Achieving Universal Design for Learning (UDL) with Video

Donna Jones
Updated October 29 2021
Donna Jones
Updated October 29 2021

Although many of the ways in which educators use video as a teaching and learning tool today are relatively new, there is nothing new about the challenge of planning a curriculum that will meet the needs of all students. 


That’s a challenge that teachers and other educational professionals deal with on a daily basis, whether they teach in person or remotely. To address this challenge, the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) model has created a framework for educational professionals to think about planning lessons that offer students both the flexibility and the variety of tools they need to optimize their learning.  


While many teachers have already harnessed strategies for handling this challenge successfully, the rise of video solutions for classroom instruction makes it especially important to adapt and explore innovative ways to deliver video-based lessons that connect with every student in a class. By applying the UDL framework to today’s video lessons, you can ensure your lessons are well-suited for the full spectrum of the students you teach. 


With that in mind, this post will offer useful insights on how to bring UDL into the realm of video-based education. 


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Universal Design for Learning (UDL): An Overview

The basic idea of UDL is that lesson planning is more effective when we move past the idea of simply making lessons accessible only to specific students with specific needs. Instead of thinking of accommodations to be made just for the students who need them, UDL advocates for offering necessary tools to all students and letting each of them choose which of those tools contribute to their own learning experiences.  


This way, you can plan a single lesson for a class with diverse learning styles, without leaving any students out—while providing options that make for a richer lesson for all students. 


At the heart of the UDL framework are three aspects of learning—three realms in which students should be given multiple options to choose from: 

  • Engagement (the factors that motivate students to learn) 
  • Representation (the content of the students’ learning) 
  • Action and expression (ways for students to apply and demonstrate what they have learned) 


This post will focus primarily on the second of these three areas (representation), which is especially relevant for planning lessons that use video as a means to convey information. Within the realm of representation, the UDL Guidelines focus on three aspects of the representation component of students’ learning experiences: 

  • Perception 
  • Language and symbols 
  • Comprehension 


As you’ll see, this way of breaking down the representation component of learning can show us concretely how video can help us to realize the potential of UDL.  


How can we let learners choose from various options for perception?

Applying the principles of UDL to the perception aspect of learning is all about giving diverse learners a chance to thrive by letting them choose how they want to take in the lesson’s key information. The UDL Guidelines specify that that means offering ways for students to customize the way the information appears, as well as providing alternatives to both the audio and the visual components of the lesson.  


How can you follow that guideline while preparing a video lesson? Education-specific platforms, like the Kaltura Video Experience Cloud for Education, makes it easy for you as an instructor to let each learner customize the way they receive information.  


If your lesson includes multiple screens—for example, both slides and a video of you speaking—students can choose whether to focus on one screen more than the other and where to position each one of them. They can also choose whether or not to view closed captions, which you can provide either through automated speech recognition (ASR) or through a supplemental human closed captioning service.  


What about students who prefer to take in information purely by reading rather than through a video? With those students in mind, you can give your class the option to view, download, and even print a transcript consisting of all the closed captions from your lesson. On the other extreme, keeping in mind those students who prefer to take in information auditorily, you can use services to provide audio descriptions of images within your lesson’s videos. 


Watch the video below to see how Houston Community College leverages Kaltura to make course video content accessible and gives diverse learners alternatives to both the audio and video components of lessons.

How can we let learners choose from various options for language and symbols? 

In addition to encouraging you to let learners choose how to take in the information in your lesson, UDL calls for taking an option-focused approach to providing extra clarification on your lesson’s linguistic aspects.  


Those linguistic aspects can include vocabularysyntax, and structure. Of course, if some of your students need extra assistance with understanding the language in which you teach, then translation would be a key option to offer your class.  


And, depending on the subject of your lesson, it could be that one of the essential “languages” learners must understand isn’t actually a language, but rather a different type of notation such as that of mathematical equations. It is also worth keeping in mind that some learners are more adept at taking in information conveyed through other media such as visual representations. 


How can you apply this kind of approach to a video lesson? With Kaltura, one of the most useful tools in this regard is the ability to add a hotspot—a clickable hyperlink leading to a clarifying resource, such as an external website or a different location within the same video.  



For example, you could add a hotspot providing a definition of a term, an explanation of aspects of your syntax and structure, or links to external websites providing context for your lesson. For a mathematical lesson, you could add a video of how you would go about solving a problem. And in case a language barrier is likely to hinder some students’ learning, you can use a supplemental service to add translations to your lesson. 


How can we let learners choose from various options for comprehension? 

A significant part of how learners understand information is about how they organize it and draw connections between different concepts. How this happens most effectively varies from learner to learner, and some students will require more deliberate guidance in this regard than others. In the context of UDL, that makes it important for educators to offer multiple tools, resources, and bits of information to help learners make connections. 


In some cases, that may mean providing background knowledge to help students understand a given lesson, or reminding them of relevant information they have already learned. It can also involve organizing information in a way that helps students both to break it down and to build a mental model of it. And it can involve giving students organizational tools that they can use to structure and apply key information from a given lesson for themselves. 


Sound abstract? There are actually very concrete and specific ways we can use videos and supplemental materials to apply the principles of UDL to the way learners comprehend information.  


For example, within Kaltura’s platform, we can help students connect a given lesson with material that they’ve already learned by adding hotspots (mentioned above) linking to videos of those lessons. We can also provide additional videos for any students who need to strengthen their understanding of relevant background information. 


Additionally, we can use the visual aspect of video lessons to help students structure information mentally. For instance, we can use a wide variety of visual aids such as charts, maps, and timelines. Not only can this way of visualizing information help learners to organize information and depict relationships, but it can help us to emphasize the most essential knowledge. Depending on the subject matter, we can also use a video to provide visual demonstrations and break a process down into sequential steps.  


At the same time, we can supplement instructional videos with worksheets to fill out, checklists to guide students’ learning, and interactive video quizzes. It’s important to keep in mind that the primary goal here is not to evaluate learners’ progress in order to assign a grade, but to let them apply their knowledge in a way that strengthens their understanding.  


Most importantly, it’s worth remembering that applying the principles of UDL to our lessons takes time. When it comes to video lessons, the goal isn’t to immediately make sure that all of our lessons are fully optimized for UDL, but rather to use the UDL framework to enrich our lessons on an ongoing basis.  


That way, over time you can help all of your students to get as much as possible out of their learning experiences.  

Purpose Built for Education (1)

The Kaltura Video Experience Cloud for Education is a single platform purpose-built to power real-time, live, and VOD experiences for virtual learning.  

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