The Ahead Journal


A Review of Inclusive Education
& Employment Practices ISSN 2009-8286

Launch! Universal Design Beyond the Classroom – Digital Course and Digital Badge

Erica Meslin

Education Manager, AHEAD


About the Author

Badge Overview

UCD Access and Lifelong Learning in collaboration with AHEAD are happy to announce the public launch of the Universal Design Beyond the Classroom (UD Beyond) digital course and badge.  This pivotal initiative is designed to equip student support and engagement professionals in tertiary education with the necessary skills and knowledge to foster inclusivity in their work through Universal Design.   

Providing a fully inclusive learning environment is complex and creating a culture of engagement and inclusion that works for all students requires a shift in thinking and a change of behaviour at an institutional level. In this ever changing and increasingly diverse further and higher education landscape, Universal Design provides an effective framework to improve the learning experience of all students. 

Hosted by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning, this UD Beyond the Classroom Course will provide participants with a strong practical know-how of Universal Design and how to apply it in their roles.  It will impart functional knowledge and tips to empower student engagement and support staff working beyond the classroom, to make their contribution to the student experience more flexible and accessible to all by aligning with the principles of Universal Design (UD).

Badge Information

What differentiates the UD Beyond Badge from the previously launched and hugely successful UDL Badge is that the new badge will have wider Universal Design focus for professionals working beyond the classroom. Rather than emphasising the educator as the main audience, the new badge will look towards a whole of institution audience, targeting all institution staff and volunteers.  Ultimately, the UD Beyond the Classroom Badge will add a new dimension of universal design practice to the tertiary education landscape in Ireland.  The goals for the badge are as follows:

  • To create a collaborative culture of student engagement to remove barriers of learning and foster equity, inclusivity and success.  
  • To empower staff to support learner success beyond the classroom.  
  • To enable collaborative capacity building for success, support and engagement of professionals to create cultural change for inclusion of all learners/students.  
  • To empower staff to foster cultural change, and promote inclusion and support learner success beyond the classroom. 

Badge Development and Pilot

The process for development of the course and subsequent badge was long and detail oriented with input from educators, accessibility experts, eLearning professionals, as well as technology specialists. Experts were arranged in three separate groups: Steering Group, Working Group, and Technical Group who each met regularly to contribute valuable expertise to the course.  After months of work, the result is a UD Beyond course which integrates multimedia elements, interactive components, and expert-led instructional content.  The three collaborative groups have drawn upon best practices in UD to ensure an engaging, accessible, and valuable learning experience with dynamic and pertinent content.

After the initial creation of the course, the UD Beyond Badge pilot was rolled out in 2023 targeting 100 specific institutional staff members balanced between Further and Higher Education.  With the completion of the pilot, the participants involved as well as those inputting into the steering, working, and technical groups have undergone a comprehensive feedback process of the course.  Initial feedback gathered from participants via an anonymous questionnaire have proven very positive with 93% of the participants strongly agreeing that the badge has deepened their understanding of Universal Design and 86% strongly agreeing that the course will have a significant impact on their practice.  Despite such positive reviews, constructive and beneficial feedback was still received which will lead to modifications and adaptations being made to the course with the finished public launching the UD Beyond the Classroom badge and course alongside the regular roll-out of the UDL Badge in October 2024.

Badge Structure

The fully online Digital Badge course will be facilitated over a ten-week period involving approximately 25 hours of learner work.  The primary learning for the course is conducted within the 5 self directed online modules:

  • Module 1 An Introduction to Universal Design
  • Module 2 Multiple Means of Engagement
  • Module 3 Multiple Means of Representation
  • Module 4 Multiple Means of Action and Expression
  • Module 5 Mapping the Learning Journey: reflection and redesign

Besides the online modules, the course is also made up of 4 peer group sessions as well as 3 webinars and a required redesign task where course participants will be asked to redesign one aspect of their own work.  Ultimately, in order to earn the badge, participants will:

  • Explain the current context in relation to Universal Design in tertiary education, reflecting on the diversity of their own student/learner populations.
  • Explain and demonstrate understanding of the key areas of accessibility legislation which must be adhered to in an educational setting.
  •  Evaluate the diverse needs of learners, identifying how learners’ circumstances can impact their experience.
  • Reflect on how you can remove barriers to access through Universal Design of student/learner supports and services.
  • Apply the principles of Universal Design to their own practice.

Quotes from pilot UD Beyond badge feedback

Usually, non-teaching staff get left out – or regarded as less important than teaching staff but Universal Design is essential for all staff.


Fantastic opportunity, I feel everybody working in higher or further education should be encouraged to complete this course as part of workplace training!


A thought provoking-course, professionally presented with excellent support throughout. Thank you!


You have developed a phenomenal resource, and I cannot praise ye enough. The badge will undoubtedly enhance the practice of many and inspire the integration of UDL across multiple settings.


You have provided me not only with a knowledge base but with a change in perspective to embrace the diversity of the world we live in and apply inclusion in a tangible way to my practice. Thank you so much.


As tertiary education continues to evolve, the importance of creating inclusive environments has become paramount and the urgency of embracing Universal Design principles is becoming increasingly evident. The UD Beyond the Classroom Digital Badge stands as a beacon for tertiary education professionals aligning with the global shift towards diverse and equitable educational practices.  Participants will benefit from a forward-looking curriculum that addresses the current and future needs of the education landscape in Ireland.

Thanks to a tremendous collaborative effort between UCD Access and Lifelong Learning and AHEAD, the UD Beyond the Classroom badge will now be available to train staff in further and higher education based outside of the classroom environment throughout Ireland.  In what has been a completely positive endeavour, AHEAD and UCD look forward to promoting the public launch of the 2024 UD Beyond the Classroom badge and running both badges to a large national cohort once again in 2024.  Please stay abreast on the AHEAD website to register for the badge in summer 2024. 

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