Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is Working for Students at MSU

Quote: "In a world where budgets are tight, time is constrained, and it’s not always clear where to invest your time and resources, I think these are great examples that remind us that universal design for learning strategies are a great way to support our students success in the learning environment."

By Nathan Evans and John McDaniel

This was such a cool example of universal design for learning at MSU, I couldn’t help but share it here. 

John McDaniel is an Academic Technology Coordinator in DigitalX who serves the College of Osteopathic Medicine (COM).

A couple of years ago the College discovered that they would need to provide closed captioning as an accommodation to ensure students could complete their coursework.

I applaud John, Sherri Balmer-Hagerman, Dr. Kirsten Waarala and the rest of the COM staff and administration for their proactive work in providing these accommodations.  

One thing that I have learned about many of the medical colleges at MSU is that, most students expect to have every lecture recorded every day and provided to them quickly. The curriculum moves quickly, and the students rely on these as a study aid for exams and other assessments.  

Emphasis here: every lecture, every day. 

That’s a lot of video content, and a lot of closed captioning to boot. And it required a fundamental shift in thinking and workflows in order to make sure these lectures were delivered accessibly. Kudos COM for your hard work on this.  

One of the most interesting things that I have learned from COM through this process: What started as an accommodation effort has proven to be a benefit to all learners.  

Each year John surveys students that have participated in courses that have been closed captioned.  

When asked, “what is the primary reason that you used Closed Captions (CC) in your course?”, the Class of 2023 reported: 

  • 30% of students said that CC helped them to focus. 
  • 25% of students said that they used CC to study while using faster than real time playback.  
Here’s is what is interesting: Less than 1% of students indicated that they used CC to accommodate a disability.

If you are interested in more detailed findings, you can find them in the slide deck by clicking this link to open it in a new window.

This aligns with other research on closed captioning related to focus and comprehension: 

Good examples of universal design for learning, like closed captioning, prove to be a benefit to all learners, not just those with disabilities. 

In a world where budgets are tight, time is constrained, and it’s not always clear where to invest your time and resources, I think these are great examples that remind us that universal design for learning strategies are a great way to support our students success in the learning environment.  

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