Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education

Helen La, Dr. Patti Dyjur, PhD, Haboun Bair

May 2018

Universal Design for Learning is a framework that guides the design of courses and learning environments to appeal to the largest number of learners. It emphasizes flexibility in how instructional material is presented, how students demonstrate their knowledge and skills, and in how they are engaged in learning.

The principles of multiple means of engagement, representation, and action and expression offer instructors an instructional design model to strive for equitable access for all students by offering options, flexibility, and sets goals to accommodate diverse learners regardless of the discipline. In addition, universal design for learning prompts instructors to consider how they might improve their own teaching practice by considering diversity in the classroom, student voice and agency.

This guide includes the following sections:

  • A description of universal design for learning, including definitions, rationale for use, criticisms of UDL, and selected research that informs the approach.
  • An overview of the three universal design for learning principles, including descriptions, examples, and questions for instructors to consider when designing their courses:
    • Multiple Means of Engagement
    • Multiple Means of Representation
    • Multiple Means of Action and Expression
  • An example of incorporating universal design for learning principles into a lecture class
  • An annotated bibliography and references

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