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ADCET Webinar: Implementing Universal Design for Learning (UDL) at the University of Sydney - Lessons Learned and Scaling Strategies

This ADCET webinar is presented by Sarah Humphreys, Educational Design Manager, Educational Innovation Team, University of Sydney.

In this presentation Sarah introduced the significance of UDL implementation within higher education, specifically in the context of the University of Sydney. The presentation emphasised the role key objectives from the Disability Inclusion Action 2019-2024 This link takes you away from the ADCET page and the university’s 2032 Strategy This link takes you away from the ADCET page had in establishing an initial UDL pilot project in September 2021, focused on one academic and one unit of study, through to the recent launch in May 2023 of a ‘Designing for Diversity’ project, supporting both academics and educational designers of 12 different units of study, across 6 different faculties.

Central to the University of Sydney’s process for UDL implementation are the relationships developed with stakeholders to foster a common language and to support a shift in mindset that reframes challenges with the student as barriers within the environment. This is an intentional strategy to overcome the barriers of time, resources and understanding often encountered with UDL implementation (Hills et al, 2022 This link takes you away from the ADCET page) and to foster buy-in from academic staff across the university.

Examples of the monitoring and evaluation processes used to date were shared to illustrate how these have informed subsequent iterations of unit design, generated resources for professional learning and helped to grow a UDL community. This UDL journey is still in its infancy as the focus is not to prescribe or standardise how UDL is used, rather foster a cultural change over an extended period of time.  With this in mind,  this presentation demonstrated how UDL implementation is a non-linear, interactive process that continually rotates through the 5 steps outlined in CAST's UDL implementation process This link takes you away from the ADCET page.


Head shot of Sarah Humphreya

Sarah Humphreys is an Educational Design Manager with the University of Sydney’s Educational Innovation Team. She leads the implementation of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) at the University in response to the University’s strategic plan that outlines a commitment to transformational, student-focused education that embraces equity, diversity and inclusion. Sarah’s background is in teaching, inclusive education and curriculum development. She was first introduced to UDL in 2011 when working as the Project Officer for Diversity with the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) and since then has shared her UDL journey at numerous conferences nationally and internationally, including the UDLHE Digicon hosted by CAST in 2022.

Questions that were answered by Sarah after the conclusion of the webinar.

Reflecting, was the choice of a first-year unit of study a good decision, or would it have been better to pilot a different unit?

Yes, absolutely, because of the unit coordinator I worked with. He had a strong commitment to equity and inclusion already so we were building upon his work.  My advice is to start where you know you are going to have the most success.

Do you have an average number for required readings each week?

For our UDL pilot project the number of readings varied each week, but what we were consistent with was signposting students to the one reading that was essential or ‘required’ and then making available additional or ‘recommended’ readings for them to deepen or broaden their learning. 

I assume Uni Sydney uses Canvas LMS... how do you rate it in terms of being able to deliver UDL

Yes we use Canvas. The effectiveness of Canvas to deliver UDL comes down to the user/designer. Canvas itself is just the tool so I would say in the work we’ve done so far, it has been very easy to use Canvas to successfully design for a diverse cohort.

(July 2023)

ADCET is hosted by the University of Tasmania