Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

When thinking about your course and UDL, the best thing to do is to ask the question, "How do we create a learning environment that challenges and engages all students?"  Put another way, "How can you design a course that is flexible enough to meet the needs of diverse learners?"

UDL is based on principles that enable instructors to design and teach their courses in ways that make learning useable and accessible to all learners.  The goal is to provide equal access to information and to benefit all learners.

The National Center on Universal Design for Learning has identified three primary principles based on cognitive science that provide a framework to assist instructors with designing instruction. 

The three key principles are:

  1. Multiple Means of Representation 
  2. Multiple Means of Action and Expression 
  3. Multiple Means of Engagement 

Multiple Means of Representation

To support recognition learning, provide multiple, flexible methods of presentation including perception, language, expressions, and symbols and comprehension.  This is the "WHAT" of learning.  In what ways do you include multiple representations of content?  A common example would be to provide students with more than one option to read/view content.  If you have a video on content and perhaps a journal article, students will have access to both methods, and can choose which method is best for them to learn the content.

Multiple Means of Action and Expression

To support strategic learning, provide multiple, flexible methods of expression and apprenticeship including physical action, expression and communication, and executive function.  This is the "HOW" of learning.  In what ways do you have students respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills in your course?

Multiple Means of Engagement

To support affective learning, provide multiple, flexible options of engagement including recruiting interest, sustaining effort, and persistence and self-regulation.  This is the "WHY" of learning.  How do you have your students engage with material in your class?  If students read something, how do they engage with the reading after reading it?  Do you have a class discussion?  Do they discuss the reading with their peers or perhaps write a reflection about what they read?

Additional Resources for UDL

This resource for Implementing UDL in Course Syllabi includes helpful tips for creating a syllabus with UDL in mind.  

As you continue to learn about UDL, you will find there are some common misconceptions; take a look at UDL Common Misconceptions for clarification on some of these in relation to student learning styles, academic standards, and tailoring of course content.

This is just the beginning of the conversation when thinking about UDL.  For a more complete discussion of UDL, take a look at What is Universal Design for Learning?