Things get interesting, however, when we start to move down the list of additional accommodations. That’s because our course design standards were built with attention to guidelines from Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL guidelines are designed to help educators “change the design of the environment rather than to change the learner. When environments are intentionally designed to reduce barriers, all learners can engage in rigorous, meaningful learning.” At One Schoolhouse, we believe that online learning should be designed to be accessible to all, and that all learners benefit from intentional structure and increased choice. As a result, our course design standards incorporate many of the most frequently used accommodations in traditional classrooms.
For example, consider the accommodation of alternative instruction formats. A student who has difficulty processing auditory information may need outlines or notes provided in a typical classroom. In a One Schoolhouse course, they can choose a pathway that uses text. At its most traditional, that could mean a textbook reading. Another option might include a recorded slide deck that integrates the teacher’s spoken words with an outline on the screen. A student who finds visuals especially helpful might select a video pathway.
Online learning can be a game-changer for students who have difficulty managing the physical environment of a traditional classroom. Preferential seating, for example, simply doesn’t exist in the online space–every student has a front-row seat. For students who struggle to manage attention and avoid distraction, online learning offers the opportunity to manage the environment by selecting their own workspace. (What about students for whom the device itself is the distraction? There are a host of apps to help with both Mac and Chrome operating systems.) Students who need to take breaks on campus often find themselves forced to choose between taking the break they need and missing essential classroom time. Not so in an asynchronous course, which allows students to manage their time in the way that works best for them.
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Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)