What is Universal Design for Learning?

When it comes to learning, variability is the rule not the exception. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework that guides the design of learning goals, materials, methods, and assessments as well as the policies surrounding these curricular elements with the diversity of learners in mind.  Source: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Ed, udloncampus.org

In short, UDL provides a blueprint for creating and sharing learning content that not only works for everyone, but also provides flexible and customizable approaches for distribution unique to the needs of each student.

How can you incorporate UDL into your courses?

As an educator, you can make an impact when you apply components of the UDL curriculum into the design and delivery of your course materials and related resources, as well as the layout and implementation of your course in the Learning Management System (LMS).

Educate Yourself About UDL.

What are my next steps?


Know Your Audience.

  • Once you know about registered students, make reasonable accommodations.
  • Also, provide access to the classroom and materials; and maintain confidentiality.

What are my next steps?

  • Research available tools and ensure they meet accessibility requirements before purchasing and deploying.
  • Consider the classroom climate and adjust based on the learner’s social/emotional resources and monitored progress.


Modify Your Materials.

  • Actively review your course material and resolve gaps in accessibly.
  • Start with a piece of content that is frequently used or used in multiple courses.
  • Consider the following elements:
    • Use color choices that convey contrast and enhance comprehension.
    • Use captions and provide transcripts with audio and video content.
    • Use “Alt Text” with images and provide meaningful text equivalents.
    • Use descriptive link text, avoid “click here” or “read more”.
    • Use descriptive headings for tables as well as sequence of content.
    • Use screen-reader supported symbols for math and technical content.

What are my next steps?


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Guidelines for Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Guidelines for UDL

The three-network model of learning provides the basis for UDL curriculum development and an equal opportunity for all individuals to learn. Understanding how the three brain networks function provides insight into ways you teach information (what), ways you teach skills and strategies (how), and how you teach students to have an affinity for learning (why).

Provide multiple means of engagement
  • Provide options for recruiting interest
  • Provide options for sustaining effort and persistence
  • Provide options for self-regulation
  • Outcome: develop learners who are purposeful and motivated to learn more.

Provide multiple means of representation

  • Provide options for perception
  • Provide options for language, mathematical expressions, and symbols
  • Provide options for comprehension
  • Outcome: develop learners who are resourceful and knowledgeable.

Provide multiple means of action and expression
  • Provide options for physical action
  • Provide options for expressive skills and fluency (expression and communication)
  • Provide options for executive functions
  • Outcome: develop learners who are strategic, skillful, and goal directed.

Universal Design for Learning Guidelines Chart View

Adapted from NCUDL.

What are the four key components of the UDL curriculum?

Course materials and related resources should address the four key areas of UDL:


  • Often described as learning objectives, concepts and skills that represent the knowledge students should master, typically aligned to a set of standards.
  • Within UDL framework, goals are setup in a way that acknowledge learner variability and differentiates goals from means.
  • Qualities of UDL goals enable teachers to offer more options and alternatives through varied pathways, tools and strategies for reaching mastery.

  • Generally defined as instructional approaches or routines that expert teachers used to enhance or accelerate learning.
  • Within UDL framework, expert teachers apply evidence-based methods and differentiate those methods according to the goal of instruction.
  • Qualities of UDL methods in the context of the task based on learner variability, take into account the learner’s social/emotional resources and the classroom climate; and are adjusted based on continual monitoring of learner progress.


  • Usually referred to as learning content, media and tools the learner uses to demonstrate their knowledge.
  • Within UDL framework, the cornerstone of materials is their variability and flexibility.
  • Qualities of UDL materials include multiple media and embedded just-in-time supports such as hyperlinked glossaries, on-screen coaching and background information; strategic learning and expression of knowledge is facilitated through tools and supports used to access, analyze, organize, synthesize and demonstrate understanding in various ways.


  • The process of gathering information about a learner’s performance to determine their knowledge, skills and motivation for making informed educational decisions.
  • Within UDL framework, the goal is to improve the accuracy and timeliness of assessments, and ensuring they are comprehensive and articulate enough to guide instructions for all learners.
  • Qualities of UDL assessments include a focus on the goal distinctly separate of the means, enabling provision of supports for construct irrelevant items, and broadening means to accommodate learner variability by reducing barriers to accurate measurement of learner knowledge, skills, and engagement.


Adapted from NCUDL.