Accessibility Training: Universal Design for Learning (UDL)


  1. Determine the importance of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).
  2. Explain the pillars of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).
  3. Identify how to apply UDL into your work.

What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL)?

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) involves a proactive process of designing learning experiences in order to achieve the highest level of functionality and positive user experience for the widest audience possible. In order for UDL to be effective, it requires purposeful consideration and strategy in all areas of course planning and design. The end result will be online learning that allows students to access, interact, and learn in a variety of ways, addressing the learning styles and learning needs of a wide variety of students.

Why is UDL necessary?

The brain learns in complex and varied ways that are as unique as our fingerprints (CAST, 2013). According to research conducted by CAST, a nonprofit research organization that is leading the way in UDL, learning occurs as a result of the workings of three brain networks: recognition networks, strategic networks, and affective networks. In order to activate and address these three brain networks in the process of learning (and knowing that these systems donat work alike in any two people), we must provide for multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement.

Why is UDL particularly important in online courses?

  • Faculty cannot pick up on visual cues and body language that may inform changes to instruction "on the fly". Instead, options and variety must be built in from the beginning.
  • A wide variety of cultures, ages, demographics, professional experiences, and learning preferences are likely in an online course.
  • Students who did not perform well in traditional classrooms may seek out online courses to meet their unique learning needs.
  • Students with disabilities are often inclined to pursue online courses for the ability to use assistive technologies.