UDL Awareness Month: the Plus One Approach

Universal Design for Learning (CC0 1.0)
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May is Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Awareness Month! The UDL Working Group has organized a series of events and posts for the entire month of May to get our community involved with UDL in big ways and small. Each week we will post a new article, event, or resources to get the UDL momentum going. You will find these communications in the Langara Post, on the TCDC iWeb UDL page and on our UDL CoP Yammer.


Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational approach to teaching and learning that provides flexibility and choices in the way students access, engage, and demonstrate their learning.

Taking an UDL approach opens the possibilities to a variety of teaching and assessment methods and helps to remove barriers to student learning and create more equal opportunities for students to succeed.


As the first post during UDL awareness month, we present to you the Plus One Approach. The Plus One Approach makes implementing UDL accessible and puts less stress on re-designing a whole course. According to Tobin and Behling (2018), the idea behind plus-one thinking is to ask yourself, “is there just one more way you can help keep learners on task, one more way that you can give them information, one more way they might be able to demonstrate their skills?”

Plus-one thinking means that, for every interaction between a learner and the course components (the instructor, the material, another learner, etc.) an additional option for engagement, representation, and/or expression is provided.

Use this two-step process to help you get started:

  1. Identify the places in your course where students struggle, e.g. a point where they have more questions than usual, or often need alternative explanations.
  2. Think of just one thing that you can add or revise to alleviate student stress such as provide an additional source, introduce an element of choice, or provide access to lecture materials, notes.

Pamela Hogel (2017), an elearning expert, provides some general examples of plus one thinking:

  • In addition to presenting material as text-plus-photos, offer a short video;
  • In addition to presenting an audio track for a video, offer a transcript or closed captions;
  • In addition to offering text on a screen inside an LMS, offer a downloadable file;
  • In addition to asking learners to provide written responses to assessment questions, offer them a game or a simulation; and
  • In addition to presenting required content in a video, allow learners to read an article or review electronic “flashcards” on a mobile device.


Click on the link below to watch a video and learn how Nicole Wu and Frances Wintjes-Clarke used the plus one approach to improve student outcomes in the Langara Student Success Course.


Visit UDL in Higher Ed to see other examples of UDL implementation across several disciplines.

To find out more about H5P, contact Langara’s Educational Technology department.

Do you have a plus one you would like to share? We will be having a sharing session at the end of May. Bring a plus one you are considering implementing or one you have already implemented to share with our UDL community.

References & Further Reading
Courtney, E. (2021, April 12). Perspectives X: Using UDL to overcome personal bias in curriculum design. TCDC iweb. https://iweb.langara.ca/tcdc-dev/blog/2021/04/12/perspectives-x-using-udl-to-overcome-personal-bias-in-curriculum-design/
Hart, M. (2019). The importance of Universal Design on college campuses. Philologia, 11(1), pp.7–12. DOI: http://doi.org/10.21061/ph.176
Hogle, P. (2017, May 2). Design for access to enhance accessibility—and engagement. Learning Solutionshttps://learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/2307/design-for-access-to-enhance-accessibilityand-engagement
Tobin, T. & Behling, K. T. (2018). Reach everyone, teach everyone: Universal design for learning in higher education. West Virginia University Press. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/langara-ebooks/detail.action?docID=5597807