Universal Design for Learning (UDL)


Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an approach to course and syllabus design based on principles that enable faculty to design and teach their courses in ways that make learning accessible to all learners. Drawing on current brain research and the new media technologies, UDL uses inclusive pedagogical strategies for course instruction, materials, content, and curriculum that benefit students with all learning styles and accessibility needs. Originally used in architecture and product design to accommodate the widest possible spectrum of users, the principles of Universal Design are now applied to education at all levels, including postsecondary.


Principles of Universal Design for Learning

*  Represent information in multiple formats and media (Representation)
*  Provide multiple ways to engage students’ interest and motivation (Engagement)
*  Provide multiple pathways for students to demonstrate knowledge of material (Expression)
(Center for Applied Special Technology, CAST, at http://www.cast.org/our-work/about-udl.html)

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Shifting Assumptions About Teaching and Learning in Four Fundamental Ways

1. Students with disabilities fall along a continuum of learner differences rather than constituting a separate category.
2. Faculty adjustments for learner differences should occur for all students, not just those with disabilities.
3. Curriculum materials should be varied and diverse including digital and online resources, rather than centering on a single textbook.
4. Instead of remediating students so that they can learn from a set curriculum, curriculum should be made flexible to accommodate learner differences.

See also the University of Connecticut website, Universal Design for Postsecondary Instruction, at http://udi.uconn.edu/index.php?q=node/12. This site lists and defines 9 principles of universal design in higher education. Provides downloadable PDF version.

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Online Universal Design Introductions and Tutorials

Universal Design for Learning Activity Center (San Francisco State University, The Center for Teaching and Faculty Development).
This site provides UDL foundations, principles, and applications to the classroom, with examples and videos of faculty discussing their Universal Design strategies in a variety of courses, plus materials for assessment and evaluation. See especially the Online Training Module for a tutorial on developing UDL for your classes. 

UDL-Universe:  A Comprehensive Universal Design for Learning Faculty Development Guide.
Provides resources and examples for the application of UDL principles to enhance teaching and learning in higher education.

Equal Access:  Universal Design of Instruction (DO-IT Project at University of Washington).
A 13-minute video plus accompanying publications, demonstrating strategies for making instruction accessible to all students.

CAST UDL Online Modules.
This site offers access to two multimedia, interactive, online modules designed to introduce the theory, principles, and application of UDL to teacher candidates and in-service teachers.  Higher education faculty can embed all or part of these modules in face-to-face, online, or hybrid courses.

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Resources for Teaching Using UDL Principles

CAST, Center for Applied Special Technology:  Transforming Education through Universal Design for Learning.
The portal for information on Universal Design for Learning pre-K through college.  A comprehensive site including research, online tutorials, and publications.

FacultyWare: Tools for the Universal Design of Instruction (University of Connecticut with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education).
This site offers Instructional Freeware, teaching strategies that provide postsecondary instructional access for diverse learners, including those with disabilities. Provides a downloadable resources manual, “An Introduction to Disabilities;” SoundBytes, brief interviews with faculty using these instructional strategies; and much more.

Examples of Universal Design in Online and Blended Courses (University of Connecticut).
Lists and defines 9 principles of Universal Design for Instruction and gives examples applying each principle.  Provides downloadable PDF version.

EnACT~PTD, Insuring Access through Collaboration and Technology; Partnerships, Technology & Dissemination (Sonoma State University; funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education).
This project aims to provide resources ensuring that students with disabilities receive a quality postsecondary education.  Links to UDL resources, accessibility resources, an online training module, a library of faculty examples, and much more.

ACCESS to Postsecondary Education through Universal Design for Learning at Colorado State University.
Offers online training modules, tutorials, and publications about UDL.

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Application of UDL Principles to Courses and Syllabi

Instructional Design Tips for Online Learning (Developed by Joan Van Duzer, Humboldt State University).
Guidelines and worksheets in six categories for developing effective online instruction.  To be used in conjunction with the Rubric for Online Instruction developed by CSU, Chico, described below under UDL Assessment.

MERLOT offers almost two dozen examples of the practical application of UDL principles in such diverse classes as Technical and Professional Writing, Introduction to Music, Nursing Education, and more.

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Resources for Visually and Hearing Impaired Students

Class Act:  Promoting Access for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students (National Technical Institute for the Deaf, a College of Rochester Institute of Technology).
A site designed “to improve existing teaching practice regarding ‘access’ to learning for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in postsecondary education.”  Offers teaching tools, a discussion board, challenges/strategies, a section on Universal Design, plus additional online and printed resources. 

Adaptive Technology and Accessibility Centers—IUB and IUPUI.
Annotated links to technology—software and hardware—to assist with vision impairment.  Focus is on reading, writing, studying, and information access.

Perkins School for the Blind Teaching Resources.
Offers links to the following online resources:  Accessible Science, Webcasts, Perkins Scout (online resources for living with blindness), Samuel P. Hayes Research Library and Archives on blindness and deafblindness.  Plus publications, resource packets, training and conferences.

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UDL Assessment

Universal Design for Learning:  A Rubric for Evaluating Your Course Syllabus (From EnACT~PTD).
Examines 11 elements of a syllabus along a scale from Traditional to Enhanced, to Exemplary. 

Rubric for Online Instruction (California State University, Chico).
Describes exemplary online instruction along a scale from Baseline to Effective to Exemplary with a range of six major categories in syllabus and course design.  A useful rubric for UDL course/syllabus design.

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Michigan State University Resources

MSU Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities.

MSU Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives.

MSU Web Accessibility.

For additional resources see also on this website Multiculturalism/Diversity/Inclusive Classrooms.

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