Educaction Access

Universal Design for Learning Explained by Kirk and Spock

Be sure to watch this six-minute video to understand the three basic principles of Universal Design for Learning. It was created using an online software program called Xtranormal. The odd behavior of Kirk and Spock are caused by the software. It is pretty funny but actually very accurate for understanding the three basic principles of UDL. Enjoy.

Annual Scope of Learning Assistance (Part Three)

The following is an excerpt from my book, Learning Assistance at the Crossroads.  More information about obtaining a copy of the book is provided in the upper left-hand column.  It may already be in your school library.

About 30 percent of first-time, first-year students enrolled in one or more developmental reading, writing, or mathematics courses since the 1980s. This rate rises to 40 percent of students who are the first in their family to attend col­lege (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003, 2005). For the past two decades, 600,000 to 700,000 first-year students enrolled annually in such courses. As a result of the research protocols used by the federal government for these stud­ies, the data do not include sophomores, juniors, seniors, or graduate students who enroll in remedial or developmental courses; students who participate in noncredit academic enrichment activities such as tutoring, group study review groups, learning strategy workshops, or similar activities; and students of any clas­sification who enroll in remedial or developmental courses in science or study strategies. Therefore, it is reasonable to estimate the number of students access­ing credit and noncredit services at 2 million annually (Boylan, 1999).

The following finding comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s study focusing primarily on developmental courses (National Center for Edu­cation Statistics, 2003). Of students enrolling in these courses, three-quarters successfully complete them. Most students enroll in developmental courses during only one academic term. Students are twice as likely to enroll in the courses at two-year institutions than in four-year colleges and universities. About three-quarters of institutions offer only institutional credit for the courses, while others offer graduation credit. In these cases, the credit counts as a free elective. About three-quarters of institutions require students to enroll in remedial or developmental courses based on their entry-level test scores. This percentage has increased during the 1990s. About two-thirds of institutions restrict concurrent enrollment in graduation-credit courses and developmen­tal courses. Nearly a quarter of institutions establish a time limit for success­fully completing these courses. A traditional academic unit such as the English or mathematics department is the most frequent provider of developmental courses, with a separate developmental department following in frequency. Learning centers are less frequently used, though the percentage has grown.

Annual Scope of Learning Assistance (Part Two)

The following is an excerpt from my book, Learning Assistance at the Crossroads.  More information about obtaining a copy of the book is provided in the upper left-hand column.  It may already be in your school library.

Understanding the scope of learning assistance throughout the United States requires careful review of national studies of enrollment patterns in developmental courses, participation in noncredit activities, and institutional and state policies affecting learning assistance activities. Table 1 focuses on one element of learning assistance, developmental courses in reading, mathematics, or writing. No uniform state or national reporting systems exist for noncredit services such as tutoring and attendance in learning centers (explored later in this report). The terms “remedial” and “developmental” course are used inter­changeably in this section.

Learning assistance often expresses itself differently among various institutional types: two-year and four-year, public and private. The services also appear differently in these categories among institutions of differing admissions selectivity. Although noncredit services such as tutoring and learning centers are commonly found among institutions, the provision of developmental courses is more commonly found at two-year institutions. Many institutions, however, provide both credit and noncredit services.

Many students who enroll in postsecondary education participate in learn­ing assistance activities in one form or another. Boylan (1999) confirms that nearly 2 million of the 12 million students enrolling in U.S. postsecondary education enroll in a developmental course or participate in other noncredit services such as tutoring or use of a learning center. Because 600,000 to 700,000 students enroll in the courses, more than 1 million students access noncredit services such as tutoring and learning assistance centers (Boylan, 1999; National Center for Education Statistics, 2003). For the past twenty years, nearly three-quarters of higher education institutions enrolling first-year students have offered at least one developmental reading, writing, or mathe­matics course. Although four-year research institutions decreased course offer­ings in this area during the 1990s (Barefoot, 2003), most institutions showed little overall significant change (National Center for Education Statistics, 1991, 1996, 2003). Offerings vary widely among institutional types. The highest percentage offering such courses are public two-year colleges (98 percent), fol­lowed by public four-year (80 percent), private two-year (63 percent), and pri­vate four-year (59 percent) (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003).

Annual Scope of Learning Assistance (Part One)

The following is an excerpt from my book, Learning Assistance at the Crossroads.  More information about obtaining a copy of the book is provided in the upper left-hand column.  It may already be in your school library.

It is difficult to estimate the total number of college students who use learn­ing assistance annually. Depending on the institution, learning assistance activ­ities may include enrolling in remedial or developmental credit-bearing courses as well as attending noncredit activities such as tutoring, using learning assis­tance center resources, or attending a study strategies workshop. Because this chapter focuses on contemporary uses of learning assistance, it emphasizes stu­dents who are academically underprepared in one or more academic content areas. This report, however, also includes case studies of learning assistance use by students who do not fit that profile. These students have used it to enrich their learning and support them with rigorous coursework in graduate and professional schools. These enrichment and noncredit learning assistance ser­vices expand the number of students participating beyond the one-third of all entering college students enrolling in a developmental course (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003). Rather than counting the number of noncredit users of learning assistance services such as learning assistance cen­ters and tutoring, the national studies report the high percentage of institu­tions that offer these services (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003). As described earlier, the reasons for the use of learning assistance become more complicated when the same student accesses learning assistance in one class because of academic difficulty, uses a different set of learning assistance ser­vices in another to supplement his or her learning, and uses none in other courses during the same or subsequent academic terms. As stated earlier, the use of learning assistance is based on the need presented by the academic course and not necessarily an attribute of overall academic weakness by the individual student.

Some institutions enroll a high percentage of students who are academi­cally underprepared in one or more academic content areas yet graduate them at high rates. The Community College of Denver, through the Center for Educational Advancement (, provides a comprehensive array of learning assistance services. Accurate assessment and course placement are essential, as most students enroll in one or more devel­opmental courses. Compared with other Colorado community colleges, this institution has the highest number and percentage of students enrolling in these courses. Students completing these required developmental courses grad­uate at a higher rate from college than students who were admitted and advised not to enroll in developmental courses. Comprehensive learning assistance ser­vices enable the institution to broaden access for students with a wider range of academic skills and achieve a high rate of timely graduation for all.

Current Scope of Learning Assistance and Developmental Education

The following excerpt is from my monograph, Access at the Crossroads.  This new series of blog posts will focus on the current nature and scope of learning assistance.  For more information about my monograph, click on the box in the left column.

OSTSECONDARY EDUCATION VARIES GREATLY with its expres­sion among institutions through admission policies, curriculum design, learning systems, and student expectations. The variability of U.S. education reflects local governance with different regulations from state and national gov­ernment. Autonomy and local control explain the highly varied expression of learning assistance on college campuses. This chapter explores learning assis­tance as it operates today.

Summary of Learning Assistance and Developmental Education History

The following is an excerpt from my monograph, Access at the Crossroads.  The history of learning assistance and developmental education is often misunderstood and overlooked by today's policy makers.  To learn more about my publication, click on the box in the left column.  Following is my summary to the series of blog postings on the history of learning assistance and developmental education.

Learning assistance serves a pivotal role in the history of U.S. postsecondary education. It developed a variety of approaches, and the language used to describe it has evolved. Regardless of the expressions, learning assistance bridges the gap between students’ academic preparation and expectations of college courses. It began as an embedded service by providing tutoring for all students enrolled in college during the first century of the United States. Later, the services became less embedded in the curriculum—with some students participating in learning assistance and others not. At times it has been essen­tial for supporting student enrollment and persistence to graduation, and at other times it has been rejected and stigmatized. Sometimes these different per­spectives on learning assistance have existed at the same time in different types of postsecondary institutions.

As learning assistance approaches permitted voluntary participation or required mandatory placement, stigma sometimes emerged for those using the services. The student body can become divided: students required to partici­pate, students choosing to participate, and those who elect not to participate. The stigma issue is most pronounced for students enrolled in remedial or developmental credit courses, but credit courses are only one approach to learning assistance. Other students who did not enroll in such courses often accessed other forms of learning assistance such as tutoring, learning assistance centers, or other services. Students who use these services, however, especially those from more advantaged backgrounds, do not suffer from the same stigma. These learning assistance activities and services are perceived as supplemental or enrichment and have escaped negative stereotyping.

A balanced review of the history places learning assistance in its proper position, operating at the crossroads of three major components of higher edu­cation: academic affairs, student affairs, and enrollment management. The next chapter ex

My next blog posting in this series explores the scope and expression of learning assistance today. The expression of learning assistance is often quite different among different institutional types based on admissions selectivity and degrees conferred.

History of Learning Assistance and Developmental Education: Mid 1990s to the Present

The following excerpt is from my monograph, Access at the Crossroads.  The history of learning assistance and developmental education is often overlooked, misunderstood, or incorrect.  This segment of the history looks at recent history of the field.  To find out more about my monograph, click on the box in the left column.

Turbulence in postsecondary education defines the current phase of history. Learning assistance activities and services have been curtailed at a growing num­ber of four-year institutions, especially large public universities. This change is concurrent with increased diversity of the student population, increased col­lege enrollments, increased competition for institutional funds, and decreased percentage of operating funds from state governments for public institutions. Although the need for learning assistance has expanded, its resources have become scarcer.

In the late 1990s, the perception of learning assistance changed for some— and not for the better. Critics have been particularly harsh toward programs that used the term “developmental education” to describe themselves. Large, public four-year institutions are engaged in intense dialogue about this topic. The terms developmental education, compensatory education, and remedial edu­cation suffer from stigma. In 1998 Martha Maxwell noted, “Developmental education has become a euphemism for remedial with all the negative con­notations that word implies.... Today, students taking developmental courses are stigmatized. . . In primary and secondary schools the term developmental education applies to programs for the mentally retarded” (Piper, 1998, p. 35). As remedial education engendered negative reactions from some policymak­ers, so did developmental education.

Several publications have prompted considerable conversation about improving the campus learning environment (Barr and Tagg, 1995; Lazerson, Wagener, and Shumanis, 2000). A number of learning assistance professionals have reinvented themselves as resources for the entire campus—students and faculty alike—by aligning with this paradigm of learning.

A result of the paradigm shift from teaching to learning led to creation of learning and teaching centers at some institutions. Although the name of these centers was the same, two variations were apparent. One type of learning and teaching center provides professional development for the teaching staff. Ser­vices include resource libraries, training programs for new instructors, ongo­ing mentoring programs, classroom observations with subsequent private consultations, and the like. A second type of learning and teaching center extends the professional development services for faculty by providing learning assistance services for students such as tutoring, learning skill workshops, drop-in learning centers, and credit courses.

Methods for operating these teaching and learning centers vary widely. An online search for these centers suggests that most were established at four-year institutions (Center for Teaching Excellence, 2009). Reviewing the Web sites for the centers suggests that they have been expressed differently based on administrative location under academic or student affairs. Those in student affairs tend to have a higher focus on delivery of learning assistance services for students. Those located under academic affairs more commonly focus on teaching faculty development activities. Another factor that has affected these centers is whether a faculty or staff member leads it. Those led by faculty members tend to be under academic affairs, those led by staff members most often under student affairs. Unlike the aforementioned learning assistance pro­fessional associations, no clear national organization represents these teaching and learning centers.

The teaching and learning center model has emerged to meet the broad needs that exist to assist student learning and faculty development. An online search for postsecondary teaching and learning centers identified several exam­ples among prestigious institutions. Cornell University (Ithaca, New York), through its Center for Learning and Teaching (, serves students through the learning strategies center (tutoring, workshops, supplemental classes), student disability services, and international teaching assistance development program (workshops to improve communication and pedagogical skills). Instructors can access teaching assistance services (indi­vidual consultations and workshops to improve teaching skills) and faculty services (individual consultations to improve teaching effectiveness). At Stan­ford University (Palo Alto, California), the Center for Teaching and Learning ( provides faculty development opportunities and tutoring, learning skills workshops, and academic coaching for students.

As these examples illustrate, common practices of these expanded centers include providing academic assistance to all students enrolled in identified courses, publishing teaching effectiveness newsletters, conducting learning effectiveness workshops, providing teaching mentors, and consulting on inno­vative instructional delivery. Both illustrate how learning assistance appears very differently at these prestigious institutions in comparison with open access community colleges. Developmental courses are not provided at these insti­tutions; instead, services for students focus on tutoring and noncredit learn­ing strategies workshops.