Thursday, September 23, 2021

Critical Role of L&D

Photo by Taruna Goel 

I am facilitating an #instructionaldesign course with University of Victoria this term and 80% of the participants are from the #healthcare sector. Each of them is supporting patient care through their work in learning and development, education and training. They are the ones helping doctors, nurses, technicians and countless other staff do their very best as they battle Covid-19.

I feel so grateful for the opportunity to work with them and contribute to their learning and professional growth and development.

Talking to the participants in Week 1 made me think of how our work as learning professionals can be so gratifying. We enable people to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to excel at their work. As learning professionals, each one of us is central to enhanced organizational performance and to continuous learning and growth of employees irrespective of the sector or industry we are working in.

As learning professionals, we are all tasked with finding new ways to design our response to the #pandemic and help employees find ways to quickly adapt, learn and grow.

Never before has the critical role of L&D been so clear.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

When "Choice Gives Voice" - Universal Design for Learning

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay 

"CHOICE gives VOICE" - This was the phrase used by Carolee Clyne and Helena Prins as they facilitated the FLO Course I participated in on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) by BCcampus in May 2021. Three powerful words that sum up the philosophy of UDL and highlight the importance of thinking of UDL as a framework for adding more choice and enabling more voice. The credit for those words goes to Andratesha Fritzgerald, the author of "Antiracism and Universal Design for Learning: Building Expressways to Success" published by CAST
FLO UDL Digital Badge for Taruna Goel

CAST is a nonprofit education research and development organization that created the Universal Design for Learning framework and UDL Guidelines. The UDL Guidelines offer concrete suggestions that can be applied to ensure that all learners can access and participate in meaningful, challenging learning opportunities. The Guidelines are organized based on the three principles of providing multiple means of engagement, representation, and action and expression.

In July 2021, I attended the "The Accessible & Inclusive Design Conference 2021" by TLDC. The speakers at this conference covered many themes for accessibility and inclusion such as:
  • top eLearning accessibility myths,
  • who needs accessibility,
  • common areas of accessibility concern,
  • how to gain accessibility experience, and
  • how to go beyond accessibility and apply UDL principles for inclusion, etc.
But the key idea that emerged was:

"Designing for accessibility and inclusion is what makes good design." 

I was intrigued by the example shared by Gwen Navarette who compared UDL to dining in a restaurant where each customer can request substitutions within a "fixed menu". For example, one can ask for gluten-free or vegan options or ask to hold the sauces or have items on the side, etc. Similarly, when going for a buffet, one can "make" their own plate using the options available. In that sense, everyone has an equal experience even though they have different things in front of them. Unfortunately, most training, as highlighted by Gwen, is like a fixed, four-course menu where there are no considerations for substitutions thus making the experience less equitable for some diners. 
You can view the recordings of the "Accessible and Inclusive Design Conference 2021" at Recordings - Accessible and Inclusive Design Conference 2021 (

It is important to state that there are also somewhat differing perspectives about UDL and how using the term, 'universal design' might end up becoming another fad or the next new trend and how it focuses on 'differentiation' rather than universality. I am an advocate for using evidence-based approaches and at this time, all the principles of UDL are not equally backed up by extensive research studies and trials. Having said that, the way I have understood UDL is as a means to reduce challenges and barriers and as a proactive way to design learning so that it is accessible by everyone rather than by building specific types of elements based on 'individual learning styles' (which by the way is a myth). Katie Novak is a UDL expert and uses a dinner party analogy to explain the difference between DI (differentiated instruction) and UDL. She explains that making individual meals for each guest is similar to DI. In this case, the host chooses what each guest will eat, despite individualising it for them. UDL, on the other hand, is like a buffet. All diners have choice and the diner drives that choice.

Over the last few months, I have been researching UDL and its application to the world of workplace learning and performance and I see several applications. As a learning designer, my objectives are to maximize learning and performance and minimize any barriers to it. Given that, I am keen to apply the principles of UDL and think more deeply about how I can respect and reflect diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in my learning designs or any other work that I undertake. Ultimately, I'd like people to be more self-directed in their learning activities and feel empowered by what they learn. And I think UDL can support my objectives. 

Given the lens of "choice gives voice", what can you do in your learning design work to improve teaching, optimize learning and impact performance? How can you extend this idea to other practices such as recognition of prior learning and competency-based assessments?

Monday, August 16, 2021

When walls can teach - a collective experience of art

Last month, I enjoyed an immersive digital art exhibition here in Vancouver called "Imagine Van Gogh". The exhibit focused on the collective experience of art.

Taruna Goel Photography | Facebook
The website describes it as: 

"Imagine Van Gogh, is an exhibition where one can admire The Starry Night, Irises and Sunflowers, or be drawn into the intimacy of his Bedroom in Arles. An experience that brings viewers to the heart of its images, Imagine Van Gogh is accompanied by the music of the great composers Saint-Saëns, Mozart, Bach, Delibes and Satie."

It was a riot for all the senses. More than 200 of Van Gogh’s paintings were projected on huge panels and curated based on color, feelings and his life journey. The digital art was synchronized to classical music thus adding a lot of emotional layers and depth to the experience. The exhibition used warping techniques to project the artwork in a mesmerizing and intimate way. As a viewer, I felt like I was a part of the art. 

"The choice of images, the way they are positioned, their rhythm and their association with the music all compose this original creation conceived by Annabelle Mauger and developed with Julien Baron." - Imagine Van Gogh

Taruna Goel Photography | Facebook

There was also what they called a "pedagogical room" that documented Van Gogh's journey in the written form. The pedagogical room acted like the primer for the actual experience and the room and the exhibit became the "third space" offering the opportunity to learn together. 

Taruna Goel Photography | Facebook

Rotana Ty describes the emergence of this new work and learning place in his article, "Workplace Futures - On Collective Digital Art Experiences" and shares how "The workplace is evolving as the places we work, play, live and learn. They are consumerized, fragmented and tend to adapt to our work and learning needs."

I have often heard the phrase, 'Walls can Teach" in the K-12 environment. But this immersive exhibition took that to another place altogether!