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Universal Instructional Design Applied In A Design Classroom

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Design for Special Services

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1517.1 - 12.1517.11



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Paper Authors

author page

Susan McCahan University of Toronto

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Universal Instructional Design Applied in a Design Classroom

Abstract One of the major challenges in teaching large courses is the diversity of the student population. Characteristics now common in undergraduate engineering student populations include diversity in learning style, cultural background, and factors that may disadvantage students, such as a learning disability. One approach to addressing these challenges is Universal Instructional Design (UID) and it is now gaining acceptance in higher education.

The principles of UID were originally developed by analogy with accessible design in architecture and product development. One of the interesting aspects of discussing UID in the context of design education is that it demonstrates the impact of design methodology in fields beyond engineering. In addition, because of some of the special aspects of engineering design courses, the UID principles lend themselves to application in this type of learning situation. These principles have been applied, with observable outcomes, in a large (enrolment ~950) first year design course to improve the accessibility of the content.

Design for Accessibility Tracing the development of Universal Design, or design for accessibility, and its impact on architecture, product design, and infrastructure design gives us insight into what benefits, intended or unintended, may arise when we apply these principles in the classroom. In addition, as design instructors, it is useful as a lesson on the way in which social movements and ideas transferred from field to field inform, or reinvigorate, an area of practice in engineering.

The concepts of design for accessibility began to take hold in architecture, particularly for the design of public buildings, in the 1970’s. These principles form the foundation for legislation enacted in the United States and elsewhere.1 The implementation of legislation, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, led to a change in building requirements intended to make buildings more accessible to people with physical disabilities.

The requirements of accessibility can be viewed as a design constraint. Simplistically, there are two approaches to dealing with such a constraint. The structure could be designed first, and then features which make the structure accessible could be added on or, more advantageously, the design could begin with accessibility as one of the primary functions of the building and thus harmoniously integrate functionality and aesthetics. The second approach was pioneered by Ronald Mace and others at The Center for Universal Design (North Carolina).2 The Universal Design concepts developed by Ronald Mace have led to innovation in a number of fields. In information technology, it led to US legislation affecting the features of consumer products3 – for example, the requirement that televisions include closed captioning capability. The principles have also found their way into other types of product design.

“The Human Factor” by K. Vicente4, and related research work in the area of human factors engineering, documents the shift in design from a “one size fits all” approach, i.e. the user should

McCahan, S. (2007, June), Universal Instructional Design Applied In A Design Classroom Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2406

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