The Influence of Designing a UDL Online Course on Undergraduate Students Learning

The Influence of Designing a UDL Online Course on Undergraduate Students Learning

Literature Review

In teacher training colleges, teacher education programs have realized that online and physical courses are the best form of educating people. Scott, Temple and Marshall (2015, p.99) elucidate that training programs are integrating the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework as one of the numerous measures to efficiently train as well as prepare teacher for special education. The concentrated attention into UDL is as a result of the increasing enrolment into online courses by post-secondary graduates. According to Scott, Temple and Marshall (2015, p. 99), the rate at which students’ registrations for online courses since 2012 have increased drastically. As a result, pressurized teacher programs to adapt to the change. The scope is to ensure that with the online courses, students are continually developing skills and knowledge parallel to the conventional courses or counter-parts. But, the process is tedious and can illuminate on the limitations that online courses in respect to face-to-face education have on individuals. As such, there is a need to focus on the quality of online coursework to generate students who are equipped for the current world market (Robinson &Wizer, 2016, p. 17). There are numerous influences on designing a UDL for online courses for undergraduate courses. This literature review seeks to underline the strategic forces and depict how significant an impact they possess.

Universal Design Learning (UDL) integrates two major frameworks: quality matters and tenets of Universal Design for Learning (Robinson &Wizer, 2016, p.18). For the UDL to be consistent in its quality assurance to students, the framework, according to Robinson and Wizer (2016, p. 17) is to provide strict guidelines for creating quality online courses which are combined with the emphasis on course content as well as delivery of the material. Scott, Temple and Marshall (2015, p.110) concur that it is necessary for educational institutions to implement a conglomerate strategy in ensuring that online courses produce the best candidates for the job market. As it is, online education is ranked as the most critical educational system in a long-term strategy. For example, the University of Towson integrated online learning by encouraging blended educational courses. These include both fully online courses and part-time courses. The ideology is to relate the experiences of face-to-face learning with that on online learning.

Quality Learning Matters and UDL

UDL was initially integrated in the late 1900s as a formulation to providing flexibility in numerous pathways in which information is presented. The hope was that students could demonstrate knowledge and skills in how they engaged with the courses (Houston, 2018). Moreover, the ideology was to reduce barriers in instructions which entailed the provision of appropriateness in accommodations as well as challenges. Thus, the maintenance of high achievement expectations by all students including students with disabilities and those limited in English proficiency could be guaranteed (Robinson &Wizer, 2016, p. 20). Regarding the capability of UDL to provide the suggested merits, a lot of research was conducted from brain cognition as well as neuroscience recognition networks. The main aim was to comprehend whether the universal design could accommodate students with different learning disabilities based on the different learning preferences and reduction of student barriers in education (Black, Weinberg & Brodwin, 2015, p.2).

The research focused on recognition networks which are varied in different human beings (Black, Weinberg & Brodwin, 2015, p.2). Identifying markers included sight, hearing and reading. The three sensors are crucial in any person’s capability to understand what is communicated and how it is communicated (Parra et al., 2018, p. 60). Therefore, guideline principles such as comprehension, access, and retention were pivotal to understanding the different ways in which students naturally processed information. In relation, high-quality learning environments were discovered to requires students to be more flexible to the modalities and innovations including algebraic and graphical representations (Robinson &Wizer, 2016, p. 20). The result of the research indicated that students required options, choices and multiple modes of capturing interests as well as providing meaning in interactive content.

Course Content

Course content as a result of research and articulation of student needs, especially in undergraduate courses, was proposed to have a solid grounding in the background knowledge that is required in the class. Robinson and Wizer, (2016, p. 20) suggest that it is best if students are oriented first on the intentions and course content before beginning the actual course. This includes an overview of the course syllables, required sources as well as an index. The intent is to ensure that students are aware of the structure of the course and what calendar of events is necessary. The policy is apparent to each higher institution of learning and necessitates that students are more profound in their course content.

Further, Black, Weinberg, and Brodwin, (2015, p.2) indicate that learning objectives should be delineated to each student before starting any course. The aim of this framework strategy in UDL is to ensure the student is oriented in the learning skills and experience levels that are needed. For example, Robinson and Wizer (2016, p. 21), determine that sample outcomes within each course should be detailed in the assignment expectation to ensure that the objectives of the course are aligned. UDL, therefore, promotes the perspective that assessment including assignments is necessary.

Additionally, Parra et al. (2018, p. 61) indicate that instructional materials and resources are considered the best framework for a Universal Design for Learning Framework that guides any institution on the instructional materials from a broad spectrum. The philosophy is that the learning materials should be of a broad scope ranging from written, audio, video and graphical, to mention a few who will allow students to equally diverse from representing their learning and knowledge course (Black, Weinberg & Brodwin, 2015, p.2). The primary objective of instructional material in UDL is to provide an integrated event and requirement for students to ensure they can understand what is required of them throughout the course.

Course Design

UDL campaigns for an international view of how students best articulate a course and its contents. This entails the universal underlying design also known as the Instructional System Development (ISD). The ISD is a model that provides for the requirements of instructional designers both experienced and non-experienced. Parra et al. (2018, p. 62) indicate that ISD is based on the educational philosophy that instructional design for any course ought to be student-centered, inspirational, innovative as well as authentic. As such, ADDIE meaning Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation is a common operating system that is used in course designs. The objective is to ensure that students internalize the content based on the input-process-output strategy. The input phase, according to Parra et al. (2018, p. 62) includes the knowledge and interaction of information while processing entails the stimulation of creativity and divergence in thinking capacity. The aim is to ensure that students can explain, configure, interpret and display multiple comprehension skills in the instructional materials. For the latter, output, the phase aims at providing that the students can translate the information they have gathered throughout the course into real life ((Black, Weinberg & Brodwin, 2015, p.4).

ADDIE requires a formulation of strategies that include analysis. Analysis entails the wording of the process of transformation which indicates the ability of the learner to analyze content as well as possess technical, analytical skills. Each content within each course has variated objectives and recommendations. Therefore, any designer of a class should understand how the influence of analysis content is necessary for each student. Thus, the analysis is a crucial stage in course design as it entails the gathering of ingredients of instructional design among other aspects to identify challenges and problems and come up with action items. The next step is designed which encompasses the process of responding to how the course content will answer the analysis questions through objectives and strategies (Black, Weinberg & Brodwin, 2015, p.5).  According to Parra et la (2018, p. 62), designing a course entails the installation of communication objectives and how the students and the faculty will intertwine in support of the goals of the course. The design is considered the blueprint of any direction, and for it to be successful, a lot of consideration is placed on this phase. The subsequent period is the development state. Parra et al. (2018, p. 62) discuss that this stage entails the preparation of the information and how it shall be used. The processes are simple yet, complex as the development stage proceeds. The scene involves evaluation of content, preparation of content and division of course materials into stages that are easy for the students to understand (Parra et al., 2018, p.62). For the course material to be objective, the developmental pilot phase has to undergo a subjective analysis. This is operationalized through analysis of what information is best and how it can be changed to improve on appropriation. The final stages are implementation and evaluation. The steps involve the interaction of learners with the course content and how the objectives are being met. The review ensures that the information presented in the course is providing learners with the best outcome to acclimatize to the world.

The UDL has mostly been effective for the online courses that are listed as not being too complex. According to a study conducted by Chen et al. (2018, p. 59), the number of people who have joined an online course over the past ten years has increased. These numbers account for the increase in popularity of the different courses. However, Chen et al. (2018, p. 60) outline that certain courses have received limited attention when it comes to online learning. These courses are STEM-based meaning science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Based on a press statement released by the former presider, Barrack Obama, STEM courses are pivotal in ensuring that the United States of America present unique solutions to the ever-changing world’s problems (Chen et al., 2018, p.59). As such, Chen et al. (2018, p.60) determine that a lot of learning strategies have been implemented to safeguard the learning outcomes and output of STEM courses. Among the strategies is the implementation of public resources that are dedicated to finding solutions on how to increase the number of enrollees on online courses concerning STEM.

STEM Courses: Innovative Strategies

The main strategies include the dedication of search engines such as EBSCOhost, Directory of Open Access Journals, Google Scholar and Elsevier databases among others (Fidaldo&Thormann, 2017, p.10). The search engines ensure that students have access to the recommended journals and articles as well as other informational materials for the courses in STEM. The STEM courses have been designed in a manner that online-learning, e-learning, student feedback, student satisfaction, and student engagement are all guaranteed. The hope is that corresponding university courses can ensure that students are aware of their objectives of the study (Hegeman, 2015, p.70). The investment in online courses under UDL in America and incorporation of resources has resulted in improvement in high-level student interactions and out-performance of peers in the corresponding on-campus section (Chen et al., 2018, p. 60).

Among the strategies in designing courses for STEM include active learning strategies. About a study was done by Freeman et al. (2013) active learning compared to the traditional methods of learning improved student performance and success rates in STEM. The study conducted by Freeman et al. (2013) further provides that increased student success was based on the instructor-generated videos and guided note-taking sheets. Moreover, strategies of peer mentoring and peer instructions improved student performance in a combination of homework and skill tests analysis. The success, according to Chen et al. (2018, p. 61) is based on the incorporation of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles into the post-secondary education with the essential learning component of student engagement. UDL, as mentioned earlier, aims at providing education, skills, and knowledge based on equal opportunities for students. As such, the design on STEM using UDL is based on the active participation of the student. Therefore, the assessment of strategies based on ADDIE on STEM courses is one of the crucial aspects of the success in STEM so far (Chen et al., 2018, p. 61).

Nonetheless, there are more pressing issues when it comes to STEM course success when it comes to learning. Based on a study done by Haak et al. (2011, p. 1213), the researchers highlight a phenomenal issue regarding studying in the United States of America. According to the study purpose, the minority gap in studying STEM courses has been an issue since the incorporation of minorities into the study curriculum. Historically, the disadvantaged students who pursued learning STEM courses found it challenging to continue the classes due to varied reasons among them socio-economic and financial factors (Wladis, Hachey& Conway, 2013, p.20). As a result, this provided the non-disadvantaged students with an upper hand in pursuing careers based on STEM. But, with the recent innovation under UDL, numerous efforts in encouraging a diverse population to continue STEM courses among other complex paths have been improved. This has been done through the integration of comprehensive programs that recruit promising students and provide financial aid through additional instruction, mentoring and social support (Haak et al., 2011, p. 1214).

Moreover, the curriculum, especially on online learning, has improved on the integration of less-intensive programs that offer additional instruction on peer-led workshops associated with introductory courses. In the past, according to the study done by Haak et al. (2011, p. 1214), failure among disadvantaged students was sky-high based on the courses previously provided with the social background limitations. But, with emphasis on UDL, most of the STEM disciplines have been reduced or eliminated and improved to reduce the achievement gaps. However, the process has been expensive and gradual due to the research that needed to be carried out to understand the specifics of the targeted population. Thus, it resulted in the changing introductory STEM courses for undergraduates from traditional learning to a more active learning (Haak et al., 2011, p. 1214). The design in STEM courses and other courses as well as improved on the overall performance of students who are from disadvantaged backgrounds and those that are not from underprivileged backgrounds.

The changes have revolved around the alteration of the structure from low to moderate to high which has not required additional financial sources from the government. To accommodate such aspects in the change in construction, the study by Haak et al. (2011, p.1215) determine that alteration in class sizes has been implemented as the best way to reduce class overcrowding and create an intimate interaction between students and faculty. Other changes have been specific to the course. For instance, according to Hegeman (2015, p.70) performance-funding approach has improved the outcome of the development of curricula. This entails the reduction of laboratory lessons from three hours to two hours as well as reduction of the sizes of classes to a limited number. Other aspects have been included such as the integration of instructor-based learning such as the provision of video-oriented course information. According to Hegeman (2015, p. 74), publisher-generated learning aids have been instrumental in ensuring that students articulate more knowledge. This concurs with the study conducted by Freeman et al. (2013) that assisted learning results in improved performance of students. The process in the development of the course content includes publisher-generated learning aids including animations, competed examples and guided tutorials.

The added advantage of the UDL is that it also incorporates students with learning disabilities. Under the UDL and Universal Design for Instructions has provided a more inclusive environment for students with disabilities including physical and mental impairment which in the previous educational system proved to be difficult for the categorical population. As such, in the present day, individuals with disabilities who attend institutions of higher learning do not continue experiencing learning barriers.The type of students includes autistic and those with a wide spectrum of motor challenges having impromptu exams. Therefore, the accommodation has been a successful part for the students of diverse needs both educational and otherwise.

In summary, numerous influential factors improve on the UDL designing for education curriculum for students. The paper has provided substantial evidence on this premise. They include ADDIE, Universal Design for Instructions, accommodation for students with different learning disabilities and motor disabilities. Moreover, issues based on STEM courses have been addressed and as a result, student performance has improved over the years. Therefore, it is safe to indicate that UDL has provided the best results in ensuring that online courses have enhanced the learning outcomes for students overall.



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Freeman, S., Eddya, S., McDonougha, M., Smithb, M. K., Okoroafor, N., Jordta, H., &Wenderoth, M. P. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proceedings of theNational Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Retrieved from

Chen, B., Bastedo, K., & Howard, W. (2018). Exploring design elements for online STEM courses: Active learning, engagement & assessment design. Center for Distributed Learning22(2), 1-17.

Fidaldo, P., &Thormann, J. (2017). Reaching students in online courses using alternative formats. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning18(2), 1-23.

Haak, D. C., HilleRisLambers, J., Pitre, E., & Freeman, S. (2011). Increased structure and active learning reduce the achievement gap in introductory biology. Science Mag332(3), 1-6.

Hegeman, J. S. (2015). Using instructor-generated video lectures in online mathematics courses improves student learning. Missouri Western State University9(3), 1-18.


Parra, J., Osanloo, A., Raynor, C., Hair, S., Korang, T., Padilla, C., & Chatterjee, S. (2018). Perspectives on a Graduate Online Course that Modeled Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to Teach UDL. Asian Journal of Distance Education13(1), 59-87.

Robinson, D. E., &Wizer, D. R. (2016). Universal Design for Learning and the Quality Matters Guidelines for the Design and Implementation of Online Learning Events. International Journal of Technology in Teaching & Learning12(1).

Scott, L. A., Temple, P., & Marshall, D. (2015). UDL in Online College Coursework: Insights of Infusion and Educator Preparedness. Online Learning19(5), 99-119.

Wladis, C., Hachey, A. C., & Conway, K. (2013). Are online students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) courses at higher risk of non-success? American Journal of Educational Studies6(1), 1-21.