Canvas Spotlight Course Showcase

Course Showcase – SED 4100 – Including Students with Significant Support Needs

Last updated on May 21, 2024

Incorporating UDL Principles

At MSU Denver, we prioritize providing positive classroom experiences to all students. MSU Denver offers a variety of supports to help us create course materials that are accessible, such as content that can be ready by screen readers and videos that include closed captions. In addition to students with hearing or sight impairments, students with other disabilities or support needs should also be able to receive the same positive experience as their classmates. When creating courses or teaching, it’s important to consider what best practices will help all students receive the best possible experience.

Showcase Example

SED 4100 | Including Students with Significant Support Needs

Dr. Charlie Buckley
Dr. Charlie Buckley

SED 4100 teaches special education teachers how to create inclusive classroom environments designed to include students with significant support needs. One of the key methods of doing this is to use Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles to create a collaborative environment that balances and meets the needs of all (or most) students. Because UDL was so important to the content of this course, Dr. Buckley wanted to incorporate it into the overall course development. She wanted to do more than tell students about inclusivity; she wanted to demonstrate it in her own course. This course incorporates all three elements of UDL: engagement; representation; and action and expression

Many of us recognize the UDL terminology, and some of us may know quite a bit more. Others may know very little. Visit the CAST UDL guidelines for additional information about what Universal Design for Learning is. Provided below are some examples of how we worked with Dr. Buckley to incorporate UDL principles into SED 4100 during course development: 

  • Engagement – Dr. Buckley referred to collaboration and community as some of the most important elements of this course. The course was designed to teach people how to build inclusive communities, after all. Activities and assessments encouraged, and in some cases, required students to collaborate with each other regularly. Students met with their small groups at least once or twice per two-week module and with the entire class, in synchronous meetings, once every other module for a total of four in-person classes. 
  • Representation – All courses that complete CTLD’s development cycle include a course alignment map that connects each instructional material, learning activity, or assessment to a given module learning objective. To incorporate UDL, we took that a step further. Each module lists the MLO, and each page within that module focuses on one objective. Dr. Buckley asks guiding questions for each objective page then provides instructional materials and activities for students based on meeting that objective. This approach to organizing content improved clarity and enabled us to meet all Quality Matters alignment standards easily.
  • Action and Expression and Engagement – All of the assignments and activities in this course were designed to empower students to choose how they wish to satisfy the outcomes of the activities and lessons, letting them take charge of their own learning. In practice, that means students could choose their own platforms or applications or format types to complete or submit assignments. This student-directed learning, in addition to course organization, enabled us to highlight patterns and key takeaways to increase student comprehension


The UDL principles are intended to encourage inclusivity for all students, hopefully improving the overall course experience for everyone. Dr. Buckley’s use of UDL principles in her course provide multiple benefits for her students. The course is now inclusive of all students, regardless of disability or support needs; it demonstrates to the students how they could incorporate the UDL principles in their own classes; and it provides an opportunity for students to experience the benefits of UDL directly.

Partnering for Continuous Improvement in Teaching and Learning

A significant factor in the success of this and similar projects is the support and funding from the Office of Online Learning (OOL), which has been instrumental in enhancing the quality of our online educational endeavors. OOL’s support and contributions have empowered faculty members to innovate and create a more enriching educational environment for all. Please visit the Office of Online Learning for more information about all that they are doing to help MSU Denver faculty members and students.

Want to get involved?

One way to find help with implementing student supports in your course is the CTLD Course Development Cycle. This is an intensive, but rewarding, process where an instructional designer will work with you over several months to identify course objectives, develop learning activities, create a user-friendly course, record high-quality multimedia content, and much more.

Our instructional designers will help you build student support and implement them in your course. As compensation for the time and effort you spend developing your course, faculty are offered a $5,000 stipend for completing the development cycle. For courses that use OER, MSU Denver offers additional incentives.

For more information on the CTLD Development Cycle, as well as how to apply to join, please see our CTLD Course Development Cycle spotlight.

Have questions?

Want help on this or other teaching and learning topics? Please visit us for drop-in support (10am-3pm, M-F) or try one of our self-help tutorials.