might look like in a genuinely inclusive future

Part 1 – A dystopian vision?  Down the rabbit hole

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

 The session will examine contradictions and tensions which have become insurmountable within Disability service provision in a rapidly changing landscape.  These include: (i) growing demographics, (ii) the explosion of diagnostic labels, (iii) the need for financially sustainable solutions, (iv) the inherent clash between current practices and social model goals, (iv) the increasingly loud expectations of the student body.

 Part 2 – Through the looking glass.  Towards a sustainable future

“Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast”

 The session will then examine concrete and pressing changes Accessibility services need to tackle in order to remain pertinent.  We will, in particular, tackle the following issues: (i) shifting services towards faculty support, (ii) reframing the image of Accessibility services, (iii) rationalizing exam services, (iv) removing barriers from student interface, (v) redefining sustainable development of Accessibility service, and (vi) shifting permanently away from the medical model.

 Part 3 – Getting there – Sustainable leadership in Accessibility services

“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then”

 The final part of the session will examine the leadership and management repercussion of this reflection.  What is required, on the part of senior management, to guide Accessibility services staff through the looking glass?  What are the pragmatic steps required, in terms of management of change, to reach these sustainable goals?


“It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

COVID19 crisis: Consider Mental Health when shifting your classes to online format and use Universal Design for Learning to design with MH in mind

As educators the world around quickly shift to online teaching in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will become important to consider Mental Health issues and their impact on learners’ attention and availability.  The mental health issues that learners are already experiencing will be gravely exacerbated, and the stress and anxiety caused by the recent announcements and restrictions is palpable everywhere around us and will impact all students.  It will be unrealistic to expect learners to be entirely focused or emotionally available.  UDL will help teachers and instructors design with flexibility in a way that will allow students to function optimally despite the upheavals they are facing.

Here are a few tips to encourage educators design their online teaching with flexibility in order to make all learners feel included, even if they are significantly affected by Mental Health issues:

  • Multiple means of representation: When providing learners with information, do not assume that in the circumstances they will be entirely emotionally available and attentive. Do not force students to carry out their learning exclusively synchronously.  The windows you have to offer them may be limited.  There may be an abundance of reasons in the current situation why they may not be able to attend or be able to concentrate.  When providing synchronous sessions, record them and post them so that learners have multiple avenues to access your material. In terms of resources, readings and support material: assume your students will have fluctuating availability and levels of stress.  They may at some point be ill themselves.  Offer them material of varying length, difficulty, and format (text, video, podcast, websites, etc.); this will enable them to select the pathway that suits them depending on their circumstances that week.


  • Multiple means of action and expression: Be mindful of the extraordinary circumstances your learners might be confronted with in the coming weeks. You will want them to be able to perform as best as they can, regardless of what is going on, without having to endlessly disclose the personal challenges they are facing.  It will therefore be important to avoid creating windows that are too narrow when one expects students to demonstrate skills, to contribute to class or to make presentations.  Allow learners instead to pre-record (podcasts, videos, animations, PPTs with voice-over) to the greatest extent possible, and to post on a virtual platform.


  • Multiple means of engagement: We have very teacher-centric expectations when it comes to learner engagement as a rule. In class, it may be difficult on the best of days for learners to ensure their performance falls within these narrow and subjective criteria, but they may at least have some face to face opportunities to try and decode them.  As educators switch to an online format, it will become increasing difficult (and frustrating) for learners to decipher our implicit expectations; they will have almost no windows of one-on-one contact as opportunities to clarify them; it will therefore be almost impossible for them to conform to these implicit expectations. The emotional roller-coaster they will be living on a daily basis for weeks to come will only add to this frustration.  Use UDL instead to inject as much flexibility as possible in your expectations with regards to learner engagement.  Do not assume this engagement can only be demonstrated within your synchronous sessions; instead create virtual chatrooms or forums where students will have a change to demonstrate the richness of the engagement when time and circumstances allow.  Allow learners to use these chatrooms in multiple ways (text, podcast, and videos).   Never assume that the amount of time spent online or logged in is a representation of learners’ engagement.   Don’t impose arbitrary cut-off dates for learner participation in your week of instruction, just to mimic what were previously your f2f class times; let them benefit instead from the full flexibility your virtual platform offers you.

UDL can offer educators a very powerful lens on the design of their instruction and assessment, as they rush to shift their teaching to online platforms over the coming days.  It will allow them to design with flexibility in mind, and to include all learners irrespective of the emotional flux going on in their daily lives.  There is bound to be something cathartic too about this difficult and rushed experience, as educators the word over come to realize how a few common sense design tips can ensure the authentic inclusion of diverse learners. Let this be the beginning of your journey with UDL!

Dublin workshop with teachers around Universal Design for Learning to shift to online webinar format

The workshop for teachers which had been organized in Dublin for the evening of Monday March 30th, 2020 will shift to an online format.  It will be delivered through Bluejeans and a link will be sent to participants via the Eventbrite portal.  The date has been slightly changed (as requests for these services have obviously suddenly surged on my own campus and a little juggling needed to happen) and the webinar will now take place on the evening of Tuesday March 31st from 8.30pm to 10.30pm (Dublin time).   Thanks to my co-facilitator, Margaret Flood, for all her efforts in organizing the original gathering and for accepting to accompany me on this virtual alternative!

These are difficult, stressful and unexpected times for all of us.  But there are many reasons which such events must go on!

Firstly, as we begin working from home it is essential for our balance, sanity and continuing professional growth, to continue engaging with best practices and with professional development.

Secondly, as we become isolated at home, it becomes paramount to build, nurture and develop community.  Technology gives us the key affordance to be able to continue these efforts despite feeling – daily – the impact of social distancing.

Thirdly, as borders close and we begin looking inwards to our national or even regional landscape for support and resilience, it becomes supremely important to keep international collaboration and cross-border dialogue alive and strong.  We will get the best out of the current difficult situation by continuing to collectively and internationally look for solutions!

Lastly – but not least – this sort of workshop is important because UDL becomes a key consideration and tool as we shift our teaching to an online format.  Shifting teaching to virtual platforms must not ever be a simple transfer of exiting practices to a new media, or we risk creating insurmountable barriers for many of our learners.  Inequities which already exist in the classroom will be greatly exacerbated if we do not pay close attention to the design of the online learning experience.  We must reflect, we must redesign, we must keep the inclusion of all learners at the very heart of our efforts (however rushed they may be), and UDL will be key in this reflection.

The gentle pleasure of attending Edcamps

If you have never attended an Edcamp, it is definitely something you should place on your bucket list.  ‘Why?’ you might wonder.  Because in a landscape where professional development is increasingly a commercialized, prepackaged, and fairly directive currency, Edcamps give us a wonderfully refreshing alternative.  No sage on a stage, here.  Participants meet over coffee in the morning and decide, in an organic and democratic manner, what the topics of the day will be.   The unorthodoxy does not stop there: there are no ‘speakers’ as such and instead all sessions are led in circles within which all participants are expected to speak.

There will be such an event happening in Victoria on Saturday, one that is hosted jointly by Royal Roads University and Camosun College.  It is always difficult to explain to people who have never attended such an event, but the magic always works and they never fail to be transformative for people – really empowering.  I attended my first Edcamp in Toronto half a decade ago; I caught the bug and have never looked back.  I have organized three on PEI when I was living out east, the first ever held in Charlottetown.  Now that I am based on Vancouver Island, it seems equally important to perpetuate and feed this grass-root movement.  It is always fascinating to see how liberating it is for participants who at first are generally fairly passive but, by the end of the day, become dynamically involved in all the conversations.  They can’t get enough.  It is particularly striking in the case of students: Edcamps shake them out their inherent hesitation and self-consciousness and they develop a powerful voice within these events.

It is not the first time an Edcamp is organized in Victoria.  A couple, over the years, have been held in schools; University of Victoria also held one a few years back.  Recently one focused on libraries.  The unique flavour of Edcamps is that they generally succeed in blending sectors and bringing together people who do not usually get a chance to exchange and network.  It is a unique space for cross-pollination; it succeeds in breaking down silos.  K-12 teachers interact with higher ed instructors, but it is also about bringing parents, students, and community members into the dialogue.  The Edcamp taking place on Saturday at the Lansdowne Campus of Camosun College targets technology and learning and has adopted “Education, Technology and Curiosity” as an umbrella theme.  It is hoped there will be refreshing and dynamic exchanges between the various stakeholders.  Technology in the classroom is a tough subject: the landscape is changing incredibly rapidly; it is hard to keep up; many stakeholders are fearful.  Edcamps are a perfect venue for everyone to discuss their concerns and hopes candidly.  It will be hugely inspirational I hope, because there is no script.  It’s just about learning from one another’s perspective.

Edcamps are free, which is another key way they break from the traditional conference template.  They function through a collaboration of sponsors.  On this occasion, the main sponsors are Royal Roads University and Camosun who have joined forces to make the event happen.  Readspeaker, a leading text to speech technology provider, is also contributing to the event.  Breakfast and lunch are provided.  So are door prizes from the various sponsors that make the day fun: not only do participants not pay registration but many will go home with a prize!  Implement UDL, in particular, will be offering a three-hour workshop on Universal Design for Learning that will be the subject of a draw.  What a perfect day to beat the fall blues, to add a little bit of creative and fun professional development to the weekend, to have a say on this key topic, and to dialogue freely with new acquaintances beyond our usual networks.

Edcamp Victoria will take place on Saturday November 2nd, from 9.30am to 3pm at the Lansdowne Campus of Camosun College, on the second floor of the Yong Building.    Feel free to attend even if you cannot stay for the whole day – this is part of the unique Edcamp recipe too!  Attendance is free but registration is recommended and can be carried out via Eventbrite.

College Sector showing the way forward on UDL

I was lucky enough this week to be invited to the Walls Optional event at Camosum College.  It was a refreshing and vibrant half day.  It’s great to see a PD event for faculty attract a crowd of this size, particularly when it focuses on accessibility and inclusion.  Interest was palpable, the energy galvanizing.

Two parts of the event were particularly striking in their authenticity and impact.  Instead of opening with a faculty keynote, the organizers decided to kick off the day with a student panel.  The participants were generous in disclosing their experiences, eloquent in expressing their needs, and realistic in stating their expectations.  They had great presence and held the room consistently engaged with their narratives.

The second highlight of the day involved the use of student avatars to trigger faculty awareness around accessibility.  Various student profiles were allocated to participants in their event pack; a short narrative introduced this ‘student’, their life experience, their aspirations, and their program of study.  Faculty members were asked to keep their ‘student’ in mind through the day, just as if they accompanied them in person.   In the last 30 minute of the event, everyone was asked to consider what hurdles the student they were accompanying would have experienced and how they would have fared through the day.  The reflections and exchanges were fascinating, and incredibly rich.  Contributions did not limit themselves to observations, and people quickly offered suggestions as to how PD events – or any learning environment – could be made more accessible for everyone.  It’s an extremely effective way to trigger a phenomenological reflection on the part of faculty, around student experiences, that avoids the traps of ‘simulation’.    This project from Camosum has been showcased nationally on several occasions, and was featured prominently at the last Pan-Canadian Conference on UDL at UPEI, but it is always fascinating to watch it in action.

The day was really invigorating and it was terribly reassuring to see so many faculty members engage willingly, wholeheartedly and enthusiastically in PD around UDL and inclusion.  It’s not the first time I have witnessed such striking energy around UDL in the college sector.  The momentum is powerful.  I think college communities have gained a sense of urgency when it comes to learner diversity.  The wide spectrum of ages present in the class in particular – often from 17 all the way to 70 – means that andragogy and pedagogy have become irrevocably blended and interwoven.  Teaching practices must engage teenagers just as effectively as they satisfy baby boomers, and vice versa.   College communities are also perhaps more immediately confronted with the expectations of industry and the job market, and – as a result – appreciate the need to prepare their learners quickly for skills that are not solely textbook based.   The workplace requires the evidence of multiple skills through an array of media.  UDL therefore makes immediate sense as it allows learners to deploy and demonstrate their strengths through multiple pathways.   Higher education, as a result, must keep its finger on the pulse of UDL development in the college sector.  There are many lessons to be learnt for all.

Lessons from the 2019 AHEAD Ireland Conference

I have been back from Dublin for three weeks now and have meant to put down thoughts from the conference for a while now, but have just been too busy.  So here we go at last – better late than never!

First I need to stress how enjoyable the Dublin Conference has been.  Croke Park remains a great venue for it.  And, as I stated in my keynote, the AHEAD Conference has consistently been one of the most enjoyable ones I have attended over the years.  Three reasons for this: it is creative; it is self-reflective and progressive.  As a conference it has consistently been creative: we have had the addition of the fabulous conversation tables, the poster sessions over cocktails and – this year – the book launch via interactive and personalized dialogues over drinks.   The conference has also been bold with its titles and its themes, and thought provoking in its imagery: circuses, elephants in the room, journeys to Oz, etc.  The message has managed to be entertaining while to the point.

As a UDL Conference it also always remains self-reflective.  Too many such venues adopt a “do as we preach, not as we do” attitude, and discuss multiple means of interaction while offering the audience a “one size fits all”, “sage on a stage” delivery.  The AHEAD conference in Dublin has reliably triggered awareness and discussions around the application of UDL to the conference format itself, inviting all presenters to actively design for engagement, to ensure diversified representation to the audience and to seek some degree of action and expression from participant.  The organizing committee has been pioneering in this respect and the notion of a “UDL format” in conferences is now catching on.

I also find the Dublin Conference to be, year after year, the most progressive of venues when it comes to Disability in Higher Education.  Many post-secondary gatherings on Disability still focus primarily on accommodations and hence limit the scope of the dialogue that can happen around reform and genuine implementation of the social model.  The AHEAD conference, on the other hand, refuses to get bogged down in the “here and now”, and dares to think boldly about what the future of Accessibility should be.  In doing so, it encourages participants to be forward thinking and to become agents of change.

In terms of content, the conference was extremely satisfying too, because it afforded a wide scope view of the progress UDL implementation is achieving on a European scale.  Discussions, both during sessions and over lunch, included colleagues from England, Belgium, Norway, and of course Ireland.  As such, this has become a venue that allows international comparisons, cross-border brainstorming over challenges, and the sharing of experiences gained at national level.  This is useful because it demonstrates to us how complex UDL implementation can be in the post-secondary landscape, depending on national history, cultural tradition, funding model, legislative momentum and political will.

I also keep meeting, within this national conference, a certain type of weathered professionals that are hanging tight to hope of reaching wide UDL implementation across the post-secondary sector, but that also recognize the hurdles and the complexity of this process.  These are encouraging encounters, which I feel evidence the coming of age of the UDL movement.  I think we can all be accused of having, at some point or other, been overly enthusiastic, slightly rushed in our hopes and dreams about UDL, and to some extent simplistic in our approaches.   Cross-institution UDL implementation in Higher Ed is a long and complex process.  Universities are multi-layered environments, staffed with professionals of widely varying training and theoretical backgrounds; they are vast systems subject to a variety of forces and mechanisms.  As such it is fair to say they have an ambivalent relationship with the process of management of change.  It is highly pleasing, and immensely reassuring, therefore to see folks coming back to the Dublin conference, year after year, a little wiser, a little more patient and increasingly more subtle in their analyses and their message.  The speakers and participants one is likely to encounter at Croke Park, is by far the most seasoned team of UDL theorists I have had the pleasure to come across over the years.

The other take away from Dublin was the Irish experience itself around UDL.  There is something really significant happening in Ireland at present, around the transformation of teaching and learning in higher education – and I feel we all have a lot to learn from it.  Again, it is the “progressive” flavour of it all that strikes any visitor from overseas: less resistance than elsewhere, less moaning, less resignation.  Just a bold confidence that change needs to happen.  And change we did witness – being described session after session, be it in further education, in rural settings, in traditional campuses such as Trinity College, in a variety of disciplines and departments.  It’s in this respect too that the UDL badges are fascinating.  Badges of the sort keep popping up in various national contexts, but in Ireland – and with AHEAD – these are not just a matter of wishful thinking; nor are they just the product of ambitious but overworked researchers that run the risk of remaining “on the shelf”; we have instead seen them used, lived, narrated and celebrated by educators who benefitted a great deal from their creation.  What an utter joy these two days have been!

Until next year!

Lurking dangers in the increased visibility of UDL

It has been wonderful to see UDL gain increasing visibility in North America over the last decade, both in the K-12 and the post-secondary sectors.  We’re seeing a heightened visibility, a rich body of emerging literature, more and more PD events and conferences, as well as hands-on projects and communities of practice springing everywhere.  There is of course cause for happiness in observing these rapid developments.

There are also, however, some dangers lurking in the recent trends within UDL development, and I think 2018 has been a year where we have started to see the slippery slope the UDL movement can embark on if our discourse and our intentions remain unchecked.

Confusing add-ons to a simple, lean theoretical model

Recently we have seen appear more and more revamps, add-ons, and ‘innovative versions’ of UDL.  There is an inherent danger here.  In many cases this sort of work seems so far stretched that it seems impossible to reconcile it with UDL.  UDL is in essence a framework for reflection on practice that has appeal precisely because it is simple, user-friendly and clear.  By adding unnecessary complexity to the model, or layering on dimensions which are often incompatible with the simplicity of the model, we create hurdles to implementation.  It becomes a hard sale.  I have recently read blogs, conference presentations, PD events that have a title focused on UDL, but bear little relation to it and frankly are often impenetrable.  UDL must retain its simplicity.  It is what gives it impact and makes it immediately attractive to and usable by any educator.

UDL material that is not accessible

It is great to see the UDL movement finally reach beyond Disability and impairment.  UDL is indeed essential in creating inclusive classroom conditions for Indigenous Students, International Students, second language learners, etc. alike.  It has relevance for all diverse learners.  This, however, does not mean that the UDL movement can forget about accessibility.  I often like to remind teachers that UDL is essentially a translation of the Social Model of Disability into classroom practices.  Instead, in some cases we are seeing presenters at UDL events not giving the slightest thought to accessibility: no captioning on video, mics not being used, key images used on screen with no audio description.  At other times we are observing UDL projects in the field focusing on engagement for example, but entirely ignoring basic notions of accessibility in format.  It would be sad to see UDL being so extensively discussed and used in schools to provide innovative pedagogy for all learners that it ends up marginalizing students with impairment.  One such worrying development has been the flipped classroom.  Yes, the flipped classroom can be part of a reflection on engagement and the redesign of the conventional lecture format, but it is clear that it also creates significant barriers for many students.  It is not a solution in itself.  I am not entirely sure as a result that it has a place within UDL

Cramming too much in

I have also witnessed recently desperate attempts to cram a century’s worth of literature on pedagogy within UDL.  It is important to understand that while UDL is a powerful lens for reflection on practice, it can by no means be the only pedagogical lens used.   To some extent constructivism, social constructivism and experiential learning theory, for example, do indeed overlap with UDL.  However, it is impossible to squeeze the entirety of these three monumental pedagogical theories within UDL.  Nor should we try to.  UDL is a great, effective and lean framework to reflect on Accessibility and to implement rapid change in classroom practices.  There are other dimensions of pedagogical reflection that need to occur simultaneously.  These processes will interact and feed our UDL reflection, but also remain distinct.  Critical Pedagogy is another layer of pedagogical reflection that connects to UDL in some respect but also needs to be developed by educators in its own right.

Cult of the expert

The final trend that has recently concerned me is the cult of the expert.  We are seeing more and more big names taking over the UDL discourse.  Individual visibility is problematic in this field because it reinforces the notion of the ‘consultant’ and ‘expert’ who must be relied upon to access and understand UDL as a framework.  The real appeal of UDL is that it is a simple lens for individual reflection on classroom practice that any educator can access, use and make their own.  Ownership over the model is universal and does not require an expert to play gatekeeper.  We are currently creating a landscape which, on the contrary, is leading educators to feel dependent on key authors and speakers.  This can only be counterproductive in the end.  When I have acted as a UDL consultant in the past, I have always insisted on verbalizing with my audience the fact that there is no hierarchical ownership or expert know-how in this area.  The democratic flavour is essential to the development of UDL.  Traditional scholarly power dynamics are completely incompatible with UDL.  The reflection it triggers is instead in everyone’s hands.  Consultants can be useful to trigger interest in UDL and an initial exploration, but they should never be seen as the holder of knowledge.

These dangers are real.  The risks are monumental: visibility and growth are all too recent for UDL; any of these trends represents a real hurdle to spreading the word effectively and to encouraging more learning communities adopt it.  Let’s remain attentive and wary, or we may become our own worst enemy in our desire to move UDL further.

Exploring the relevance of UDL for the Global South

I have just returned from India where I attended an International Conference on Inclusion, held in Mumbai and organized by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and Brotherhood.  It was a rich and well attended conference with representatives from all over India and beyond, and it is thrilling to see Inclusion becoming a central focus in the Indian education landscape.  2016 legislation has created rights to accommodation throughout the secondary and post-secondary sectors and it is thrilling to see advocates and researchers excitingly discussing implementation.

What has been even more striking for me, has been the thirst for UDL resources and strategies I was able to observe through the three day event.  India as a whole is interested in short-cutting approaches to accommodations that are medical model based to progress quickly to whole class and whole school approaches that avoid unnecessary labelling of students with Disabilities.  With an exploding and widely diverse school population, India is also looking for sustainable approaches to Inclusion and it is in this context that UDL is increasingly appealing.

It is important to keep the relevance of UDL for Global South countries in mind; it might be fair to state that UDL research has thus far been excessively North America and Europe centric.  I’m hopeful we will see the literature on UDL now focus increasingly on education systems within developing countries.

Proceedings from the conference will be published by TISS later in March 2018.

© Frederic Fovet 2018

Making the best of what you have – Using your LMS to begin UDL implementation in the Higher Ed classroom

When one is advocating for UDL implementation in a Higher Ed context, the first barrage of resistance normally consists of complaints about limited resources.  In the current climate of cuts and compressions, most Higher Ed instructors rightly feel squeezed and will often put off their exploration of UDL for fear that it might increase their workload to something simply unmanageable.  Within this landscape, it becomes increasingly important to frame UDL implementation as something easily pragmatically feasible within instructors’ current practice, using what they have, rather than advocating for a wide overhaul of their teaching habits.

One such small step – within easy reach – is to begin using the functionalities of the Learning Management System (LMS) already in place within the campus.

Here are a few tips on how to begin a UDL exploration using the features of Moodle.  Moodle is chosen as a mere example, and many of the same features will be available on the various LMSs used on North American campuses.

Multiple means of representation

Posting PPTs – A wide variety of students may have difficulties taking notes during a class or lecture: second language learners, students with disabilities, students taking medication, students with ADHD, etc.  Posting the class PPTs on the LMS allows learners to access the course content in a variety of ways and to go over their own notes in order to check their understanding and tackle weaknesses in their own notes.

Providing open access reading resources of various level of complexity – The LMS allows instructors to post open access reading resources with a varying level of complexity, which offers learners various angles of entry and access to the content.

Posting external videos that complement the course content – Lecture style delivery restricts the learner to two means of access to the content: auditory and written information.  LMS platforms now allow instructors to post video resources that complement the course content. Open access video resources are numerous and rich and will not require the instructor to create their own material.

Podcast and videos summarizing essential concepts – Moodle, and many LMSs in similar ways, allows instructors to add videos and podcasts with ease.  Creating a YouTube channel, for example, allows instructors to add videos with ease on Moodle as external hypertext links.  These short videos can summarize the main concepts or themes of the class and serve as a helpful addition to traditional style lecturing.

Glossary – Moodle possesses a glossary function.  This can represent a useful complimentary platform for the class where key concepts are presented to the student in an alternative format, one that is sometimes clearer for some students than the lecture notes. The glossary can be created by the instructor, by the student or even by instructor and students as a team as part of a class exercise.

Multiple means of action and expression

Chatrooms and forums – Moodle allows for the easy creation of chatrooms and forum where learners can exchange and dialogue.  This offers students a radically different role from the passive listener status they are traditionally limited to in lectures.  Instructors report a widely different level of engagement on LMS forums than in class discussions.

Quizzes and polling – Moodle, and most LMSs, offers instructors the possibility to create forms, quizzes and polling tools with great ease.  This is a form of engagement that is innovative for learners and allows them to express their opinion, check their understanding and enrich their mastery of the class content.

Accepting assignments in various formats – Moodle offers learners, not just instructors, the possibility of loading their own links.  This, in turn, means that instructors have the opportunity to widen the format of submission for assessment: PPTs with voice over, videos, podcasts, and animations can all be loaded with ease and radically transform the learner’s relationship to the assignment.

Live ongoing feedback on instruction – Moodle offers instructors the possibility of creating feedback forums, or of posting links to anonymous Google Forms, where learners can provide live feedback on classes and course delivery.  This has the potential to radically transform the teacher-student relationship by putting an end to the passive role learners too often have in Higher Ed classes.  The feedback is live and instantaneous.

Pre-submission of assignments and formative assessment – Paper format submission of assignments can be eliminated, and electronic submission through an LMS platform offers instructors and students an ease and speed that allows for feedback of a richness and quality that have never before been imagined.  Many instructors are now able to allow pre-submission, and to offer virtual feedback and guidance in real-time, which in turns means students are able to fine tune and resubmit, having gained a better understanding of the expectations.  True formative assessment!

Multiple means of engagement

Curriculum co-creation opportunities – The forums and chatrooms that can be created on an LMS platform allow instructors to open a live ongoing dialogue, which can transform itself rapidly into fully fledged curriculum co-creation.  It can be difficult to create the right circumstances and climate for students to feel comfortable in class discussing their own expectations with regards to a course content.  This climate is a lot easier to create virtually and Moodle serve a practical purpose in this respect.

Experiential learning – Instructors traditionally invite guest speakers into their class.  In the 21st century these guest appearances can be both more convenient and richer since we are no longer limited to local talent but have the opportunity to bring speakers in virtually – through Skype or Collaborate.  These virtual guest interactions can be recorded at the click of a button, saved & archived as part of the course content on Moodle.  Students can watch the segments over and over again, and as a result extract more from the guest appearances.  In many ways the spatial limitations of the classroom have been eroded and the LMS platform serves as a gateway to this new global experience.

E-portfolios – Moodle allows students to post e-portfolios as hyperlinks with ease and convenience. They can thus be viewed by both peers and instructors.  This in turn allows for an integration of experiential learning and a hyper-personalization of the course tasks never before possible.

Interdisciplinary approaches to the course content – Moodle, because it offers instantaneous access to the student to their various courses, allows for a natural cross-disciplinary reflection which can easily translate into interdisciplinary exploration across courses: all it takes, technically, for a student to share the same resource in several of their courses is a few clicks of a key.  Learners would traditionally have different binders, textbooks, etc.  The LMS platforms have revolutionized this and now offer the learner an instantaneous, cross-course overview and interface.  Instructors, once aware of the potential this represents, can encourage interdisciplinary reflection as part of the course experience and the LMS use.

© Frederic Fovet 2017

Presentation at the 2018 Mumbai International Conference on Inclusive Education

I will have the pleasure of presenting at the 2018 Mumbai International Conference on Inclusive Education.  The Conference is organized jointly by The Centre for Disability Studies and Action (CDSA), School of Social Work of TISS Mumbai, and Brotherhood, Delhi and will be held at from 22nd to 24th January 2018 at TISS, Mumbai.

Here is the abstract of my presentation:

Presentation Title:

Making it work!  Addressing teacher resistance in systemic UDL implementation across schools


Universal Design for Learning (UDL) currently promises a much faster and more thorough move to inclusive practices in Canadian schools.  For two decades now, Inclusion has been discussed, legislatively mandated and worked towards, but in the field practices often remain anchored in individual remedial interventions that are burdensome, costly and create a situation of integration rather than genuine Inclusion.  In such set ups, teachers often feel overwhelmed and burnt out, students still lack access to social capital and genuinely equal opportunities, and parents worry that funding might be unable to keep pace.

UDL addresses these issues by offering an inclusive model that focuses on the class environment, from a design perspective, rather than on individual diagnostic information.  It becomes much more sustainable for teachers to implement, and leads to a genuine transformation of school cultures which become proactively capable of addressing learner diversity.

Systemic UDL implementation across schools, however, raises its own issues: there are leadership implications as well as complex management of change challenges to overcome.  This paper will examine some of the efforts currently deployed in Canadian schools towards large scale UDL implementation and seek to map out challenges and opportunities.  The author has worked as a UDL consultant for now close to a decade and he will use qualitative data collected during his work with schools and school boards to analyze lessons that can be learnt from this initial UDL drive.  The objective is to draw from this data in order to create a road map that will guide schools and school leaders through the next decade of UDL implementation.

In the discussion session, this presentation will examine the relevance of this research in the context of the Global South.  It will be argued that the education sector in the Global South will gain from examining the rethink currently occurring in developing countries, where it is becoming painfully obvious – two decades on – that early steps towards Inclusion were far too dependent on medical model practices.  This research offers hope for a viable shortcut for developing countries in turn making their way towards inclusive objectives: the focus on social model practices advocated by UDL may prove more sustainable from the get go, than following in the now hesitant footsteps of the Global North or looking too closely to early literature on Inclusion for solutions.

 Key words:

UDL, teacher resistance, social model of disability, systemic implementation