George Brown College continues its leadership in advancing inclusive and accessible education with the release of an e-course available to educators across Ontario on the eCampusOntario Open Educational Resource Library.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a curriculum design framework that reduces barriers to access and engagement and greatly improves the student experience by guiding educators to design for optimum online learning. The course partners UDL with vital equity frameworks and initiatives, such as anti-racism, decolonization, and accessibility to honour learner diversity and lived experience
The course is “designed to enhance the existing expertise of teaching faculty, curriculum and educational technology specialists, instructional designers, accessibility consultants, and others who support student learning through modelling the principles and practices of UDL, equity, and inclusion,” the program description states.
“We're demonstrating thought leadership and advancing research around UDL implementation and best practices in the province,” said Ravinder Brar, George Brown’s Manager of UDL Implementation. She hopes to take the college’s UDL education efforts to the national level.
Creating UDL networks
George Brown invited other colleges and universities to participate in the creation of the course through an extensive engagement and consultation process. OCAD University, and Centennial, Northern, and Fleming Colleges participated in this process and continue to be partners in building a UDL community across the province.
George Brown follows the Centre for Applied Special Technology’s (CAST) UDL curriculum guidelines for inclusive education and expands the focus on anti-racism and decolonization in teaching and learning.
“This course brings pedagogy and technology around equity education together,” Brar said. “It’s about making sure we’re not just minimally meeting AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) standards but going to another, more transformative, level.”
According to the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO), “discussing issues such as UDL fits well into HEQCO’s mandate of ensuring that Ontario’s colleges and universities are accessible."
More than a decade of UDL work at George Brown
UDL efforts began 15 years ago at George Brown and moved into high gear in 2018 with the launch of a UDL academic pilot headed by Centre for Preparatory and Liberal Studies Dean Susan Towes. Since then, we've formalized UDL and anti-racism structures at the college. Some of this work includes the following:
- taking part in UDL conferences,
- implementing faculty coaching,
- hosting internal and external workshops,
- launching a UDL community of practice and UDL and anti-racism book clubs,
- creating a provincial UDL steering committee and
- creating a UDL certificate.
"Using a lateral leadership design,” says Brar, "we run the certificate in a cohort model with participants who are faculty, librarians, accessible learning consultants, mental health counsellors, student success representatives and tech employees who are learning about what their colleagues do in other areas. There have been many amazing ah-ha moments.”