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UDL can Save Us All This Fall with Judith Dutill

Welcome to Episode 43 of the ThinkUDL podcast: UDL Can Save Us All This Fall with Judith Dutill. Judith is an online educator and the co-founder of the Online Learning Toolkit. She brings a wealth of knowledge about Universal Design for Learning principles to all of her faculty development endeavors. In this episode, which is part of a Summer 2020 series on Universal Design for Learning in online environments, we talk about how to give space to our students and perhaps give up some control this coming semester, and how to keep our students excited about learning in this new environment. In addition, we discuss the importance of NOT putting technology first, even in online courses, and we delve into a few pivotal questions instructors should ask of themselves and of their students and why we shouldn’t be afraid of the question “why.” I was fortunate to partake in one of the Online Learning Toolkit’s programs this summer where I was able to virtually meet Judith. Camp COOL, or Camp Operation Online Learning, with over 100 other instructors across the country and world, not only helped all of us to design online courses for the coming fall semester, but created a wonderful community while doing so. The Online Learning Toolkit also offers a “Fall On Call” option to support faculty over the course of the fall 2020 semester and you can find more information on that in our resource section. You will also see a self-paced course called DRIVE on the resources for a self-paced version to get your courses on-line ready!


Find Judith Dutill on Twitter @JudithDutill

Online Learning Toolkit – The Online Learning Toolkit put on Camp COOL twice over the summer and has tremendous success. It also offers many other resources for your online learning needs. 

Fall on Call – If you need some extra support and a wonderfully dynamic community in which to practice your teaching this fall, Fall on Call can help!

DRIVE: Online Course Design is a Self-paced Course that prepares higher ed faculty for online teaching in asynchronous, synchronous, and hybrid online modalities; including lessons on designing online instruction, developing an online course in an LMS, and teaching online.

CAST UDL guidelines – Here is the list of UDL guidelines from its creator CAST

Geeky Pedagogy – A book written by Jessamyn Neuhaus about how to be an effective teacher for introverts. Or go to her website at!

Follow Jessamyn Neuhaus on Twitter @GeekyPedagogy

How to force a copy of a google doc– Here is a little trick to make sure students do not change the original document if you’d like them to use or create a google doc from a template.
On Confederate Monuments, Racial Strife, and the Politics of Power on a Southern Campus This is the article Lillian mentions in this episode about how UDL helped her to change a course to work better with student interest.


Lillian Nave (00:00):

Welcome to ThinkUDL, 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. 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 43 of the ThinkUDL podcast. UDL can save us all this fall with Judith Dutill.

Lillian Nave (00:47):

Judith is an online educator and the co founder of the Online Learning Toolkit. She brings a wealth of knowledge about universal design for learning principles, to all of her faculty development endeavors. In this episode, which is part of a summer 2020 series on Universal Design for Learning in online environments, we talk about how to give space to our students and perhaps give up some control this coming semester, as well as how to keep our students excited about learning in this new environment.

Lillian Nave (01:23):

In addition, we discuss the importance of not putting technology first, even in online courses. We delve into a few pivotal questions instructors should ask of themselves and of their students and why we shouldn’t be afraid of the question why. I was very fortunate to be able to partake one of the Online Learning Toolkit’s programs this summer where I was able to virtually meet Judith, camp COOL or Camp Operation Online Learning, as it’s called, with over 100 other instructors across the country and across the world, not only helped me and my colleagues to design online courses, but it also created a wonderful community while doing so.

Lillian Nave (02:10):

The online learning tool kit also offers another program called Fall On Call to support faculty over the course of the fall 2020 semester. You can find more information about that in our resource section for this episode on the website. I’m so glad to be able to talk to Judith about how UDL can save us all this fall. Well, thank you so much Judith for joining me today on the ThinkUDL podcast. I must say I learned so much from you during the summer class that I took with you and several of your colleagues. I just want to say thank you so much for all that you’ve taught me.

Judith Dutill (02:53):

Thank you for being there and thank you for having me today. We’re having a really good time with those programs. Which for me, was really needed because I lost a lot of the joy that I had for teaching in the spring. I think a lot of people experience that and I really needed to love teaching again. That’s been my focus this summer is trying to find that again. I believe I have through an enthusiastic community of people who were seeking the same thing and then also finding the best way forward for fall.

Lillian Nave (03:30):

Camp COOL, which is the program I found out who you were and so many wonderful colleagues, it was inspiring and it’s really changed the way I’m thinking about the fall and the next classes and it has energized me. Totally, exactly what you said.

Judith Dutill (03:46):

That’s awesome. I love hearing that, but then I also love thinking about how… We try to employ that community of practice model and every person who participated in the community, including yourself, you contributed so much and so many people learn from you as well. That’s what we had hoped for and what the community was supposed to be all about and I feel like we achieved that.

Lillian Nave (04:09):

Yeah, absolutely. It was such a great model. It’s the kind of thing that I would like for my classes. I want so many of my first year students when we’re doing it that they feel they’re contributing and that we created it. It was such a great model to be a part of. So thank you again.

Judith Dutill (04:24):

That’s great. Thank you again.

Lillian Nave (04:27):

All right. The first question I have for all of my guests and you are not to be spared is what makes you a different kind of learner?

Judith Dutill (04:38):

I think that there are several things that make me a different kind of learner. But I think if I had to go to one thing that it would be that I’m just naturally, and I have always been just really curious. I feel like my greatest learning actually takes place outside of the classroom. Even if it’s inspired by what’s happening inside of the classroom, I’ve always just wanted to learn more about whatever it is that I’m doing or learning about.

Judith Dutill (05:09):

I remember I went on a trip to Aruba with my family when I was younger and I was really lucky to have that experience. We were on a tour bus and I took over the tour a little bit because I had done so much research about Aruba before we went. I was really young and my aunt was like, “How do you know all of these things about Aruba or you’re just making this up?” To me, it was a little odd because I felt, well, doesn’t everybody want to know? I feel like, didn’t you all do research before you came on this trip?

Judith Dutill (05:42):

But that really… I find that that drives me. I hope that I can impart that curiosity or that desire to learn on my students as well. I ThinkUDL really helped me with that so that’s something I’d love to dig into more later. But then also something else that I grapple with that I think it makes me a different kind of learner or unique learner is that I’m a very introverted person and I’m a very anxious person. I have generalized anxiety disorder, I’m prone to depression. I feel like that makes me very nervous in some situations.

Judith Dutill (06:26):

Sometimes I feel like I can almost link that curiosity and that need to prepare to those nervous feelings that I experience sometimes. But I get really apprehensive. What’s really funny about this is that communication is my discipline. I teach courses in communication and I teach public speaking, but I think it makes me a really effective communication instructor that I’m aware of what those feelings feel like. I’m not just saying from the textbook and you may experience these anxious, nervous feelings. I do experience them deeply.

Judith Dutill (07:02):

I feel like my students, I have become known at my institution as an instructor who works well with students who have communication apprehension who experience anxiety and things like that. Even though that’s something that I’m constantly contending with, for instance, for this podcast, last night, and this is something I’ll always experience, I couldn’t sleep. It’s because I get anxious about being in these situations. That’s just something that I’ve had to develop some coping mechanisms around, but it’s something that I experience and I know many other people do too but it’s something that I feel makes me a different kind of learner.

Lillian Nave (07:44):

Absolutely. You make me think of Geeky Pedagogy and her teaching for the introverted that has been really helpful for that. We can put a link to that as well in our resources. But I love that you are helping your students who grapple with the same problems or issues because you’ve been there and how important that empathy is that you actually really know your stuff. You know your stuff on so many levels to help out your students. That curiosity, when you were telling me about when you were a kid and going to Aruba, why doesn’t everybody just ask all these questions?

Lillian Nave (08:27):

It made me think of two things. One, I’ve often been told I ask way too many questions because I want to know all the data and therefore my decisions are pushed way back. Can’t make a quick decision and it wrecks me sometimes. Need to know all of this. That’s at times hard for other people to take. I’ve found…

Judith Dutill (08:51):

Yeah. I’ve heard this term called analysis paralysis. I feel like I’m very prone to that as well. So maybe that’s something you experience too but I do. I can really get bogged down with all of the information that I feel like I need to know before I take action on something.

Lillian Nave (09:10):

Absolutely. Yes, I have that for sure. The other thing I was thinking of too is the idea of… There are plenty of students who are really curious and they want to go outside of what maybe the subject matter is, or it might spark some new other interests. This is only an opinion, but I think many of the way courses are structured, doesn’t allow for that wide range of curiosity. It’s really, we can only cover these things. I have laid out the path. This is what we have to concentrate on. Those students who, like you or me who are, whoa, I want to go down this crazy tangent and find out. This is really interesting to me and it’s pretty related. The course doesn’t really jive, I guess, with that type of student learning. I’m excited to hear the ways that you think about UDL in courses.

Judith Dutill (10:11):


Lillian Nave (10:14):

In our email exchanges before this, you excited me with your, you know, I really ThinkUDL can save us all in the fall if we only let it. If we trust in it. I said, absolutely genius. I want to know what do you think? How is UDL… How can it save us in the fall? This is a crazy time.

Judith Dutill (10:37):

It is. I feel like one of the biggest things that I see faculty do, and I should mention that in addition to teaching, I work with faculty. I do faculty development. One of my roles is to help faculty develop their pedagogy specifically in online learning context. I work with a lot of faculty who are new to online learning, even if they’ve been teaching for many, many years and who may also be super technology apprehensive. That’s one of those major factors that I’ve seen holding people back from wanting to explore that modality of teaching.

Judith Dutill (11:23):

One of the things that I see folks do when it comes to their course design and the courses that they teach is they paint themselves into corners. They have syllabi that are so iron clad and so inflexible, that when a situation like what happens in the spring occurs, it’s a big deal. It’s a big problem and the flexibility’s not there. Then there is that discomfort with becoming so flexible because they believe in, and I respect to this, you should believe in what you’re doing. They really believe in the way that their courses are designed.

Judith Dutill (12:03):

What I like to do with my faculty development work is introduce people to new ways of thinking about course design and seeing that there are other options and that you can still hold on to a lot of the things that you really care about in your courses and your pedagogy, but also make things a little bit more flexible and accommodating to different kinds of learners.

Lillian Nave (12:30):

Absolutely. One of the things that I was inspired to do over camp COOL, was to provide many options for students and in seeing how… Oh gosh, over a hundred people were in that course, to see how so many people do it. I’m like, wow, I never would have thought of it that way. Oh my goodness. That is so cool. I would love to try something new or try it like that.

Judith Dutill (13:00):

Yeah. I feel like it’s what drives me into this work a little bit too, is that I have that curiosity to know what are other people doing? It’s really fascinating to be in other people’s classrooms and see other ways of teaching. I feel like I learned so much, even if it’s something that I’m like, that’s not for me. I would never do it that way. That’s still learning. Just being exposed to different teaching approaches, I think it’s really awesome.

Lillian Nave (13:28):

I’ve learned so much from people who are very different from me. I am an extroverted person, I think. Certainly don’t mind talking to a lot of people. I think sometimes it’s helpful, sometimes it’s not. Then found that when I am… I sat in another… In a colleague’s class who says she’s very introverted. It was a very different class. It was a math class. The way that she ran an incredibly, I thought brilliant way to get answers or feedback using clickers and slide show and feedback that actually brought in all those students who are not the ones that go, I have the answer and I’m ready to tell it and shout it right away. Which is, I guess, more how I work.

Lillian Nave (14:25):

But it really brought out, she really understands that there’s so many other people in this class and she wants to hear their voices and she wants to get those. That because I didn’t think other people were all that different than I am. She really enlightened me and showed me, oh gosh, I never would’ve thought about that. I never would’ve thought about bringing in all these people and stopping and waiting and giving people a chance. It changed the way I run a lot of things.

Judith Dutill (14:56):

I had an experience in the spring semester. It’s just so funny. It was funny to me because I was like, of course I’m going to be in this situation. But I’ve been teaching online for many years and I don’t typically teach face to face classes, but my department chair was… She approached me and she said, we have this section. It’s a lecture lab. We have nobody else to teach it? Would you teach it for us? That was a brand new modality for me. I’ve never taught a lecture lab. I had 101 students in the section of public speaking.

Judith Dutill (15:35):

The lecture was for covering course content. Then the lab sections were recitation sections for speaking. It was a whole new way of doing for me. Then we had to make that pivot online. I remember when I was thinking about how am I going to approach this with such a huge section of students, but it’s communication. The one thing I don’t want to lose in my class is the conversation that happens. I still want it to be like that. So how can that happen? That’s where I feel like subscribing to UDL approaches really helps me because I said to myself, you know what, I don’t have to figure this out.

Judith Dutill (16:23):

I really want it but maybe this isn’t my puzzle to solve. Maybe we can all figure this out together. I went into class, and I explained to them, which is something at the beginning of my teaching career I would have never done. I would have been way too scared to do that. But I walked in and I said, “Hey, I’ve never done this before. I know that most of you haven’t either. Here’s what I would like to get out of this experience. What would you like to get out of this experience and how can we negotiate that and make that happen?”

Judith Dutill (16:54):

It was awesome. It was really great. I did have a really fantastic group of students who were in it with me. They wanted to do the experiment too. Then I had a couple hard cells who were just like, I’d rather you just tell me what to do and I don’t have to worry about any of this other stuff. But I explained why we’re doing it this way. It worked out and we did some really fun stuff together. Then we had to make that pivot and it was another little adventure that our class had to go on, but we figured it out.

Lillian Nave (17:30):

A couple years ago, this really rings true with me. There was one class that I was teaching for the very first time. It was called Arts For Peace. We were going to look at international art, art all over that helped to bridge peace between people. I have a colleague in Kabul, Afghanistan, and I work with students. I’m matching up one student here and one student over there and they talk about art. Art is the way that they’re bridging a cultural divide and finding out their ideas about government or women in the society or all of these things.

Lillian Nave (18:11):

Then it was the very beginning of some national news coverage about Confederate monuments and especially in North Carolina and Silent Sam, which is on the campus of UNC Chapel Hill. Our whole class shifted. We realized that all of the things that I had planned, again, I just started teaching this class. All the things that we had planned sort of didn’t seem to match with where we were as a class. It was a complete change. I asked them, “What do you guys want to do and talk about?” We really morphed into these conversations that had a lot more to do with where they were and their feelings and how art was important to them in their culture, in their place and how to talk about it.

Lillian Nave (19:08):

I must say, I did not sleep that semester. It was so hard. I was so worried and didn’t feel very confident in my teaching and didn’t know how everything was going to land in that class. It was such a diverse class. They were really amazing students. We made a webpage. Oh, and this is crazy. I don’t know if I’ve said this before in the podcast, but I came up with a really dumb idea that became… Some may call it brilliant. I would say it’s still pretty dumb, that made me lose even more sleep.

Lillian Nave (19:49):

But instead of having a final exam, I was reading about Epic finales, different ways of making authentic assessments. We decided, I asked them first, I said, would you like to bring your ideas to the chancellor and have maybe a little presentation with the chancellor if she would have it. They said, yeah, we’re going do it. Now these are first year students. In the fall, they’re 18. They said, yeah, let’s do it. Low and behold, I sent an email and she accepted.

Judith Dutill (20:22):

Oh, wow.

Lillian Nave (20:23):

Their final exam was presenting their ideas about what would happen if something happened in Charlottesville or some kind of crazy thing happened, how would we address it? They were giving their ideas to the chancellor and her team. She brought a couple other big wigs. Again, that was they didn’t sleep the night before.

Judith Dutill (20:49):

Yes, she was. That will make you nervous.

Lillian Nave (20:51):

Yes. This could be the end of my teaching career. I may not survive after this. They did it and it was… I took the first minute to say, here’s my class. Then I was out of it and they did the rest of it. It was really the most nerve wracking thing. Now that does not need to happen. I’m not saying… I’m not advocating that you have to be sleepless and nerve wracking, but I think that idea of asking those students and bringing in your students, because we just haven’t done this before. Maybe we can let go of some of that control and allow for our students to work that way.

Judith Dutill (21:31):

What amazing trust you had in your students to be able to do something like that and in yourself too. I think that’s super impressive. I think that that would make a lot of people really nervous, but you made it through.

Lillian Nave (21:45):

I was super nervous the whole time. I ended up writing about it so I can put that in the resources too, but I did use a lot of UDL ideas about how I would approach things. Just things that did put me out of my comfort zone, but also made everything happen. I couldn’t have made it through without the kind of new things that I had to try out on that case. Here we are in a new world, we’re teaching in a pandemic and it’ll be the first time we’re starting a semester that way.

Judith Dutill (22:28):

There’s a lot of unknowns. What I really I’m appreciating about this situation though, is that we are all in it together. So I don’t think anybody has answers to this. What I keep reminding… We’re in another section of camp COOL now. What I keep reminding everyone is that these are literacies that we’re all developing in real time. It’s not like somebody secretly holding the answer and the key to everything. But there are structures and ways of doing and frameworks that can help us more than hurt us moving forward.

Judith Dutill (23:09):

That’s what I think about with UDL is that this is something that we could use as a tool that will help us in the fall by giving up some of that control. Because we can’t control everything, especially since we don’t know what’s going to happen. Leaving yourself that space is so important. But then also, and this is something that I’m deeply concerned about. If you don’t mind me just speaking for a moment about the current context that we’re in and that is, I have a six year old daughter.

Judith Dutill (23:46):

She’s very new to the classroom and I want nothing more for her than to love school and love learning. I’m so worried that these experiences will paint her perception of what it is to be a student and what it is to go to school and to learn. I don’t want that for her. We’ve been trying to think of creative ways to keep the excitement around learning and things like that, but she’s going… Her school district as of right now, they’re going back to traditional classroom and there’s going to be so many rules and rigid policies and things that these little kids are going to have to follow.

Judith Dutill (24:33):

That’s happening to all of us too. There are so many rules right now that are restricting our movement in our lives and our ways of doing and all of our routines are disrupted. What can we do to bring some more excitement back, and some more joy back into our lives. I think that we can do that rather than treating fall classes like a chore. We can try to bring some of that excitement back, some of that joy back.

Lillian Nave (25:05):

How are you… What sort of UDL principles are you using that might bring excitement and joy back into learning?

Judith Dutill (25:15):

One of the things that I really like to embrace, and this isn’t just a pandemic quality of my classes, this is just something that I always try to do is I try to make room for students to be able to explore their curiosities and the things that they care about. I am lucky in that I teach in communication. There is a lot of space there for people to pull in their personal experiences and their personal interests. But I know that that’s possible in other courses too. While I’m not an expert in disciplines other than my own, I know from working with other faculty that once you start letting your mind expand a little bit to those ideas of letting students do more of the leading, that there are ways to achieve this.

Judith Dutill (26:13):

My daughter, I’m thinking about an experience that she had in the spring when they sent all the kids home. She had an iPad that was furnished by her school. They were giving her really cool assignments where it was like, okay, we’re going to do a nature walk. I want you to take pictures of things that capture your interests. Here are your challenges. Find an animal find an organic element. Find geological elements. She was supposed to capture pictures of these. Then together we wrote a little bit about it.

Judith Dutill (26:48):

When we went out on the walk together, I saw a bird that was really cool. I love birds. I was like, “Oh, let’s get the bird.” She was like, “I’m looking for a Squirrel.” It became this little conflict between us. I was like, really a bird will be better. Look at how colorful this bird is. You are going to have the best picture. Why don’t you want that? And her interests were elsewhere. I had to step back and say, okay, wait, I’m trying to force her into doing this assignment in a way that she doesn’t want to do. So now I’m stealing the joy out of her side, but it’s because I so deeply wanted to do something that was interesting to me.

Lillian Nave (27:27):

Right. Thanks mom. No, I don’t like learning.

Judith Dutill (27:34):

Just thinking about how if you give somebody the space though, they will think of something. They will find something that’s interesting to them and they’ll be creative in ways that you could not have predicted. That’s something that I try to consider in my assignments, especially if we’re doing something new. I did an icebreaker last semester with TikTok that I had never tried before. I had spent winter break learning about TikTok and playing on TikTok and then becoming slightly addicted to it. Not creating them, but just scrolling through them and watching them.

Judith Dutill (28:13):

It’s like, wow, there’s some really cool stuff here and there are some super inappropriate stuff here. Then I had some concerns about TikTok because there are these privacy factors that are unknown issues, but in my mind I was like, but I know my students are in this space already, but what I can’t do is force anybody to be in this space. I just introduced an idea to the class of let’s try to make some TikTok style videos. I don’t care what you use to create it. It doesn’t have to be TikTok but let’s just try to have some fun. Some students wanted more information like, well, what do you mean?

Lillian Nave (28:53):

Right, can you outline it for me?

Judith Dutill (28:55):

Yeah, what does my video need to include for me to be able to get credit for creating this TikTok style video? Do I need to dance in this video? Do I need to sing in this video? You need to tell me specifically. I didn’t want to do that. I’m glad that I didn’t because working together amongst themselves, they came up with way cooler stuff than I would have ever invented for them. Then, I had moments where I was like, am I just having them do this to entertain me?

Judith Dutill (29:24):

But no. The real answer was we were covering some content that’s otherwise pretty stale. It was about speech anxiety. If you just read through a textbook, what they have to say about speech anxiety. It’s like, the majority of people are affected by this and you may sweat, you may shake. It’s like a commercial for side effects for medicine.

Lillian Nave (29:46):

Right. Exactly.

Judith Dutill (29:46):

It’s very upsetting. Instead I said, let’s focus on some things we can do to diminish those feelings or help manage those feelings. They created little dances, they did little skits. It was very exciting to see them engage in material that otherwise they would have just skimmed over. It was very creative the way that they did it. I think that that was also a great icebreaker for us. It set that tone for, we can have fun in this class, even though this is a class that people dread taking and I dreaded taking. We can still have a good time together. I was glad that we did it. Nobody got me fired.

Lillian Nave (30:31):

Yeah. It’s always in the back of my heads, right? I’m going to try something new, but I don’t want to get fired. Oh, no. Especially if you’re not in tenure track. Which is most of the people who are teaching are not in tenure track. There’s small risks. They’re calculated risks, right?

Judith Dutill (30:49):


Lillian Nave (30:50):

So giving your students choices, that’s super important. Along with… At first you said giving up some control. Then this is giving parameters but allowing for students to choose how that’s going to look for them.

Judith Dutill (31:06):

Yeah. In that vein of allowing them to choose, one thing that I’ve become very cautious about is not putting technology first. That’s something in online learning contexts that can really be a burden on cognitive load. Is okay, well, I have to learn this whole platform and how it works. Now you’re giving me all of these outside tools that I have to learn how to use. You’re not even focusing on any of the course objectives or the course content. I really feel like having those moments, where you’re introducing new tools, having the support available for learning how to use them, demonstrating how to use them for students, but not making that the center of our universe.

Judith Dutill (31:59):

For instance, I have a platform that students use to record presentations and submit them in their online class. Sometimes students can’t get that platform to work. For whatever reason, maybe it’s their device. Maybe it’s their internet speed. Maybe it’s just they can’t figure it out. Even with the support materials I’ve provided, but they’ll say, but I make videos on my phone. Can I just do that instead? It’s the same output. At the end of the day, it’s the same creation.

Judith Dutill (32:33):

It’s an MP4 file. Yes. Just use whatever you can. If you know how to use something else, that’s okay with me. We don’t always get that flexibility for institutional reasons. But if you have that flexibility and it doesn’t affect the outcomes of your course, it doesn’t negatively impact them. Why not just let students do something that they’re comfortable with so they can spend more time focusing on what you care about them learning.

Lillian Nave (33:00):

Right. Unless the outcome or the objective of your course is to learn how to use the LMS-

Judith Dutill (33:08):


Lillian Nave (33:08):

Then you don’t have to say, that’s got to be in this area, or you have to do it this way.

Judith Dutill (33:13):


Lillian Nave (33:18):

I must say, I really appreciated when I took your camp COOL, there were a lot of videos that helped me to understand how to use this thing. There were so many aha moments. You can have your students make a copy of a Google doc. Where it’s automatically, I want them to all use this template or fill out this. Instead of saying, okay, I want you to make a copy and then I want you to… Then inevitably, somebody is going to start editing the original. But I learned this summer that, you can just change the last bid from edit to copy and then when you click on it, it tells them automatically you’re making a copy.

Judith Dutill (33:58):

Yeah. You can force the copy into their drive. That is super helpful because it does preserve the original, but then it also takes some of that burden off of them to figure out how to create the copy on their own.

Lillian Nave (34:11):

There were so many examples that you were explaining how to use this thing, or gave options for how to understand it. We’re all adult learners. We are all assuming all teachers, instructors, professors of something, but there are a lot of us who didn’t know about the tech. We’re in a different LMS. We were in completely different… I don’t know what you call that, what we were in… The learning network.

Judith Dutill (34:42):

It’s like the learning platform.

Lillian Nave (34:43):

Yes. Our learning platform was totally different than what our institution uses. Imagine our students too who are coming from all different levels and use of technology. Helping them to get used to that technology.

Judith Dutill (34:59):

That’s actually true in the fall because there are students who intentionally choose not to be online because they believe that they prefer learning in different contexts. I use the word believe just because maybe they haven’t tried online, but they have this belief that the face to face learning is preferential for whatever reason. I think that we’re going to have a lot of students who are now being forced into these platforms who are going to have a little added level of resistance because they don’t want to be in this situation. I totally get that.

Judith Dutill (35:36):

I don’t want to be in my home 24 seven either, but that’s the situation that we’re in. There are times where that wears thin on my patients and on my resilience that there’s nothing I can do to change the situation. Our students are going to feel that too. Having that understanding and that empathy for our students, I think is going to be really essential moving forward.

Lillian Nave (36:10):

You are making me catalog my upcoming course and thinking, oh, I’ve got some work to do as far as explaining how to get into this thing that we’re going to use. How to use voice thread, how to use Flipgrid. When I say, all right, I’d like you to do this assignment or do this one thing, and then throwing them a new technology. I’ve got to step back and say, Oh, in case you’re not familiar with it, here’s how you can get into this program or here’s how you do this because they are probably using this for the first time I think. That’s important to remember.

Judith Dutill (36:47):

I think that’s a great use of that pre course start communication. Whether you’re doing an email or… I know you’ve discussed on the podcast before, that liquid syllabus. If you’re doing that pre course start communication with students to set it up at that point in time that… Just acknowledging. It’s different this semester and it is… We’re going to just roll with the punches together and we’re going to get through it together. I’m here to support you. I want this to be a great experience. I think that we can still have fun together. Just be open to that idea and setting that tone from right out of the gate, I think is really important in the fall.

Lillian Nave (37:34):

Absolutely. Now I need to add to my liquids syllabus. Thank you Judith for helping me to improve my class as every single conversation I have on this podcast. Like, oh, note to self. I need to add that as well because I haven’t done that yet. This is great for me. I like that. Don’t put technology first. That can be a barrier to our students. How can we provide steps for them so that it doesn’t become a barrier? That’s great.

Judith Dutill (38:05):

When I get into those situations where it’s like, well, do I really have to use that tool specifically or can I use something else? I always have to do that… Well, you can use what you want. Here’s what I can support you with. This is what I know how to use. If you’re going to have questions, let’s use this tool. If you feel comfortable using your own, let’s do that. Here’s what the school will support. If you work in the middle of the night and you think you might need to put in a help desk ticket for some extra assistance, this the tool you’re going to have to use. Just being super clear with students so that they can make an informed decision about how they’re proceeding with their work.

Lillian Nave (38:45):

When I was speaking with one of my information technology services colleagues, we were working together with some faculty over the summer to help them go online. We were having our own institute… While I was taking camp COOL. The whole time I’m like, “Oh, look what’s happening over here. Let’s talk about this too.” One of the ideas that he said that I think is really important for me to remember is due dates. We can be flexible with those due dates, but if you have them due at midnight, there’s probably not a help desk that’s going to be able to help those students.

Judith Dutill (39:20):

Nobody’s going to be there. Yes, I agree with that.

Lillian Nave (39:22):

Yeah. But if you have it due at two, three, four, five, then students are, “I can’t get this to upload.” They have somebody they can talk to who is employed by the university and they can help. I thought, there goes all of my 11:55 PM deadlines that I’ve had for the last three years thinking, this will be great. Students will love it. They’ll love having it due late in the evening.

Judith Dutill (39:44):

Another reason why I’ve changed that, I completely agree with that. I think that is enough rationale for anyone. Also I found myself being pulled into my email really late on Sundays. That is my time to mentally recalibrate for the week ahead. I didn’t want to feel like I was tethered to my devices all afternoon and evening on Sunday. I found that moving the deadline away from Sunday at 11:59 PM was beneficial for everyone. Myself included. I think that having some of that flexibility in mind is helpful. I hear a lot of concerns from faculty about, well, my students are frustrated because all of their classes are due at the same time.

Judith Dutill (40:37):

But then you also hear, well, my students are frustrated because they have this odd midweek due date for this other class and it confuses them. There’s always going to be some confusion and it’s okay. What I just decide on my own, I just make this decision for myself, is that I’m going to support my students through whatever they need. If they say, I’m getting so confused with these due dates, what can we do? Let’s talk about it. Do you need an extra announcement? I can preset those. I don’t have to be at my computer live typing in little reminders for you like your virtual assistant.

Judith Dutill (41:20):

We can set those up and have them automate out. What do you need? What do you feel like will help you? I think one of the most powerful questions that I’ve learned to ask students is what can I do to help? Because it positions them to have to think through what do I need. What am I asking for? I can’t always give them what they’re asking for, but at least if they can articulate to me what they think would help, maybe I can work with them from there.

Lillian Nave (41:51):

Oh that’s great. That’s a really wonderful way to open that communication. The students can then start thinking, gee, I didn’t even think I needed help. In the meantime they’re drowning. I don’t know what’s going on.

Judith Dutill (42:06):

But I think too, it helps with… For student’s coming to me really anxious, they’re going to miss the deadline and they’re just saying, I can’t get this paper done by the state. They’re in a way looking for me to provide the solution to their problem. I really want to push them to think about, well, what do you need? Are you asking for extra time? Are you asking for different assignment? Are you asking… What is it that you’re asking for? It really helps to build trust with students too. Is that I’m trusting them to come up with a solution to their problem. I believe that they can do that.

Lillian Nave (42:43):

Exactly. Like what you said in your email is if we just trust, if we trust that it can happen. It’s a hard time coming up. It’s just totally different. If you’ve taught for 30 years, if you’ve never taught before, it’s just going to be infinitely harder.

Judith Dutill (43:07):

I think trust is a kindness that we can extend to others. I’ve been the beneficiary of that. I know that was a pivotal moment. That was… I remember in grad school, I really struggled with statistics but I was slightly better when we were in research methods, but actually researching something. Not just abstractly like here’s how you do this type of equation. Let’s think about it in context. I was practicing these problems and I just… My solution wasn’t sitting right with me. I just felt like I did it incorrectly. As I was walking my paper up to submit it and I was handing it to my professor. It’s like in a movie where the genius is working on the math equation.

Judith Dutill (43:49):

I swear the little puzzle pieces slid into place in my brain. I wasn’t even thinking about it. I was like, no. I know this is wrong and now I know why. But it was going to make my work late. I looked at my professor and I said, everything in this paper’s wrong, but I swear to you, I just figured out what was wrong can I please have extra time? She said, of course. She said you need to learn this. I would rather you just know than have incorrect work submitted by the deadline.

Judith Dutill (44:24):

That was little laboratory to me because I had never had anybody extend that type of grace to me before. I thought, she really cares about my learning and what I get out of this experience and my success. It was really meaningful and I still think about it.

Lillian Nave (44:43):

That is a real question I think we have to ask ourselves is how important are those things that we thought were so important? It has to be in by this time. What do we do when we realize, oh, I didn’t need it by 5:00 PM or I didn’t… It wasn’t important if you rushed through it. I really… That wasn’t the point of it. When we’re really thinking about what is the purpose of this thing, whether it’s a deadline at a particular time, or it has to be done in a 50 minute class period when you’re writing on a test or something, to really question those things.

Lillian Nave (45:22):

When I first started getting into universal design for learning, that’s what started happening is I started saying, why did I do these things this way? Usually it was because it was done to me. That’s what I was told.

Judith Dutill (45:36):

I think why it’s such a pivotal question. I think that asking yourself why, my colleague, Melissa, she talks about the why behind the try. That’s part of the work that she does. One of the things she talks about is revising… Every time she revises her syllabus, she starts with a blank sheet of paper. As she moves information over, she asks herself, why do I do it this way? Do I need this? If she can’t answer that question in a satisfying way, she really reconsiders having that as part of her syllabus.

Judith Dutill (46:11):

I feel like doing it that way has brought my syllabus down to almost nothing. Very bare bones because I would rather for us to make a lot of those types of decisions together that I would ordinarily make for us and put in a syllabus in my past teaching life. I think that why is such an important question, but then also it’s a question I want my students to ask too. I’m not afraid of why, because if I can’t answer that question, we should all be wondering why then.

Lillian Nave (46:49):

Yeah. Wow. That’s tough. I mean, if I were trying to do that when I was first teaching, I would have a really hard time because you want to be right. You want to have… I guess you feel like you need to have some power in the classroom or else they’re going to see right through you. Because you think, I don’t belong here and I don’t know enough. I need them to think that I know all the answers. But it turns out that it serves our students so much more when we tell them, I don’t know all the answers.

Judith Dutill (47:25):

I guess. I absolutely agree. My teaching didn’t start out that way. I felt like I had to… I started teaching while I was still a grad student. I was only a couple of years older than my students. I felt like I had to fill every space of silence with the sound of my voice because otherwise I was leaving room for questions and I wasn’t prepared to take them. I guess in a way everybody goes through that in the beginning. How they handle it varies, but maybe it’s not with just 75 minutes straight and solid.

Lillian Nave (48:01):

Right. I don’t know. I felt like it was a song and a dance the whole time. I got to keep it interesting.

Judith Dutill (48:10):


Lillian Nave (48:10):

Very little silence, all lecture and nobody got anything out of it I’m pretty sure.

Judith Dutill (48:16):


Lillian Nave (48:18):

What we’ve learned, I’ve learned that that silence and that time is when the brain is working actually I think.

Judith Dutill (48:29):

One of the things that I always think about too is I really have to feel good about what I’m doing and how I’ve treated other people. If I feel like… I had a situation last semester where I accidentally read a name off the roster that was not the student’s preferred name. I didn’t sleep for days. I just keep repeating it to myself that I think I may have hurt someone and that doesn’t sit well with me. That’s something that I’m always thinking about is I never ever want to intentionally hurt anyone. I want everybody to feel good about the experience that they’ve had in my class.

Judith Dutill (49:12):

That doesn’t mean that they have to agree with everything that they’ve learned or that we’ve talked about or that others have shared. That’s different to me, but I’m talking about on that human level. I want everybody to have a good experience.

Lillian Nave (49:27):

It’s such a tenuous time. That very beginning when you’re setting up your community and wow, how horrible I feel if I have shut somebody out inadvertently. Not known that I had said or somehow indicated that they don’t belong or that I don’t accept that they are part of the community. That’s why, well now my syllabus is getting longer because I feel like I’m trying to say all those things. But we still need to figure out a lot of those things together. You’re right.

Judith Dutill (50:09):

One thing that I’ve added, I started adding since the spring to the videos that I create in class. Especially announcements where it’s happening, not so much like instruction where we’re just focused on conflict, course content, but an announcement or something where I’m trying to relate to them on a human level. I try to add something like, I hope you’re doing well. I really care about you. In the spring it was like, I miss seeing you. It’s all genuine. I really feel that way and I really do care about them. But I don’t want to assume that they know that. I feel to me, it’s very important to say that out loud and to make sure that they’ve heard it.

Lillian Nave (50:47):

Well, it sounds like you think of your students as actual people that are human.

Judith Dutill (50:55):

I tend to do that. Yes.

Lillian Nave (50:55):

That really helps. Our UDL principals tell us that there is the cognitive parts of the brain and the effective. That the feeling matters and bringing in that emotion is important. We can’t deny that our students are human. That’s been a big theme. Actually this summer when I’m talking to people is recognizing that humanity. Even when we move it online, when we are dealing with interfaces, we still have humans that we really need to be paying attention to all of their humanity and even bodily presence. Even when you’re on zoom or when you’re having to make videos.

Lillian Nave (51:38):

In fact, just was speaking with other colleagues the other day and thinking about there’s a lot that goes into even just being in a video when you are communicating with your professor. You have different dynamics. If you are a male and communicating with a female and they might be even in their bedroom at home, and that’s very different than if you were in a classroom. Where are you presenting yourself from? Do you have virtual background? Not everybody can have virtual backgrounds because not every system supports it.

Lillian Nave (52:16):

In some ways, I will talk to people and they’ll say, “Oh, this generation, they’re always taking pictures.” It’s Instagram, it’s Snapchat. They’re so used to it. But it’s different. Those are curated. Those are filtered, or they can be. When you’re just having a zoom session, or you’re trying to get through some content, may be very different for our students who might not want to be showing themselves in a particular way or having anxiety or trouble or those types of things. To be continuously thinking about that in our new online area is I think a world of difference. Boy, we’re trying something new.

Judith Dutill (53:00):

Yes, and we’re all trying it together.

Lillian Nave (53:02):


Judith Dutill (53:05):

I have one student this summer who is making all of her videos from inside of her bathroom. When I think about that, it really makes me take pause on some of these policies that I’m hearing about that are requiring things like cameras on. Now in the case of an online public speaking course, it really is important… Nonverbal communication is part of the outcomes of the course and I do need to see the students. But it reminds me that… We wound up talking about it a little bit just because I wanted to make sure she was okay and she was comfortable with what she was doing.

Judith Dutill (53:52):

She’s a mom and it’s the only place that she gets quiet in her entire house. That’s the only place that she can get the privacy to do her studies, her schoolwork. It’s not ideal. It’s not what she wants to be doing, but it’s her situation right now. We have to be flexible enough and understanding enough to allow for that to happen if it needs to because otherwise we’re excluding our learners, that I feel. I just hope that people can see that as they’re creating their policies and thinking about what types of expectations they have for their students in the fall and in these future semesters as we go through this situation.

Lillian Nave (54:45):

When I started learning about the UDL guidelines and learning about kind of all of these questions to ask myself. It just brings… Opens up options to me. It makes me think about all of the possibilities. For example, I will have one synchronous session a week about 45 minutes long. It’s during a regular set class time. Students may, at our institution, they may have some hybrid classes and some seated classes. Then they will have… The ones in my class will have one which is totally online, but it has a synchronous component. What happens if they have a class at 11, my class at 12 and another class at one on campus, they can’t get back to their dorm room maybe.

Lillian Nave (55:30):

Then we’ve got a bunch of the common areas cordoned off because we don’t want to have students congregating. They might be sitting in a hallway and that’s where they have to have class or outside if it’s not rainy, windy, snowing, or something. I have to be really careful. I’ve been thinking about this, being really careful about the judgments that I’m making. If I look at that student and say, “Oh, they’re not taking it seriously.” They’re outside, or they didn’t find a quiet place or something like that. I got to be careful with the assumptions that I make.

Judith Dutill (56:08):

Yeah because maybe the person who’s willing to take class in their bathroom is the most serious because they’re willing to make those compromises.

Lillian Nave (56:17):

Absolutely. We really just have to widen our thinking as we’re coming into this.

Judith Dutill (56:25):

Yeah. I agree with that.

Lillian Nave (56:26):

Not all of the same things make sense anymore when we move to online or pandemic teaching or whatever we’re calling this. But I think the questions that UDL gives us or hands us are helping us to navigate that. You’ve given us so many wonderful things to think about Judith.

Judith Dutill (56:46):

Good, that’s great.

Lillian Nave (56:47):

Yeah, I really appreciate it. I do ThinkUDL, the universal design for learning and the questions that it asks us to really ask on our behalf and on our student’s behalf, if it doesn’t save us, it’s definitely going to help us all this fall. Thank you so much Judith for all you’ve taught me over the summer and for this conversation and this time. I really appreciate your openness and the time that you’ve given us.

Judith Dutill (57:19):

I appreciate you too and the work that you’re doing too. Spread the word about UDL and to include your students. Thank you. Thank you for having me here today.

Lillian Nave (57:42):

You can follow the ThinkUDL podcast on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to find out when new episodes will be released and also see transcripts and additional materials at the website. The ThinkUDL podcast is made possible by College STAR. The STAR stands for supporting, transition, access and retention in post secondary settings. The website provides free resources and instructional aids based on UDL principles. If you’d like to know more, go to the website. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian state university where if you call it Appalachian, I’ll throw an apple at you.

Lillian Nave (58:29):

The music on the podcast was performed by the Odyssey Quartet comprised of Rex Shepherd, David Pate, Bill Folwell and Jose Cochez. Our sound engineer is Tanner Jones and I am your host, Lillian Nave. Thank you for joining us on the ThinkUDL podcast.

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