Create multiple ways for learners to express what they know – UDL and Moodle

July 15, 2021 By Abby Fry

Universal Design for Learning involves using a variety of teaching methods or pedagogical approaches that provide learners with a range of ways to access learning material, engage with it and exhibit the knowledge that they have acquired. This is the fourth and final blog in our series on Universal Design for Learning and concentrates on how the Moodle platform can be used to allow students to demonstrate their learning in multiple ways. That is, to provide them options to show what they have learned!

Learners differ in the ways that they can navigate a learning environment and express their learning. For example,“individuals with significant movement impairments (e.g., cerebral palsy), those who struggle with strategic and organizational abilities (executive function disorders), or those who have language barriers will exhibit their knowledge better in one form over another (e.g., written text versus speech).” (1) 


Provide alternatives in physical participation

To reduce barriers to learning that would be introduced by the motor demands of a task, provide options in how learners physically participate in a task and demonstrate their knowledge. 

Provide alternatives in the rate, timing, speed, and range of motor action required to interact with instructional materials and technologies. When creating Activities and Resources in an auditory or visual form, use text equivalents in the form of captions or automated speech to text, provide written transcripts of video or auditory clips, and use visual icons to represent emphasis. A new feature in Moodle 3.11 allows learners to change the playback speed of audio and video files. 

Optimise access to tools and assistive technologies and provide alternative keyboard commands for mouse action. Moodle LMS is WCAG 2.1 AA compliant, which means that Moodle users can be reassured that Moodle is keyboard accessible and meets accessibility in four key areas. Whether you are an educator, learner, developer or system administrator, Moodle LMS’s authoring and evaluation tools are endorsed by WCAG as perceivable, operable, understandable and compatible. Plus, a new integration to Moodle 3.11, Brickfield’s Accessibility Starter Toolkit allows educators and administrators to assess the accessibility of content and identify existing accessibility issues.


Give learners alternative mediums of expression

It is important to provide alternative modalities for expression, both to ensure an equal way to assess learners and to allow learners ways to express knowledge, ideas and concepts that support their learning preferences.

Allow learners to compose in multiple media such as text, speech, illustration, video, music or interactive web tools. 

With Moodle’s Assignment activity, both educators and learners can upload files in multiple formats such as audio, video and images. This means that educators can personalise assignments to suit particular learning preferences and learners can utilise media that supports their preferred form of expression.

Moodle also allows educators to use interactive web tools as a means of fostering learners’ communication and expression. Create learner Groups, encourage collaboration through peer assessment with Workshops and allow students to create collaborative project plans and documents through Wiki.

While providing learners choice in their form of expressions is important, learners must also seek to develop fluency across media (e.g. visual, audio, reading, etc). Curricula should offer alternatives in the degrees of freedom available so that learners develop their competencies. In Moodle, this can be achieved by utilising the range of assessment types available and introducing rewards or recognition such as Badges to encourage students who complete subcomponents of tasks in alternative media. Equally, Activity completion allows a teacher to set completion criteria in a specific activity’s settings and Moodle’s Restrict Access feature enables teachers to restrict the availability of any activity or even a course section based on a student meeting certain criteria. This could be completing an activity in a media they are comfortable with and then progressing to completing an activity in an alternative media that they select from a group.


Support planning and goal setting

At the highest level of the human capacity to act skillfully are the “executive functions” which, in the context of learning, allow students to overcome short-term or impulsive reactions, set effective strategies, establish goals, monitor their progress, and modify their behaviour as required.

Moodle LMS incorporates a number of features that can be used to support learners’ ability to effectively plan, set goals, obtain feedback on progress and identify where to concentrate their efforts.

Moodle Blogs allow learners to record personal information and express learning goals, plus the Forum activity allows students to communicate with each other and their teacher about their learning materials and goals as part of a ‘thread’. Educators can encourage students to break down goals by utilising Activity completion which allows them to set completion criteria in a specific activity’s settings.  

Both educators and learners can track progress through Grades, Competencies, Activity Completion and Badges. Assignment has many feedback options from detailed rubrics to frequently used comments to personalise feedback including text, audio and video format. Quiz can generate feedback for each correct and incorrect question ranging from a general overview to specific hints. One-to-one Forums and private Messaging between learner and educator can also be used to facilitate personalised feedback.

Want to learn more? Moodle has also created a variety of ways for educators to learn how to create meaningfully designed online learning environments, ranging from courses on Moodle Teaching Basics to Moodle Teaching Next Level and the Moodle Educator Certification (MEC) Program. MEC is based on the widely-used and accepted European Framework for the Digital Competence for Educators (DigCompEdu).