How Hypothesis Enables Instructors to Fulfill the Principles of UDL

By Christie DeCarolis | 14 June, 2024

Universal Design for Learning is “a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn,” according to CAST, the nonprofit education organization that developed the guidelines. The ultimate goal of implementing Universal Design for Learning, also known as UDL, is to create expert learners who are purposeful and motivated, resourceful, and goal-directed.

Collaborative annotation with Hypothesis offers a multitude of opportunities to incorporate UDL guidelines into our courses to best reach all learners. In fact, social annotation can provide support for fulfilling all three of the main principles of UDL. 

The three principles of the Universal Design for Learning framework ask instructors to design learning which:

  • Provides multiple means of engagement.
  • Provides multiple means of representation.
  • Provides multiple means of action and expression.

Provide multiple means of engagement. 

The main goal of this principle is to increase student motivation to engage with material. Hypothesis recruits student interest by allowing students to connect course texts to their own lives and experiences through annotation, which surfaces the relevance of the content to their own lives.  It promotes sustained effort and persistence if instructors incorporate it throughout their course; consistently using Hypothesis social annotation throughout a term allows opportunities for frequent feedback that tracks and emphasizes improvement throughout a course.

It also provides students with an alternative means to engage in course discussion. Students who are less comfortable contributing to a live, in-class discussion may be more motivated and comfortable sharing their thoughts via social annotation.

Provide multiple means of representation.

The main goal for principle is to present course content using diverse means.  Instructors can easily represent course concepts in multi-modal ways using Hypothesis. When students are reading course documents, instructors can add annotations to provide further context by embedding images or videos. Additionally, instructors can use Hypothesis to annotate YouTube videos and provide further text-based explanations for video content. These options allow instructors to provide alternative media and greater context to best help students comprehend vocabulary, symbols, and see patterns and relationships.

Provide multiple means of action and expression. 

When students annotate collaboratively using Hypothesis, they are provided with options for expression and communication. Hypothesis annotation allows students to respond to course content by linking to external websites, embedding images, or embedding videos to demonstrate their understanding. Additionally, annotation with Hypothesis provides students with practice actively engaging with course content to gradually build fluency in the subject matter. Consistently using Hypothesis social annotation assignments can help scaffold the essential information and provides students an informal space to engage with course concepts before they encounter a larger course assessment, like an essay or an exam.

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