Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Degree Name

Curriculum and Instruction

Department or School/College

College of Education and Human Sciences

Committee Chair

Morgen Alwell

Commitee Members

Gail McGregor, Richard Hughes, Lucila Rudge, Matthew Schertz


Educational technology, universal design for learning


University of Montana

Subject Categories



This experimental study investigated whether the addition of course features based on the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework impacted achievement in an online English 1A credit recovery course offered by a state virtual school in the Western United States. An alternative format for completing course mastery assignments and eText support tools (ReadSpeaker and TextAid) were added to an existing version of the course. Writing prompts were also included in the alternative mastery assignments. Credit recovery students were randomly enrolled by school personnel into control and treatment sections of the English 1A courses using the enrollment mechanism of the school’s Student Information System (SIS). Out of the enrolled students approved to participate in the study (n=133/157), the control section had 68 enrollments, and the treatment section had 65 enrollments.

Experimental data was gathered via pre-test, post-test scores on the four end of module tests. Course grade and final grade data was also provided through the Learning Management System (LMS) and SIS and analyzed using Independent Samples T-Tests. The state Office of Public Instruction provided demographic information on participants. Surveys were used to gather qualitative and quantitative data on the learning experience, and the course instructor was interviewed on perceptions of the course participants, UDL course features and the student learning experience. Results from the experimental aspect of the study demonstrated the null hypothesis could not be rejected. Mean score gain differences on pre-test, post-test scores were not statistically significant or important across control and treatment groups. Course grade and final grade data also did not demonstrate a statistically significant or important difference in achievement across the groups. Passing rates were higher in the treatment group than the control group (9% based on enrollment numbers, and 5% for individuals). Results from the open-ended survey questions and qualitative interviews revealed three key themes: 1) appreciation of the mastery assignment options 2) the importance of instructor/course mentor support 3) and the initial time commitment of working with the new assignment type for the instructor. Results indicated that an incremental approach to including UDL course features did not result in a statistically significant impact on student achievement. However, the results suggest that a more robust development of the learning experience based on Universal Design for Learning principles may be more likely to increase the impact on student achievement in the courses. The importance of local support on student achievement was also observed. Future research, therefore, might consider a more substantial redesign of the learning experience based on Universal Design for Learning principles as well as additional influences associated with individual engagement and the local learning environment. In addition, it was suggested that researchers also continue to investigate administrative and instructional efficacy when redesigning online credit recovery courses based on UDL principles.

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