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37th Annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference Has Concluded

UDL Needs New Learning Skills for True Equity

Date & Time
Friday, March 18, 2022 - 3:20 PM PST  
Orange County  

“UDL and true equity in the classroom cannot be achieved without updating traditional learning skills.” This is the conclusion that Glean researchers have reached after a year of research into the impact of learning with technology.

We surveyed hundreds of students and disability professionals about the intrinsic challenges of learning remotely and their apprehensions for the future of the classroom in the post-pandemic landscape. It was clear that hybrid environments presented fresh challenges for concentration, attention, and focusing skills.

A student is required to watch a lecture, take notes, and communicate with their instructor and peers all from the same screen. Largely, in order to manage these tasks students resort to relying on the lecture recording rather than taking notes in the moment. In fact, a study by Georgia College and State University found that 51% of students had decided to not take notes at all with online content. This is particularly concerning, as studies clearly show that a huge amount of information is lost without a note taking process with only 5% of information retained for tests.

Students’ abandonment of note taking is a symptom of the disruption to students’ existing learning strategies. Indeed, in a survey of over 2000 students, 79% believe that they need extra support to achieve learning outcomes.

There is a scientific reason why students struggle to manage hybrid learning. For a student of any ability, the digital world creates information overload. This puts pressure on working memory, attention, and information processing skills. Ultimately, the combination of these challenges affects the students’ note taking and learning process. In fact, a study by Uncapher and Wagner (2018) found that heavy media multitaskers were likely to perform 8-10% worse on sustained attention tests which then directly impacted learning outcomes and wellbeing.

At the heart of our discussion is a call for disability and academic support to reevaluate traditional learning skills, like note taking, in order to equitably equip students to learn effectively in the modern classroom. Without doing so, learners may not be ready for the wider application of UDL.

To start, we will share Dr Sue Wilkinson’s analysis of the science behind hybrid learning. Dr Wilkinson is a Cognitive Psychologist and disability support specialist; her research focuses largely on the impact of online learning environments on cognitive fatigue. We will explore how interacting in the digital world affects our ability to learn in three fundamental ways with reduced working memory, increased task switching, and continuous partial attention. In particular, we will outline how this puts specific strain on neurodivergent learners, especially those with Aspergers, ADHD, and anxiety conditions.

By reviewing the cognitive impact of hybrid learning, we will highlight the increased need to use a note taking process to capture, organize, refine, and integrate information into our knowledge base. We will introduce Kiewra’s encoding-storage paradigm to explain how a robust note taking process and accessible technology can help students to manage challenges with concentration, attention, and focusing skills.

To finish, we will create groups and will start a discussion on what learning skills need to be made more equitable in hybrid learning environments. All attendees will receive a white paper outlining our research into 21st century learning skills. Ultimately, our aim is for attendees to leave enlightened, emboldened and energised, ready to continue their excellent work fostering greater access to learning.

This Presentation Link is provided by the Presenter(s) and not hosted by the Center on Disabilities at CSUN. The Center on Disabilities has confirmed, as of April 1, 2022, content linked is relevant to the presentation, but has not been reviewed for accessibility nor will the Center on Disabilities attempt to remediate any accessibility issues in the linked content. Please contact the Presenter(s) with any accessibility concerns.

  • Higher Education
  • Information & Communications Technology
  • Disability Specific
Audience Level
Session Summary (Abstract)
Learning environments are evolving so now’s the time to advocate for UDL. But are students equipped? Digital learning exposed the challenges of information overload, stretching working memory, attention, and information processing. Explore the skills now needed to learn with technology so true equity is achieved in the modern classroom.  
Session Type
General Track  
  • Cognitive & Learning Disabilities
  • Digital Accessibility
  • Education
  • Emerging Technologies


  • Paddy Heaton
    Glean (formerly Sonocent)

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