UDL in 15 Minutes: An Interview with Loui Lord Nelson

Here at the UDL Center at CAST, we’re always looking for new ways to share about Universal Design for Learning and to help others learn more about the UDL framework. I had the privilege to sit down with UDL expert and author, Loui Lord Nelson, to chat about her new podcast, UDL in 15 Minutes — one of those fantastic new ways to learn from others’ experiences with UDL implementation. If you’re not familiar with Loui’s work, check out her book from CAST Publishing, Culturally-Responsive Design: The UDL Approach, co-authored with Patti Kelly Ralabate, or her book Design & Deliver: Planning and Teaching Using Universal Design for Learning from Brookes Publishing. She also has other fantastic UDL resources on her website.

Loui Lord Nelson & Mindy Johnson

How did you come up with the idea for your new podcast, UDL in 15 Minutes?

Educators are constantly seeking ways to understand the UDL framework and they are always asking for examples. While I love videos, most don’t show the most important piece — the design thinking. A podcast felt like the perfect medium to dig into that design piece. I thought it would be a great way for educators to share their own experiences of why and how they used the framework. The 15 minute part made sense because most people can give their attention to something of value for 15 minutes.

UDL in 15 Minutes is unique in that it offers subscribers many different ways to access and interact with the content. How did you decide to add these UDL features?

One of the UDL truths is that all learning should be accessible to all learners. To help us design that kind of environment we use the three principles of UDL which is exactly what I did when designing this podcast. I asked myself how I was going to provide engagement, how I was going to represent this information, and how I could provide an avenue for learners to interact with the materials.

A transcript was an obvious design choice in the very beginning because a podcast is purely audio. Why lock out those who are deaf, hearing impaired, or people who just don’t like to listen to podcasts but want the information? And I knew I would want to do an associated blog because there’s always more to say than what fits in the 15 minutes! I liked the idea of sharing pictures, but it was while getting to know Kim Babeu (the first podcast guest) and receiving all of the pictures from her that I shifted to the idea of a closed captioned image montage (video). Some people are more engaged when they have images that are associated with the words, and images sometimes provide a more clear representation of the topic being discussed.

Luis Pérez from the AEM Center at CAST

Around that same time I began looking for ways to provide audio descriptions, but that technology is not as widely available for the average citizen. I turned to the AEM Center and had some chats with Luis Pérez to get started. While a podcast is purely audio, an assumption might be that this option meets the needs of anyone who is blind, experiences low vision, or just likes to listen. I chose to bring in pictures and I wanted to be sure everyone had the option to hear audio descriptions of the photos. It all goes back to accessibility. I’m positive that none of this is perfect, but since I author, create, and produce all of the materials associated with the podcast, I have every opportunity to grow and improve!

Have you gotten any feedback on the multiple representations of the podcast?

Hundreds of people have listened to these podcasts and I’ve received a number of emails and Twitter messages thanking me for the interviews, the pictures, the closed captioning, and the follow-up blogs. People have shared that they feel connected with the educators being interviewed due to the personal stories and the pictures. A UDL trainer said she was so excited to share the actual voices of other educators rather than telling their stories. I had one young mom thank me saying she took advantage of the closed captioned video while nursing. An international colleague appreciated the follow-up blog because it provided even more background information about the UDL framework. The audience keeps growing each week, so I anticipate more people will find these resources and use them in a variety of ways. I hope they send me their thoughts and ideas!

Your guests so far have been incredibly inspiring and knowledgeable, but also relatively new to the larger UDL field. What are the things you look for in a guest?

I look for someone who has a story to share about UDL. Period. The knowledge these educators have is based on their instructional experiences and their stories come from their own reflections about the changes they’ve made based on the UDL framework. The passion is already there; it’s my job to make sure that passion is articulated via the voice of the guest. Everyone has a story to tell — just contact me and we’ll start planning!

What are some future topics you’re especially excited about?

I don’t necessarily look for topics, I look for subjects and grades/life stages (e.g., pre-K through 12; undergraduate, and graduate school). I just get so excited when I think of all of the different educators that work across the lifespan of learning and who use the UDL framework to design their learning environments. I want to talk to them all! And I’m not stopping there, but I’ll wait to make that big reveal a little later.

As an author and leader in the field of UDL, what advice would you give to someone who wants to connect with more people implementing UDL in their learning environments?

You are not alone!! If you are a Twitter user, start there. Search #UDL and you’ll find people talking about it. Search #UDLchat and you’ll find a community of people who gather at 6PM PST / 9PM EST on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month and respond to facilitated prompts about UDL.

As for following, start with @UDL_Center, @CAST_UDL, and @UDLIRN. You will find several individuals to follow that regularly post. I’m at @LouiLordNelson.

#UDLHE will connect you with a burgeoning group of people in higher ed who implement UDL. They also have a chat on the 3rd Thursday of the month at 12 Noon EST. There are plenty of higher ed groups which you’ll identify through the chat. You can begin with @UDL_OnCampus and @udl4uk.

If you’re not a Twitter person, there are some new ways to connect. CAST has launched this updated blog and home for the UDL Center and it is growing to become what the field wants. Send them an email with your ideas about UDL or connecting with others: udlcenter@cast.org. CAST and the UDL-IRN have recently launched Learning Designed which will soon have communities and groups where educators can connect.

Last but not least, UDL authors are a friendly bunch. All of us love to connect with our readers and help you connect with others. I’m very serious about this. I’ve NEVER met a group of more accessible and friendly authors. Want trustworthy books about UDL? Check out any of the titles at CAST Publishing or you can check out Design and Deliver: Planning and Teaching Using Universal Design for Learning or Your UDL Lesson Planner at Brookes Publishing. Higher Ed friends can look into a new book, Reach everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education from West Virginia University Press.

How can folks find and subscribe to UDL in 15 Minutes?

UDL in 15 Minutes with Loui Lord Nelson

The best place to go is my website in the media section. That is where you’ll find the podcast as well as the additional supports. The website is fully accessible and you’re welcome to wander to other pages.

If there are people who just want the podcast, you can subscribe via the iTunes Store or your favorite podcast source. Just search for my name (Loui Lord Nelson) or the name of the podcast (UDL in 15 minutes) and it will pop up. You can also subscribe to my YouTube Channel for instant access to the video montage and audio descriptions.


Thanks so much to Loui Lord Nelson for taking the time to chat with me and giving us some inside information about her fantastic new podcast, UDL in 15 Minutes. Have you listened to the podcast? Do you have some questions or feedback for Loui or her guests? Let us know in the comments!