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Researching Accidental UDL with Kirsten Behling

Welcome to Episode 60 of the Think UDL podcast: Researching Accidental UDL with Kirsten Behling. Kirsten Behling is the author, along with Tom Tobin, of Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: UDL in Higher Education, which is the book I recommend most to anyone who is interested in UDL in higher ed. She is also the Associate Dean of StAAR which stands for Student Accessibility and Academic Resources at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. In today’s podcast, Kirsten and I discuss the research project she has undertaken since the pandemic began when university classes switched to a predominantly online format. Along with her co-researchers Kate Pillette, a School Psychologist and Learning Specialist at Tufts University, and Lisa Bibeau, the Assistant Dean for Disability Services at Salem State. Kirsten has been looking for and has found many examples of instructors implementing Universal Design for Learning principles in their rapid switch to online, and she has asked instructors to reflect on their teaching during this time. Through this, she has uncovered what she calls “Accidental UDL” when instructors have implemented strategies that have proved helpful, accessible, clear, and perhaps altogether revolutionary in the midst of this transition that, whether they knew it or not initially, incorporated or exemplified Universal Design for Learning principles. What a great idea to highlight the bright spots during a particularly trying time for college teaching! Kirsten has graciously provided a chart resource and her article “Finding a silver lining in the rapid movement to online learning: Considerations of access for all learners” if you’d like to know more or if you are interested in trying to do something like this on your campus. You’ll find both the chart and article on the webpage under Episode 60’s resources. Thank you for joining me in this conversation today with Kirsten Behling on Accidental UDL!


Find Kirsten on Twitter @KirstenBehling or email her at:

Reach Everyone Teach Everyone: UDL in Higher Education is her book with Tom Tobin that I cannot recommend enough!

Finding a silver lining in the rapid movement to online learning: Considerations of access for all learners This is a great article about the best things to come out of the pandemic in terms of teaching strategies.Accidental UDL Chart Resource This is a great resource if you are looking for ways to measure UDL on your campus!


Lillian Nave 00:00

Welcome to think UDL, the universal design for learning podcast where we hear from the people who are designing and implementing strategies with learner variability in mind. I’m your host, Lillian Nave, and I’m interested in not just what you’re teaching, learning, guiding and facilitating, but how you design and implement it and why it even matters. Welcome to Episode 60 of the think UDL podcast researching accidental UDL with kyrsten beetling kearson. bling is the author along with Tom Tobin of reach everyone teach everyone UDL in higher education, which is the book I recommend most to anyone who’s interested in Universal Design for Learning in higher ed. She is also the Associate Dean of star which stands for Student Accessibility and academic resources at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. In today’s podcast kyrsten and I discussed the research project she has undertaken since the pandemic began when University classes switch to a predominantly online format, along with her co researchers Kate Polet, a school psychologist and learning specialists at Tufts University and Lisa bow, the Assistant Dean for Disability Services at Salem State. Kiersten has been looking for and has found many examples of instructors implementing universal design for learning principles in their rapid switch to online, and she has asked instructors to reflect on their teaching during this time. Through this she has uncovered what she calls accidental UDL. When instructors have implemented strategies that have proved helpful, accessible, clear, and perhaps altogether revolutionary in the midst of this transition that whether they knew it or not initially Incorporated, or exemplified universal design for learning principles. What a great idea to highlight the bright spots during a particularly trying time for college teaching. Kirsten has graciously provided a chart resource and her article finding a silver lining in the rapid movement to online learning considerations of access for all learners. If you’d like to know more or if you are interested in trying to do something like this on your campus, you’ll find both the chart and article on the think webpage under Episode 60s resources. Thank you for joining me in this conversation today with Kiersten bailing on accidental UDL. So it is my great pleasure to welcome kyrsten veiling to the podcast today. Thank you so much Carson for taking some time to talk with me. Oh, it’s my pleasure. I’m really excited. So I have known of you for quite a long time and have recommended your book that you co wrote with Tom Tobin reach everyone teach everyone. In fact, just yesterday, I recommended it to another college for their reading group this summer. Yes. So it’s such a great resource. I was a pleasure. It


was so much fun working on that with Tom.

Kirsten Behling  03:28

Yeah, really? Like, what a fun experience all the way around. Yeah, that’s amazing to hear. It’s a great, great to write


a book. That’s fantastic. It was Yeah, book writing can be a little overwhelming. But um, you know, just the opportunity to talk to other people and to be creative in our thought process. And Tom and I came at it from very different perspectives. And that was just really enriching.

Kirsten Behling  03:50

Yeah, well, it is such a fantastic resource. And I find myself recommending it multiple times every month to people. So yeah, I have a well worn copy myself. So I’m glad. Yeah. And I got to talk to Tom, a couple years ago now on the podcast, he was one of my very first interviews. So I am really excited to get to talk to you this time, because you have done even more with Universal Design for Learning lately, and I want to hear about it. But first, my question to all of my guests is what makes you a different kind of learner?


So this is a great question and I am maybe a little shocked that I’ve never thought of it before. So kudos to you for just putting people out there. Right. Right.

Lillian Nave  04:38

But your spot right.


Yeah. And I’m thank you for the warning on that too. You know, I think for me, when I was wrestling with this question, I was like okay, you know, I really like to learn by doing that seems to be my my happy space. And definitely multiple, multiple ways of getting information in but I I found myself having a hard time defining myself as a learner, I, you know, sort of like square peg round hole, right? Yeah, yeah, cuz for me, it truly does depend on the task. It can depend on where I’m at with my cognitive overload, if you will, which, right now feels like a lot in this particular time that we’re in, and I think, you know, it can also just depend, to be honest, on my mood, what, what mood Am I in? And how do I want to approach something? So it was a really hard part hard to categorize myself into a particular category, I would say, sort of multiple means, there. I’m very UDL, which is very, very, you know, apropos, I suppose. But yeah, you know, when I’m, when I’m working on a project, I like to get into my own headspace and look at things as they sort of pop up as those little idea bubbles, you know, and go to me, oh, what about and then I’ll sort of find myself on a tangent down the road, looking at podcasts and videos and reading articles and trying to look at things. Or if it’s one of those moments where everything feels particularly rushed, and you feel maybe a little bit on that cognitive overload, I’m looking for a quick, a quick fix a quick hit in terms of what I’m trying to figure out. So I really feel like it’s a variable, answer, which might not be what you’re looking for. But

Kirsten Behling  06:31

I’m not looking for anything in particular, I hear, you know, bits of my own process, and almost everybody I’m talking to. So it’s, you know, we’re also varied in different. So I really appreciate that, you really spoke about the kind of the environment, and recognizing how different moods or times or how you are at that particular time really changes how you learn. And that is so important for us as instructors to remember that, you know, we’ve got 20 or 200 people in our classes that are humans and have those exact same, you know, ideas, they’re not going to learn the same way every day, most likely. And I can definitely see, you know, sometimes I am super energized to participate and be with, you know, people, maybe I have relationships with these folks, and I’m ready to learn and jump in. And there are other times I totally want my camera off. And yeah, vacuuming while I’m listening.


100%. And I think that, for me, that’s always been one of the things that has been most interesting about universal design is yes, we all learn differently, we all have different perspectives and background experiences. But in that moment, we’re all coming to it in that moment, you know, being asked to sit down at, you know, 930 11 o’clock, whatever the time frame might be, and to be present. And to put everything else in our world aside, I think can be it’s a big ask, it’s a big ask and a time when, you know, we’re just being fired out with all sorts of different senses into dues and tasks. And have you seen this, or have you looked at that and, and so I think being sensitive to the fact that it might take a bit for folks to get to that space where they can be receptive. And thinking about that, when we’re we’re teaching is, is, it’s really important, because as an instructor, we’re going into the class going, Oh, my gosh, this is the most exciting class ever. It can’t wait to talk to you about you know, accommodations, and my students are, you know, they’re still back in the car listening to you the latest kashia song or whatever it might be, or having an argument with their mother or whatever it might be. So giving people space to get there with you. Oh, that

Kirsten Behling  08:51

is so true. And you know, I hadn’t really thought about that about it’s such a big ask to ask everyone to be really present and have one of the things I’ve talked to other guests about and have seen, especially in the last two years is mindfulness and really working that into like being really present. And a lot of young students at hate a lot of older students and instructors have no real background in in really being able to create that attention and, and focus on it. And it is something that’s a super important if we’re going to give ourselves that time.


Right? Absolutely. It’s an investment, you know, learning as an investment, it’s an opportunity, it should be exciting. But you also can’t, you know, force folks down the road if they’re not quite there yet, or if they need a minute and I think, you know, as you said to, you know, as much as it is for our students, it is for us as well. Yeah, you know, but we are all always learners, always on that path, that path. doesn’t end. And we too need to get ourselves into that space. And sometimes that’s a challenge. Yeah,

Kirsten Behling  10:07

yeah. Oh, thank you so much. That was just fantastic answer I love hearing from from each of my guests, but I really appreciated that. So today I wanted to talk to you about the very interesting research project you’ve been doing during this last year. We’re recording this in March of 2021. So a full year after the global pandemic started and education shifted greatly in the United States and all over. And you’ve got a research project that you’ve been investigating and learning about. And I want to hear about what you have learned about universal design for learning in this past year. Sure. Well, thank


you for letting me talk through it. So it’s almost been a year now that it has been a year, just a year, I think, a week since. I don’t know, it feels like our world turned upside down. I remember being in my office on campus, as was normal at the time, and getting a phone sort of automated phone message from my elementary school kids, teachers saying, we’re going to go remote for two weeks to flatten the curve. Oh, right. Right. Right. Just to flatten the curve. And as a as a parent, a working parents of young children. I can’t even describe the panic.

Kirsten Behling  11:35

Yeah. That over? Yes. Absolutely. Like,


Oh, my God, how am I going to live my life and move forward? And and so you know, at the time, I’m coming at this from a disability perspective, and I was worried about my students with chronic health disabilities, and do we need to get them home? And if we get them home? How do we ensure continuity of learning for them in a different environment? And about two days later, I think actually amhurst College out in western Massachusetts said, Nope, we’re closing down. Yeah, we’re physically closing our space. And so you sort of watched the domino of institutions of higher ed just shut their doors. Yeah. And you were just like waiting with gripped, you know, white knuckles, Oh, my gosh, this is gonna happen to us. And it did. Yeah. And, you know, it was the right decision, I think, for all of us to get home and to and to be home safely. But it was a very busy flurry of activity, rest of the spring semester, you know, and I think everybody in their own unique positions in higher education, faculty, staff, administrators, students had to figure out this new normal, although at the time, I don’t think we call it normal. It was sort of


this, this,


oh, my God, just like let’s just grin and bear it get to the end get to be an seem to be that experience. And so we watched, we watched faculty try to figure this out. And and the way that it happened at Tufts, is we made the call a few days before our spring break. So, you know, we sort of naturally had that week of flexibility built in, though I’m not sure that anybody had intentions of spending their spring break, redesigning their course. Yeah. And, and then they had a few extra days to come back and to get things up and running and to just continue along. Right. And the idea of that, in hindsight is, wait a second, you’re gonna take a course that could take months, even years to develop? And you’re going to transition modalities in five to 10 days.

Lillian Nave  13:48

Yeah. That is insane. If you think about that, as a huge ask, what a incredible disruption.


Yeah, yeah. What an incredible disruption and, and to do it in a space where there are some resources available, for sure. But by and large resources were being developed as we were going. So it was sort of like, you know, cat and mice, like who’s gonna catch you first kind of thing, you know? And so, you know, we got through that in my office was responding with regards to Okay, you can’t forget to accommodate students. A student has a disability, you still got to do that in this new space. That was a big thing. But we were also starting to develop resources for our students in particular, because now we’re asking them to learn in an environment that has been different. You know, since September of the previous fall, many of them went home. Many of them went home to you know, a space where all the sudden family members were peeking in. Yeah. Did you do your homework? Why are you staying up so late? You know, Oh, my gosh, you really should shower like all of the like, parental experience. They had, you know, walked away from, we had students who were going home and sharing internet and sharing computers. And now they’re responsible for taking care of siblings because family members are working. Yeah.

Kirsten Behling  15:13

And those siblings in younger grades were also at home.


Also at home, and also needing computer and also needing Wi Fi access. We had students who were literally stuck in transit, who couldn’t get home because the borders of their country were maybe closed or, you know, so they’re in hotel rooms and trying to figure it out from those spaces. So we were trying to figure out in my work, right now, it’s very student focused, how do we support our students? How do we help them normalize this new environment. But as the dust settled, and as we started to get into April, and it you know, even through the end of the semester, some colleagues and I started to think, you know, faculty are actually rethinking the way they’re teaching. Look at this, look at this, this is happening. And it was such a wonderful moment, because we are disability service providers. Our background, and as Tom and I had talked about, in our book, disability service providers largely sort of started the UDL, flag carrying effort, way back when back in the early 2000s, saying this is a great idea. Yeah. Wouldn’t it be great if everybody had an extra set of notes? Wouldn’t it be great if everybody had an extra few minutes to work on their exam? And you know, we would get the one offs? You know, the adopted the one, the one offs? Yeah, that is a good idea. Or, usually we would get, that is a good idea, after they maybe had been working with a student who was particularly challenging, or they didn’t know how to navigate it. Yeah. So you know, and that was great baby steps. We take whatever we can get. But all of the sudden, faculty were doing it without us asking why, and it was really, really cool.

Kirsten Behling  17:05

That’s exciting. It was really cool.


So what we decided to do, I worked with a colleague in my office, Kate pilet, she’s my school psychology and learning specialist. And her job is primarily to work with students who, you know, have additional needs, right? Like, they’re navigating difficulty with management, time management, executive functioning, these types of things. So she was listening to her students who were saying, you know, what, I don’t need to worry about that particular assignment. My professors increased the due date by a few days, or they took this off the books. So Kate’s hearing it from her students. And then Lisa Bobo, who is the Associate assistant dean at Salem State University, was hearing it from her folks, too. And that institution is different than Thompson, that it’s a public institution, it’s got a unionized faculty. And yet everybody was sort of in this same space, how do we make this work? And so we decided to measure it and to figure out what are they doing? And can we capture their strategies, and then share that back. So it’s not coming from us in our profession, saying, this is a great idea. But rather, it’s coming from faculty who said, I tried this, it didn’t work, or I tried this, and I loved it. And you all should try it.

Kirsten Behling  18:24

So you’re really finding these bright spots out there, and in magnifying them or telling other folks what works, which is one of the ways to, you know, spread a movement and figure out, you know, what’s already working? So it’s not something you said, Okay, here’s our outline, I want you guys to implement it. It’s what are you doing that’s already working? And can we share it?


Yeah. And not only that, what are we?

Kirsten Behling  18:49

What are you doing? Can we share it? But do you recognize this, right? Because for for quite a few faculty, this is the first time they really had to take a deep dive into the class that they were teaching. It’s very easy to teach a class, design it, teach it, roll it over semester to semester with some tweaks and some changes and so forth, right. But this was sort of a forced opportunity to take a look at what they were teaching and to completely get it into a different modality. That, you know, is it could be scary and was scary for a lot of faculty. You know, I teach this class face to face. I’ve taught this class face to face for the last 10 years. There’s no way I can teach this online. And then at the end of the semester, they’re like, actually,

Lillian Nave  19:36

I can’t good. It


wasn’t bad, and the students kind of liked it. And maybe I’ll do that again. And so what we wanted to do is, you know, capture those moments and capture those strategies that faculty were either finding on their own or stumbling into and, you know, make them available for others because I think there’s a lot of power in you. Universal Design for Learning from learning from others who have done it already. Yeah, right.

Kirsten Behling  20:06

And it looks, it looks like you are asking these instructors to about their design choices, like when you’re faced with this big obstacle, I am finding that instructors are now having to say, why am I teaching this way? Whereas before it was not questioned, it’s just, this is the way it’s always been taught. And so now we have to really question what is important for me to be teaching? And how am I going to teach that and why am I teaching that? And those might be questions that were not asked previously, right? Exactly. Yes,


it’s an opportunity for reflection, you know, again, it was a, you know, if you ask the faculty, if they if you know, what the what their biggest challenge was, everybody said, time management, right, it


was too quick, it’s


too fast, five to 10 days was too fast. And yet, even in that, you know, Hurricane of change, if you will, so much good came out of it. And and we asked the faculty to reflect not only on their experiences, but also what they saw from their students. And you know, not that the challenges that that the students were facing, but also the challenges that the positive experiences that the students were reporting. And it was really, I think, eye opening for everybody involved, that teaching doesn’t have to be one way. It doesn’t have to be the way that I have done this for the last however many years, it doesn’t have to be the way that I learned this particular topic. But rather, there are different ways to diversify how we design a course, how we engage students, how we assess students, what materials we use, that can still get to the heart of the learning objectives. Right. So we’re not changing the learning objectives. We’re not changing the goals of the course. But we’re just looking at this from how do we do this differently. And and because of the covid 19 pandemic, it was an you know, we call it accidental, right? We accidentally fell into this and some of our colleagues have been like, Huh, accident, you can’t do accidental UDL. Right. Let’s check that. And yeah, and they’re not wrong, except for the fact that, you know, we’re arguing they did it without deliberate instruction. There wasn’t a lot of proactive thought it was a lot of panicked thought, yeah, to be honest, a lot of trial and error. And I think they many sort of stumbled into this different way of of doing things, which is just wonderful.

Kirsten Behling  22:53

Yeah, you know, I I find that accidental UDL is, is out there a lot and the people that I get to talk to realizing that what they are doing didn’t, they didn’t realize it was called Universal Design for Learning, right. And so part of my job I see is saying, oh, look that really matches up with this, or actually, what you’re doing now is providing these choices. So I think there’s a lot of accidental UDL out there, that we are trying to bring to the forefront and let people know that maybe you didn’t realize this was what you were doing. But hey, it’s great. And you’ve already noticed that it’s working great for students. And there’s actually a lot of stuff that backs this up a lot of research, a lot of studies, a lot of science and neuroscience about how we learn that you might have stumbled into it. And it’s kind of an accidental UDL on your part. But it actually fits into a larger framework that’s really helping students and helping instructors to to guide students to their learning goals, and outcomes. So I love this idea of the accidental UDL project. So what sort of things have you found? Yeah, so


we found a lot of a lot of really interesting things. One. So we said, I actually have my write up in front of me, so I can you pull it directly. But I think one of the first things that we sort of looked at Okay, is is what were the challenges that faculty were hearing about, and seeing? And so, you know, one of the first things that that faculty were noting was that students just weren’t engaged. You know, this is a very trance transformative experience for everybody. And as we said earlier, students are coming at this with a variety of their own situations that they’re having to navigate at home, or, you know, wherever they may be. And so engagement was really tricky, and that was really hard for faculty right not to be in the in face to face classroom having that conversation with them. And so, faculty There’s a number of things to try to fix that. Or to try to relieve that they really leaned in to the the web conferencing tools that they had available. So web conferencing before COVID-19, unless you taught an online course, really wasn’t a thing. And even if you did teach it on the I teach an online course, it’s asynchronous completely. Well, isn’t anymore, but it was at the moment. Right? Right. Right. So they had to learn these tools. You know, we were we were Skyping. We were googling and now we were zooming and you know, within zoom, there’s all of these great resources. every faculty member we surveyed, and we surveyed over 130 different faculty members said that they loved the chat feature in zoom, they loved that they could post a question. And students could participate in a way that worked for them. When it worked for them, either they could raise their hand and have a conversation like you and I are having, or they could just type something. And you know, what’s really great about that simple thing is that we have a number of students who may struggle to have a live face to face conversation, right? Even in your regular standard face to face classroom, you’ll always notice a few students who are hesitant to speak up, it doesn’t mean that they’re not following along doesn’t mean that they don’t know the content, it just means that that is something that is not in their learning, you know, preferences sort of playbook. So can we give them a another way of participating? And the web conferencing tools automatically provided that? Yeah, so they really love that same thing with the polls, oh, my goodness, the number of faculty who just get got excited about the polls, right. So that was a lot of feedback that way. And right away, yeah. Right. And anonymously, too. So it’s giving that feedback to the to the faculty, but the students are able to do that in a space that feels comfortable,

Kirsten Behling  27:00

right. And these are things that were even harder to do if you were in a face to face classroom. So, you know, by accident, we’re creating more ways for more students to interact and provide their own thoughts in the discussion that previously they were, I dare to say shut out of in, in a barrier that maybe instructors didn’t realize was created in that face to face classroom,


exactly, unless they had, you know, an accommodation. And in the accommodation process can be a little bit cumbersome in higher education, because you have to go and you have to ask for it, you have to prove it. And you know, it’s a thing. Yeah, they could be penalized for something that is just a reflection of how they learn. And so by opening that space up, you know, more students can engage. And faculty reported that they had so much more detailed in interesting conversations about content that they had, when they were back in their face to face experience, many report wanting to continue that whenever we return to whatever normal is going to be, who knows, you know, right? So

Kirsten Behling  28:15

having that back channel was easier to do on a web conferencing tool like zoom, than it was, if you were in a live classroom, you know, imagine trying to have to write on a board or something like that. Like all the students had their own board and could show it or, you know, it’s much easier to do it typing at your computer.


Exactly. Another thing that we we saw faculty do, which I thought was great, right? So it can be really hard to take a 90 minute class and turn that into a 90 minute online synchronous session, or some faculty would would record their PowerPoint lectures with a video component, and then put that up. And so a couple things they learned on that was that a 90 minute recorded PowerPoint lecture had very low hits.

Lillian Nave  29:06

Yeah, that’s right. That’s a tough ask.


That’s a tough ask. So a very simple strategy that came up that was chunking, PowerPoint lectures, yeah, into smaller bits, and then naming them appropriately. So the students knew what would be covered in that particular lecture. And they could get to that component, that part of it, when it made sense for them when they were ready. Whether that be because they had other commitments going on, or whether they were, they were, you know, emotionally ready to sit down and to learn.

Kirsten Behling  29:40

Yeah, so you’d have micro lectures that could talk about different parts of whatever that organic chemistry lesson was. And man, it’s hard, some of those high level, really intricate coursework stuff, whether it’s stem or humanities, you know, there’s some heavy thinking going on. I need a break. I need to kind of process and to be able to press pause or to take it in a 10 minute chunk is really a lot better for me as a learner than try to sit through 90 minutes because I know my mind is going to be wandering


100%. And I think it we saw that come up again, as students were preparing for final assessments, right? They could pick the piece that they were stuck on. Yeah. So and there’s no, there’s no problem with that at all, from sort of a pedagogical standpoint is we want students who engage with the content that they need, you know, and I think it’s really interesting. One thing we’ve talked to faculty about is, wouldn’t it be interesting to measure the number of views? each chunk got, right, so hindsight is 2020. Right? So we have to add, we add things, we’re always adding things, right, the plus one strategy of UDL. So by now adding that component to it, you as faculty can go back and be like, man, lecture three. No, but everybody’s looking at it again. Well, how did that not go over? Well, that makes so much sense in my head. Yeah. And so maybe that’s a piece when, you know, Tom, and I talk about pinch points, you know, in our in our books, so maybe that’s our pinch point. Yeah, maybe I need to take a bit of, you know, reflective experience here and look at that, and sort of circle back,

Kirsten Behling  31:26

right. And so students have the opportunity in this new modality, because of the pandemic and throwing these things online. Now, that student could go back and listen to the lecture three or four times if they need to, which we couldn’t do if it were just the live lecture that wasn’t recorded, you just had to go back to your notes. And what if you were spacing out for the heat of 10 minutes, this concept was being explained, then you’re out of luck. And you’ve got to, you know, really search for for that. And in this case, it’s readily available multiple times, and really offers the student multiple chances in order to get this concept


100%. And the other thing to the benefit, benefit from the Disability Services side of the house is that students who previously required a note taker to help them either gather the content or to navigate those moments when their disability does prevent them from sort of engaging, didn’t need it. Yeah. Right. That’s all we want to do. They didn’t need it, because they had these recorded sessions. And so our students with disabilities didn’t have to come to us, you know, and I missed them. But I get it, you know? Yeah, that’s okay. with it. Yeah, this is, so this is just such a win. I think for us on so many levels? Well,

Kirsten Behling  32:52

the, the kind of little secret here is if UDL is successful, we try to put, you know, put you out of a job, really, if I’m okay with that. Good, you’re trying I know, that’s what we’re trying to do we want we want to be, you know, a good enough parents. So our kids are able to do life on their own, they don’t always need their mom or dad. And we try to teach students so that they don’t always need to come back to us that they can figure out the problem and do well, you know, and work on it on their own. And if we can design a course well enough so that there aren’t any barriers for all of our students, then we won’t need the disability or an accessibility areas of our colleges that kind of have to remediate that. So it’s all in our good design.


Absolutely. And that I think, is why this was such a silver lining for so many of us in the disability field is that faculty were adopted adopting and these experiences, these strategies are independent enough of us coming and saying you have a student in your class, who’s going to need this. By the way, wouldn’t it be great to open that up to everybody, right? And then usually, the pushback there is, well, then nobody’s going to come to my class. Yeah. Or nobody’s going to pay attention. And the pandemic, really, you know, introduced diversity, not just of sort of how we’re learning, you know, cognitively, but the environments we’re learning in the strategies we’re needing to use in such a way that I think really normalizes the need for these strategies. Then, taking that a step further, right. I’m always thinking of the plus one UDL.

Kirsten Behling  34:43

That’s one worse Of course you are.


So okay, so step one, we take our 90 minute and we record it. Great. Step two, we chunk it. So that’s great. So next time we teach it, we chunk it. The next time we teach it, we we also monitor number of


views Yeah,


my dog. And then step three, though, is we need to caption it. Uh huh. Right, right. And this was the thing that a lot of faculty didn’t do. You know, at least in the in our little study, to start, and I think part of that, too, is institutions are still trying to figure out how do we caption effectively, and in a cost sort of reductive space. The good news on captioning is the auto generated captioning tools are just, there’s this blossoming and and that’s just, you know, really making captioning an easier, I just, you know, in zoom, now, I just enable it done. Right. And that’s it.

Kirsten Behling  35:44

Yeah. And I know that most folks, in fact, I learned this from Tom Tobin that 85% of people have videos watched on social media, like Facebook, are watched without sound and with closed captions, you know, I can just imagine people when they were at work, we’re watching it on their phone, but could you be listening at the same time, so and it’s so it’s not just for the students who have a disability and, and might require that it’s for all of our students. It’s for our English language learners, it’s for students who are in some sort of busy, you know, Wi Fi coffee shop, or something like that, and the before times that might have happened, and they need to see that those closed captions. You You make the point to about professors and instructors being wary about, well, then why would students come to class? Right, if I do that, and I think that goes back to that design principle. Like, I think we should be asking, why should students be coming to class like, that helps me to define when I need to have a synchronous class meeting, and when I should be putting that on a video so that students could watch at their own time when they’re ready, when they’re motivated, you know, when they’ve motivated themselves to actually watch and get some content. Otherwise, you know, that idea of I’m thinking of like a flipped classroom, like if we are going to require that sacred time where 30 people are blocking out 50 minutes or 75 minutes to be online, at the same time, during whatever is happening in life, there are doctor’s appointments, there are there’s a pandemic there’s need for Wi Fi, there’s other kids at home, like that’s some sacred space. So it needs to be worthwhile. If it’s just going to be something that could have been recorded and chunked and watched at another time, then I don’t think there’s a reason to have that 75 minute time period. So I have definitely taken the tack of, if I’m going to require students to show up and I do I have a once a week meeting, it’s going to leverage the diversity of students. And I want to hear from their different perspectives. So if you’re not there, we miss out on what you have to say. And that’s really important. And of course, if a student does have to miss, they can watch the recording, and they can learn from it. And then they add their their parts to it. So there is an asynchronous part if there is, you know, a problem, but it really made me think there’s no reason that I should be having a class where it’s just going to be me lecturing. There’s no reason I should be doing that for synchronous classes. No, I


agree with you completely. And I think this school of thought that the in person experience or the the synchronous experience is more than a, I’m just going to lecture and I’m going to share as the expert, I’m going to share my knowledge with you. Right, like that is my job. That’s not what students are asking for. It’s not what you know, the learning experience should be right. It’s it’s very much a dialogue. Yeah, I can bring you the topics and get you started and guide that conversation. But it should be a conversation. And I think the pandemic has really forced faculty and I teach as well, to sit back and to say, what, what is the most valuable use of that face to face or synchronous time? Yeah. And what can be done in a different space and the flipped classroom? You know, we’ve been sort of thinking about that for a while, and some people have been doing it. But I’m thinking about the, you know, organic chemistry professor, who’s, you know, outside class experiences is working through problems in a textbook. Yeah, right. Old school, sort of, that’s how we do it or the math or whatever it might be, or let’s read these five articles for history or something. So, you know, even thinking about universal design for learning outside of the classroom, and engaging students in different ways, you know, is really important. Not everybody’s going to respond to reading a 50 page article on a topic. Yeah. But being able to listen to your professors share their experiences and their sort of lecture in that, while I am taking a jog might just be the way to engage. Right,

Kirsten Behling  40:19

right. So we have to think about multiple modes of delivery, and how that might be hitting our students in the times that we are not synchronously with them, and giving them lots of options. Yeah. One of the things that I worked on this last semester, and this semester two is providing audio options, and video and captions and all those ways so that students have lots of choices and fewer excuses not to do the work.


Is that one of the things we always talk about when I talk to faculty about universal design for learning as it applies to their syllabus? Wouldn’t it be nice if students didn’t ask you every few weeks? Wait, when’s that due?

Lillian Nave  41:04

Yeah. Wait,


we have to do that. You know what I mean? Like, how can we diversify that. And actually, one of the strategies that the faculty had came up with was the need to revisit the syllabus as a class, frequently throughout the semester. So we typically look at it the first day, and you go through it, and you say, some, some faculty have, you know, really fun sort of scavenger hunts within the syllabus. And, and, you know, even some quizzes and tell me what is due when or what book you have to read or those types of things. But the faculty were starting to revisit it periodically, throughout, and that just just getting everybody back on the same page, right? It’s like a framing question at the start of a of a class, right refrain frame today’s topic. Alright, everybody, let’s look at look at where we’ve come on our journey, and where we still need to go. And sorry, utilizing that so that was a fun, fun strategy that somebody came up with.

Kirsten Behling  42:05

Right. And that’s, that connects to that comprehension, part of the UDL guidelines where you’re helping to create the bigger picture or paint the bigger picture. So students know halfway through the semester. Okay, I’ve seen that we learned these strategies on how to answer this question, or I’ve learned about these different philosophies in order to approach a new way of thinking. And we are getting through, you know, half of this material now we’re going to learn these other ones later. And I’m seeing it fit within a framework. And oftentimes, we as the instructor know, this, we know, we’re kind of making progress towards the school and the students are just totally lost there. They’re kind of overwhelmed by so many of the minutiae of the of the course, that it’s hard to get a grasp on it, and then helping to situate that in the larger picture is going to be, I think, really helpful for students to understand, oh, I’m kind of getting a grip on this, and I’m moving forward in this, and I know a lot more than I did at the beginning of the semester. And this is how it’s useful.


Yeah, 100%, you know, we call it the roadmap, right? Your your, your course roadmap, what is it going to look like and and checking in along the journey? You know, do we need to change directions? Do we need to take this route? You know, instead of this route? It’s like the ways of your right.

Kirsten Behling  43:30

The ways the app that tells you if there’s a traffic jam, or if there’s maybe a verse officer. Yeah.


Exactly. And I think that that’s really helpful. And, you know, one of the things too, that we tend to forget as instructors is that our students are taking other classes. Right? And so they’re navigating, you know, four or five different road trips. Yeah, you know, that they have to get to the end to and guess what they have to get to the end their destination at the exact same time, right semesters, gonna end at the exact same time. And, you know, they don’t necessarily know how they’re going to get there. And so if we can make that even if you’ve just sometimes it’s even just creating a

Kirsten Behling  44:13

visual, right, like an infographic or


infographic, and guess what we’ve gotten here and, and then, you know, checking in with your students and saying, okay, we’ve gotten here, is Everybody good? Or does anybody need to take like a rest stop, we need to take a quick detour, and circle back. And I think that that’s not just helpful for students, but it’s helpful for instructors. It’s a way of checking in and measuring progress in an informal space. Yeah, that then allows, you know, for pivoting if need be moving forward.

Kirsten Behling  44:46

Yeah, I’ve seen a lot in the past year, a lot of infographics actually, and I share them a lot. When I’ve seen my colleagues create some great like weekly journeys or weekly schedule so students know, especially with an asynchronous class or one that only meets once a week, you know, okay, on Mondays, I really need to be digging into this material. And Tuesdays we have a deadline on Wednesdays is when we meet, you know, yeah, that sort of thing, because a student might just see it as Oh, we meet once a week, and then otherwise, it’s a big blob. Yeah. How do we know when to do stuff?


Yes. So those are the students that we’re working actively with right now, in my, my center around executive functioning, academic coaching. Because, you know, one of the the challenges that students cite, have cited, you know, in this study, is that the time management? So for some students, their reaction was, oh, my goodness, faculty made this course harder. Yeah. Because, you know, there were some faculty that I think that I mean, it was such a panic space, right? Yeah. Oh, my God, I have to do how? And so for some, they just sort of like, put everything in the kitchen sink.

Lillian Nave  46:04

Yeah. All right.


Yeah. Let me throw another article at you. And I didn’t plan on doing this. But this is a good video, right? It was like, how do I like get the information across without me physically being in front of you? Yeah. And for some, and it was just sort of put on the LMS. Without a lot of organization and structure it, which is one universal design for learning strategy that we we learned is we need to have an organized learning management system. And so for some students, their reaction was, whoa, this is a lot. A lot. This is a lot more, and I don’t know where to start. I don’t know how to do this by myself. So to your point earlier about organizing and putting, putting together that journey. And I don’t actually think there’s anything wrong with doing that on a week to week basis. This week, this is our essential question. This is what we’re gonna look at, you need to do. And I’ll see you on Thursday, or whatever it might be. Right.

Kirsten Behling  47:07

Right. So yeah, the large overview for the whole semester is helpful. I know when I’ve been doing some work to get online, specifically online design courses, ready for like quality matters and their certification, they want to see a Course Map. So a student knows you know, how things match up to an a learning objective to, like, why are we doing this activity? Those design questions are really important. And I don’t think we’re always asked of a seated course. In fact, I know they weren’t. I don’t think so. Yeah, you don’t realize why. Okay, why are we doing this reading? Well, I thought it was pretty good. I enjoyed it. Okay, but what’s the point we want, you know, to get from this, you know, what are the objectives and really having to match and align our goals with our activities? And with the resources that we have? Has, that kind of accidentally forced a lot of people to start design thinking, whereas before, it was content coverage? It was, I have 15 chapters, there are 15 weeks, in the semester, I am going to Yeah, exactly. And weekly quiz. There we go. It’s done. I’ve designed my course. I’m done.


Yeah. And that’s that your net? Yeah, exactly. You’re not done. And I say so. You know, there’s so much opportunity that’s come of this, this is it’s, you know, in, in so many ways, it’s a chance to just rethink how we teach. And one of I think that the biggest challenges in working with faculty can be is that they haven’t had a lot of them haven’t had that space to sort of figure out how to teach.

Kirsten Behling  48:58

Yeah, right. Right. It’s not taught to them, you know, unless you’re in education, no, very few graduate programs. Now, there are more who are doing this now helping graduate students learn how to teach the subject. But mostly, it’s very research focused.


It’s very research focused, and we lean on our centers for teaching and excellence, and they do a phenomenal job. But faculty have to go. Yeah, right. They have to say, you know, what, actually, I think this would be a really good idea. And and, you know, sometimes that’s challenging too. Or I’ll ask me, you know, we have a fantastic when it talks about that. Can you send me some faculty like, Oh, these are the list of frequent fliers?

Lillian Nave  49:38

Yeah, right.


I love their frequent fliers, but I want the folks who haven’t even picked their head up yet to

Kirsten Behling  49:44

Yeah. And unfortunately, that is also you know, part of our systemic problem with are we rewarding our professors and instructors for their teaching excellence? Are we rewarding them for their research? Is that how you get promoted if you are tenure track, and if you aren’t tenure track, are you given time and resources? And even, you know, honoraria, or payment for spending your very precious time in learning how to teach better? Yeah, it’s a difficult spot.


It is a difficult spot. And I think it’s one that each institution is, you know, is looking at or not looking at. To be frank differently, right. And there’s examples of folks out there who are doing fantastic work in this space. And I think, you know, we were talking at the start about the UDL community is growing is Yeah, learning from each other and trying to figure out, Okay, how do we get to departments? How do we get to entire institutions? And, you know, how do we broaden the concept of UDL beyond the classroom? Right, the entire college is a learning experience. So what does that look like in other components? Yeah, I could go down a sidetrack.

Lillian Nave  50:57

Right, right.


I’ll bring it back.


Oh, I just wanted to note too, one of the other really fascinating things that we found with UDL in the COVID pandemic are accidental work is around assessments and assignments.

Kirsten Behling  51:10

Oh, great. Tell me more. Yeah. So


this is the the area that, you know, I will often go to other institutions and talk about UDL and try to get buy in and, you know, I usually get a lot of head nods and enthusiasm, and they’re interacting, and we’re doing well until we get to assessment. Okay. And then it’s like, oh, wait, nope,

Lillian Nave  51:32

hold on,


you’ve gone too far. You know, like, let’s slow this down. And, and take a minute. And and I think a lot of times the The challenge here that that I you know, faculty voice to me is yes, but I don’t want to change the rigor of my

Kirsten Behling  51:48

course. Right? I hear that quite a lot. Yes. You know, and what is your answer to that?


So my answer to that is always well, we need to go back to your learning objectives. And we need to determine what you want your students to be able to do upon completion of this course. And is that they have to be able to take a multiple choice test in a timed environment and be successful? Or is it that you need them to understand the, you know, quantum physics of a particular situation? Right. So, so sort of drilling that back down? And there will always be a few folks that say, Actually, I really do need folks to be able to take an exam because there’s a licensure component beyond, right? In which case, we say okay, well, how do we add plus one strategies to that requirement? You know, instead of requiring students, for example, to answer, you have to answer every question on the exam. Could you, you know, add an additional two questions and say, choose the eight that you are going to answer, right. There’s always opportunities to add choice, I think, oh, no excuses. But here in this accidental UDL research, we found faculty much more readily wanting to and willing to change the way that they assess many of them canceled exams. outright canceled them. Wow. Yeah. You know, and it again, spilling into the fall semester where Tufts University was largely remote. We typically in the disability office, Proctor 600, exams in a semester. Wow. Around accommodations. Okay. In the fall, we proctored nine.

Kirsten Behling  53:39

Oh, my goodness, there was a big change, about how people see what, how effective that assessment really is.


Absolutely. And, you know, some folks still did exams, but they just started adding time for everybody. Or they would do things like okay, there’s an exam this week, I’m gonna release it on Tuesday. Students have until Thursday to complete it. And once you open it, the clock starts, but I’ve given you some extra time. But you open it when you’re ready. Can you imagine like being able to take an exam when you’re in a cognitive space to do so? That’s great. Right? Yeah, that’s a very easy thing. Other others weighted things differently? You know, they said, Okay, well, instead of doing exams, let’s you know, wait more participation, more discussion experiences. I’m going to ask students to lead conversations instead of me leading them. There was more group work, more project based work, all sorts of different really beautiful creative ideas came from how do we truly assess students knowledge? From COVID-19 wow,

Kirsten Behling  54:49

you know, you just made me reflect and recognize something that happened to me in my undergrad experience. That is accidental UDL because this is 1991 tonight. 95 is when I was an undergrad at a little school that in Massachusetts called Williams and it, we had exams that you could take at any time, except if it was something like way back when you know, in the old dinosaur days, I was taking art history exams, and you had to see certain slides, right? So drivers had timed exam times and days. But for anything, I remember taking math exams, history, religion, environmental science, I remember, you would just go over to Hopkins, and you pick up your exam with your name on it, you go to a room, and you had two hours to take it. And then you brought it back. And I could set out my week and say, Alright, I’m going to study for two days and take this math exam. And then I’ll have two more days, and I’ll study and take this history exam or whatever. And that was a lot better than the Alright, Wednesday at nine, and then you’ve got one Wednesday at one o’clock. And if you’ve got both of them on the same day, too bad.


Yeah. It’s, it’s, it was so beneficial. And, you know, if you think about our students, too, that we’re International, right, we I have some students reporting that we I just slept during the day, and I was up all night. Yeah, nobody wants to take an exam at 2am. Right, right, nobody. And so just the power of that. And that’s such an easy thing to do. And it really doesn’t matter when a student takes the exam, but giving them the space to plan like you did, you know, plan their study habits, or to you know, realize, you know, some students just are not morning people. Yeah, right. Right, you know, as much as we dry, and so, okay, well, then don’t penalize them for that fog, that they’re navigating in the morning. Or, you know, students who are, you know, working or navigating childcare, or you know, all of those things. I think that that was really, really empowering, and something that many faculty are going to continue to do, because it doesn’t really impact them. Yeah.

Kirsten Behling  57:10

Right. And I’m also thinking of my students and my family members who have chronic diseases and, and needing doctor’s appointments in the middle of the week that have to be on a certain day or an infusion that has to be at a certain time. And we can’t penalize our students for something that’s beyond their control that they really need to survive.


Exactly. And what we’re doing by offering that flexibility, we’re not making them jump through hoops to get it changed. Yeah, right. It so that just adds a layer of access for them. That is a lot easier. Which is important.

Kirsten Behling  57:49

Yes, it’s, it’s absolutely essential. We can’t be excluding our students, really just based on our own ignorance, know, about what they have to do in their lives and what they’re going through. And I’m just becoming more and more aware of that. And, in realizing in my life, when I look back at my college, I did not have a chronic illness, I didn’t have anything that was impeding my ability to work, you know, work hard and get my stuff done. But I’m realizing that I was very lucky and very fortunate. And there are so many others who are navigating a lot more than I just can’t expect their lives are the same as mine was, you know, yeah, or just say, Well, I did it, so you’re going to have to do it. But my experience is not their experience. It’s just something that’s hitting me really hard lately.


It’s, it’s a really beautiful reflection. And I think it’s something that, you know, we all need to do, and to understand our experiences, because I think it’s very easy to take our experiences, and to impose them on our students. And that’s not at all, you know, their journey. My my son is learning about students with intellectual disabilities, this is a side track. And he came to me the other day, he’s just 10. And he said, you know, Mom, these, you know, people are just so kind and brilliant and, and individual. And the fact that he picked that up, you know, that’s something we always say in our, in our work and Disability Services is there is no menu of accommodations. Because everybody’s journey with their disability, even if you and I had the same diagnosis is very different and that needs to be honored. And I think that carries for every learner, you know, in the classroom is that where they’re coming, where they’re at when they walk in that door or get on that screen is really valuable. faculty that can be hard to try to honor but by just adding some flexibility in how we teach, and how we assess and how we design our courses, we can really create a much more inclusive and welcoming environment.

Kirsten Behling  1:00:09

Yeah, that that idea. Kiersten I love that you said, honor, we really are learning to honor our students, I think when we are using Universal Design for Learning, when we create these inclusive, well designed, hopefully barrier free learning environments, we are honoring the the true people that we have in our classes. And that is something I think was made very clear to all of us. The silver lining of this pandemic, I think, is we started to recognize, I certainly did, that there are some things that are outside of our own control. So living in this pandemic, and being thrown at home. I’ve got three teenagers, my daughter came home from college, we were all on the Internet at the same time, you know, yeah, running up and downstairs and trying to also organize doctor’s appointments. Yeah. And everything I realized, Hmm, I guess I don’t have everything under the control that I thought I had. And I bet my students are in just a crazy as crazy a place as I am. And it really brought it home to me that there that we do need to honor each other as individuals, that everybody is going through their own mess, and masterpiece at the same time. And Universal Design for Learning allows for us to continue with the rigor with the objectives that we want to accomplish. But it allows for our students and for ourselves most for us to you know, to offer a, I think, a beautiful Invitational barrier free or at least barrier reduced learning environment for our students. And it seems to be that what your faculty has been finding all year.


Yeah, I couldn’t have said it better. I think it that’s just absolutely true. You know, this is a space where, you know, the pandemic, in many ways, you know, sort of leveled the playing field term for all of us. And, you know, we all had to figure out a way to do life. Carry on. And you know, that the beauty of this research is that faculty did that in spades. And you know, they are, you know, we’re about to ramp up another nother version of the Sutter survey, because now we’re interested in Okay, so how did it go last year? What did you keep? What, what, what worked? And you know, now that we’re starting to talk about getting back you physically into the classroom, what’s your plan?

Lillian Nave  1:02:55



Where do you get a hold on to? You know, and I think for many of our faculty, this was truly a momentous, changing experience. You know, it was this forced reflection, which really, I think was just such a positive experience for for many.

Kirsten Behling  1:03:14

Yeah, yeah. This has been, I think, a threshold experience, a threshold concept, you know, so to speak, once you have peeked behind the curtain, and you’ve seen that this could happen to anybody, that your students could be anybody that it could happen to you. And you’re going to need some accommodation, some grace. Yeah, no, sometime, then it’s much easier to to do that for your students and to design for it. You know, I don’t want to be, you know, halfway through the semester trying to backtrack and accommodate when I could easily design for disruption or designed for multiple things that might be happening any particular day. Yeah, you know, so I want to make sure that I have that in place in the beginning, because it it will make my life easier.


And more interesting, too. Yeah, no, but that’s what we’re telling the faculty now as we start to think about next year, right. So let’s let’s design for a return. But let’s be prepared to be able to switch. Yeah, that’s, you know, that’s now we have the tools to do that. And one of the things that came of this study, too, that I’d love to share with you all is is a list a checklist, if you will, oh, good, different strategies. So we ask the four questions, and I have to pull it up here so I can get it. These are the most common questions that faculty hat, how do I navigate technology issues with the modality that I’m using to teach? How do I design my course to be flexible no matter the modality? How do I keep my students engaged in my course? And how do I act accurately measure myself? student’s knowledge. And so what we did was we took those four questions, what are the most common questions that we received, and we align them with the UDL strategies that faculty naturally created? Oh, great. And to attack list, just to give other folks an idea, you know, oh, I’m struggling with engagement. Why don’t you try opening your classroom 15 minutes early and not teaching and just letting everybody congregate in chat? Right? Like that’s, that’s a very easy thing to do. Or, you know, we’ve been talking about different modalities and PowerPoints and PDFs. And have you tried this particular way of getting information across. So bite size, easy, easily digestible UDL chunks, is what came out of this. And it’s just really exciting.

Kirsten Behling  1:05:49

Oh, great, wonderful. And I’m sure we’ll be able to have a couple of those resources for our listeners and put it on the website. Right, I will happily share. Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for your sin. I really enjoyed talking to you about all the things that you’ve been researching and how you’ve been able to really pull some great data and ways of making school more equitable, and in educational environments, more flexible for our students. And I really appreciate that you’re willing to share that with our listeners as well.


Absolutely. It’s been a pleasure. It’s been so much fun. Thank you.

Lillian Nave  1:06:32

Yes, thank you so much.

Kirsten Behling  1:06:46

You can follow the think UDL podcast on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to find out when new episodes will be released, and also see transcripts and additional materials at the think website. The think UDL podcast is made possible by college star. The star stands for supporting transition, access and retention in post secondary settings, and the website provides free resources and instructional aides based on UDL principles. If you’d like to know more, go to the college website. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University where if you call it Appalachian, I’ll throw in Appalachia. The music on the podcast was performed by the Odyssey quartet comprised of Rex Shepherd, David pate, Bill falwell and Jose co chez our sound engineer is Tanner Jones and I am your host, Lillian Nave. Thank you for joining us on the think UDL podcast.

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