Universal Design for Learning Principles in Canvas

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For faculty development programs we're developing, we've been working at aligning UDL, Good Learning Principles (based on Gee's 13 principles), and Canvas Tools. I'm coming up with things like the following, but am interested in seeing what others are doing in this area. 

Multiple Means of Engagement, Representation, and Expression for EMPOWERED LEARNERS

CO-DESIGN strategies in Canvas

  • Require that students use a profile picture (how) and biographical information (how), so you and other students can get to know them. This will result in discussions that are more personally-connected to their interests and skills.
  • Give each student a journal (how) or blog (example) where they can write about and develop their connection to the course topic. Even if they initially feel that there is no connection, by making this a weekly assignment, they will create a connection.
  • Group students (how) or let students create their own groups (how) so they can create learning objects on course concepts.

CUSTOMIZATION strategies in Canvas

  • Increase personalities by having students use a profile pic and biographical information (how) so they can better represent themselves and their interests to you and their classmates. This also helps you present content to better meet their individual needs.
  • Show students how to change course nickname (how), course card color (how) and set notifications (how).
  • Provide multiple forms of learning content — e.g. PDFs (how), interactive Google docs (how), videos (how), H5P games (how), pre-recorded lectures (how), etc. — so students can learn in ways that match their interests and needs.
  • Provide multiple options for final project assignments (how) — e.g., papers, presentations, digital stories, websites) so students can express what they learned in ways that reinforce and develop their unique connections with the course content.

IDENTITY strategies in Canvas

  • Use Discussions for role-driven conversations or reading responses (how)
  • Provide Group Space (how) for projects where students can contribute according to their existing skills — through interactions with each other on a topic, they will learn other perspectives related to the field.
  • Include assignments, activities, or discussions that require practice within domain specific identity.

MANIPULATION strategies in Canvas

  • Maintain simple course interface (how) with tabs (how) and other options (how) so students can navigate easily (this implies the distributed knowledge of the instructor knowing good design principles to reduce cognitive load)
  • Include hints/tips for both incorrect and correct answers of quizzes (how)
  • Use discussions and embed Kaltura MediaSpace videos/podcasts (how) so students can control interaction and playback .
  • Provide links to credible Internet sources — e.g. OER Commons app can be integrated in Canvas (how).

Multiple Means of Engagement, Representation, and Expression that support GOOD PROBLEMS

WELL-ORDERED PROBLEMS strategies in Canvas

  • Be sure your course Syllabus scaffolds (example) from topic to topic.
  • For students, figuring out your expectations is an important primary problem. “Well-ordered” applies to developing the course map too.
  • Be sure topics, Assignments, Quizzes, etc. are clear, logically-ordered, and easy to find.
  • Be sure topics, Assignments, Quizzes, etc. are repeatedly and explicitly connected to clear course learning Outcomes (how).


  • Use Piazza (how) to provide a “challenge of the day” (or week) of a wicked problem (what) being explored by colleagues in your field.
  • Provide feedback (personal and general) following assessments using Rubrics in Speedgrader (how).
  • Provide feedback for 1) correct, 2) incorrect, and 3) overall Quiz questions (1-min video).
  • Use Rubrics (how) that have a difficult-to-reach upper limit.
  • Do not underestimate your students; design Quizzes that get progressively more difficult.
  • Students tend to challenge each other at a level that reasonably reflects the upper limits of their understanding. Challenge them to develop quiz questions for each other and use the Peer Grading/feedback tool.
  • Develop low-stakes/high-difficulty practice tests (how).

CYCLE OF EXPERTISE strategies in Canvas

  • Include a variety of Practice Quizzes (how). Make it a regular and frequent part of the course.
  • Provide skill practice time every day with low-stakes quizzes (why) that present challenges in a variety of ways.
  • Point to, and have students explore inter-relations of systems in Outcomes and Rubrics to explicitly direct and keep students on track.
  • Revisit use of skills cumulatively in quizzes and tests (why). Include earlier questions/concepts in later quizzes and tests.
  • Have students learn skill techniques and tricks (and build on them) from each other in Discussion reflections (example).
  • Have students work together on challenges to learn skills collaboratively.
  • Encourage explorative thinking and failure through Discussions graded only on participation (and guide them to answers).
  • Take time early in the class to show students how to navigate Canvas. Continue to provide tips on navigation and/or use of your course platform as you introduce new elements.
  • Provide hints and feedback in Quizzes (how), to reinforce correct answers and re-teach after incorrect ones.
  • Set up Piazza or Discussions for students to ask and answer questions for each other. Credit students for answering other's questions.
  • Introduce needed skills for final assessment early and consistently (provide instructions relevant to task)
  • Start with a difficult, but low-stakes pre-test that introduces the full complexity of what they will understand by the end of the course.
  • Tie the pre-test closely to Outcomes and Rubrics.
  • Explicitly revisit that complex pre-test (and the learning outcomes) in lessons, quizzes, and assignments throughout the course, so they can map their progress in understanding the increased complexity.
  • Create assignments that focus on key concepts. Design larger projects that require synthesis.
  • Give students the same pre-test again at the end of the course, so they can show mastery.

SANDBOXES strategies in Canvas

  • Open your course early so students can get a “lay of the land”.
  • Create Discussions or Piazza forums where students can share and respond to ideas and thoughts. Give points to reward constructive feedback that models respectful discourse and risk-taking.
  • Have TAs and/or students create many low-stakes practice tests with answer feedback, so other students can take them, fail, and immediately be guided to success.
  • Use Discussions to explore material that are graded only based on participation and receives guidance for improvement.

SKILLS AS STRATEGIES strategies in Canvas

  • Reinforce course learning Outcomes by explicitly and repeatedly connecting them to as many elements in the course (lessons, readings, quizzes, tests, discussions, projects, etc.) as possible.
  • Use Outcomes to create rubrics for assignments that break down the requisite skills to complete it.
  • Let students revisit past quizzes and exams to revisit and retrieve information needed to be successful in later ones.
  • Set up Piazza or Discussions for students to teach and learn from each other by, for example, sharing how they solve problems. Reward this sharing.

Multiple Means of Engagement, Representation, and Expression that support REVEALING SYSTEMS

SYSTEMS THINKING strategies in Canvas

  • Create a Piazza or Discussions forum where you pose a wicked problem in your field (how) and challenge students to explain the underlying systems at work in it. Let student explore problems relevant to their interests in Groups (example)
  • Create a coherent and complete syllabus.
  • Write an instructor teaching philosophy (why) to help students understand your approach.
  • Embed an RSS feed (how) from pertinent sources so students can relate course content to current events and the world around them.
  • Use personal journaling (how) for students to relate content to their own life.

MEANING AS ACTION strategies in Canvas

  • Embed videos and other multimedia such as H5P (how), Google Docs (how), Dotstorming, Padlet, Tricider etc. (example) in Pages to make content more interactive.
  • Share personal stories of how you developed a passion for course concepts. Include examples in your Profile and Biography (how) pages.
  • Set up Piazza, Discussions , or link to a Google+ Community (example1, example2) for students to share connections between course content and popular culture, current events, and personally meaningful experiences.
  • In Quizzes or other Assignments, challenge students to find new situations in their embodied lives to relate course content.

These are part of a larger handout here: TEiC Course Design Handouts - Google Docs 

Do others have examples of work that aligns Canvas Tools with Good Learning principles?