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Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a teaching and learning approach that provide all students with an equitable opportunity to succeed.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework for designing curriculum that provides all students equitable opportunities to learn. UDL promotes access as a formal principle rather than an add-on. It is proactive rather than reactive, benefiting not just students with disabilities but improving access for all students. Research consistently shows that UDL positively affects students’ persistence, retention, and satisfaction.

UDL Framework

UDL’s framework is based on three principles: creating educational goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone while maintaining high academic standards.

Affective Networks

The "Why" of learning. Provide multiple means of Engagement for

  • purposeful,
  • motivated learners,
  • stimulate interest, and 
  • motivate learning.

Recognition Networks

The "What" of learning. Provide multiple means of Representation for 

  • resourceful, knowledgeable learners
  • present information and content in different ways.

Strategic Networks

The "How" of learning. Provide multiple means of Action & Expression, for 

  • strategic, 
  • goal-oriented learners, 
  • differentiate the ways that students can express what they know. (CAST)

Course Design

Integrating universal design principles into courses enhances a diverse, inclusive, and accessible learning environment.

Designing and developing a course with all learners in mind helps to eliminate barriers and learning obstacles before they arise. This is a proactive rather than reactive approach and supports an "all are welcome" type of learning environment.

Providing students with multiple means of perceiving, comprehending, and expressing their learning allows students to engage with the course content in a way that most benefits them. This also encourages students to engage with the content to improve in areas in which their skills are not as strong.

The UDL framework is complex. When starting not every guideline can be met in every course. With course design, thinking of UDL as an ongoing project helps one to make small adjustments over time, progressively increasing student access to the course and content. For example, take a course concept that students, generally, have a hard time understanding. Design multiple modes of working with this concept instead of just one. Group discussions, drawings, handouts, worksheets, and debates are different modes of instruction and provide students with opportunities for multiple means of engagement, representations, and action/expression.

Examples & Tips

Thomas Tobin, author of Reach Everyone Teach Everyone, uses a clear and accessible definition of UDL as “Plus-One” thinking. For every interaction that learners have in the course with materials, each other, instructors, and the world, provide one more for that interaction to happen (Tobin & Behling, 2018).

  • Present information in more than one mode
  • Provide students with both written and spoken instructions 
  • Ensure that students can access the formats you provide 
  • Engage students in multiple types of activities 
  • Connect class activities explicitly to learning goals
  • Allow students some control over their assignments
  • Use multiple, alternate, forms of assessment 
  • Provide timely feedback
  • Support community among students 
  • Provide opportunities and time for students to reflect on their learning and set goals for themselves 


Keywordscourse design, accessibility, blackboard, universal design, universal design for learning, UDL, digital accessibility   Doc ID107948
OwnerSharley K.GroupIT Knowledge Base
Created2020-12-17 10:50:01Updated2023-12-28 15:28:51
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