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Universal Design for Learning
Curriculum Considerations

Asynchronous, Synchronous, and Accessible

Making accessible technology choices and creating accessible learning materialsOpens in a new window are important parts of making a learning environment inclusive and ensuring learners have a way in that works for their context. How the content will be provided and how the discussions and activities will happen are other accessibilityOpens in a new window and inclusion considerations that have repercussions for who is represented in the learning space. Whether a course is fully asynchronous, synchronous with recorded classes, hybrid, Hyflex, or entirely face-to-face with materials on the LMS, teaching and learning require the development of a robust, asynchronous environment for content exchange, discussion, and even some activities. Add to this library-curated resources, institutional student-support materials, and study opportunities outside of class, and it is clear that a considerable component of student life is online and asynchronous.

Asynchronous content can reflect inclusive teaching principles just as much as synchronous delivery can. It is all about assessing representation to ensure many lived experiencesOpens in a new window are considered.

There is no magic ratio for how much of a course or program should be synchronous versus asynchronous. It will depend on your learners’ needs and your own technological access and skills.

The following chartOpens in a new window, adapted from Cleveland-Innes and Wilton (2018), may help you decide on the right mix for your program or course.

Designing for Accessibility with POUR3:04 min

This short video on the POUR method explains different ways to make sure all the material and media you use meet accessibility standards. CC is autogenerated.

Educators can learn a lot about technology use in a particular disciplinary context from their peers. Let’s see what the educator circle is doing:

Educator circle activity

Technology and Learning Educator Circle


If using a mouse, trackpad, or touch device, click on the button over an educator in the group to open the educator slide. Use the next and previous buttons to navigate between educators and the close button to return to the group.

If using a keyboard or screen reader, press the tab key to focus on an educator in the group, and press space to open the educator slide. Once open you may use the Left arrow and Right arrow keys to navigate between educators. Press Escape to return to the group.

A group of educators gather to discuss UDL

Transcript for Educator CircleOpens in a new window

Open Educational Resources

Open educational resources (OER) are a great source of materials. A few examples of OER include the eCampus Ontario’s Open Textbook LibraryOpens in a new window, BCCampus Open Textbook LibraryOpens in a new window, and OpenStax Open Textbook LibraryOpens in a new window.

There is also provincial legislation to consider when making technological choices. Let’s explore some tips on how to make your online teaching materials align to the principles of UDL and AODA guidelines.

Accessibility Checkers

Most LMS have accessibility checkers. These are very useful tools that check the files uploaded to your LMS and allow students to download alternative formats. Have a look at the options that your institution makes available to maximize accessibility. For instance, this short video, made for students, explains how AllyOpens in a new window works in Blackboard (Runtime: 0:45 minutes). Ally allows educators who use Blackboard to check the accessibility of most course content and provides guidance and tips for making lasting accessibility improvements. You can also have a look at the accessibility checker tool in MS OfficeOpens in a new window as well as this one for CanvasOpens in a new window, also used for Quercus. It is always a good idea to become familiar with available accessibility check options for the LMS and software you are using.

The CAST postsecondary web page explores UDL in the context of utilizing the flexibility of technology and digital media to increase the responsiveness of learning environments. It focuses on Universal Design for Learning in higher education.

Technology and Mastery-Oriented Learning

We can leverage technology to offer multiple means of representation to encourage mastery-oriented learning and feedback.Opens in a new window Materials can be reviewed and accessed in a variety of ways, for example:

  • voiceover for text;
  • images (with alt text) to supplement learning;
  • scatterplots and graphs that can be manipulated;
  • videos with interactive segments (pop-out text or quiz prompts added); and
  • mind maps to demonstrate the relationships between key concepts – or better yet, maps with options for learners to add new ideas!

Learning management systems make it possible to:

  • leave weekly materials open for repeated review;
  • create formative assessmentsOpens in a new window that learners can take over and over again;
  • design quizzes for open book or scavenger-hunt-style information finding;
  • insert automated feedback and pro tips provided in the incorrect response fields for quizzes. These tips can include how to correctly reword a response, identify key concepts, provide directions about watching a particular video, or use a hyperlink to review a concept; and
  • provide automated feedback and pro tips in “try again” low-stakes rubrics.

Technology allows educators to gather and curate information, using multiple means to support learning. We can also monitor student achievement to inform periodic review, to zero in on concepts missed along the way, and to revisit using spaced repetition. Students can work online in small groups asynchronously, and using directions from rubrics, ask questions and review work together.

Learn and Share: Relational Rubrics4:07 min

This brief Learn and Share offers an example of formative feedback and scaffolding with the interactive use of rubrics.

Mastery Multiple Choice: Making Meaning

In this multiple-choice quiz, you can see how you do and get feedback. To make it scavenger-hunt style, leave the quiz open while you search for the answer on another tab!

You had an opportunity to reflect on this quote earlier in this module: 

Students quickly receive the message that they can only be smart when they are not who they are. This, in many ways, is classroom Colonialism; and it can only be addressed through a very different approach to teaching and learning.

Emdin, 2016
Multiple choice activity

Making Meaning


If using a mouse, trackpad, or touch device, press the radio button or label on the answer that applies to you.

If using a keyboard or screen reader, press the tab key to navigate between questions, and use the and the Up arrow and Down arrow keys to select your answer. To get your results, focus on the Submit button and press Enter to submit the form.

If the answer you select is incorrect keep trying! Once you select the correct answer(s) you will be able to navigate to the next question.

Which of the following do you see as a meaningful expansion on Emdin’s observations?
Next sectionRepresentation and the Community of Inquiry Model