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Universal Design for Learning

The architectural concept of universal access to buildings was applied to education in the late 1990s, in recognition of the fact that learners bring a variety of constraints, experiences, and needs to every learning situation.  In the words of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, 

“Federal law requires states to provide students with diverse needs—especially those with disabilities—opportunities to access and progress in the general education curriculum. However, providing equal access involves more than supplying every student with a textbook or a computer. Educators must ensure that the curriculum is cognitively challenging and that all students are actively engaged in learning and appropriately supported in order to reduce barriers to the curriculum while maintaining high achievement.

“The UDL approach considers the needs of the greatest number and range of possible learners and offers educational methods and materials that eliminate costly, cumbersome and after-the-fact adaptations.”

Like backwards design, UDL is a well-established area of education, with a wealth of excellent resources already available.  Instead of re-creating a lot of material, we have carefully selected a few of the best resources for getting started with UDL.

Universal Design Across the Curriculum 

This is a scholarly article about UDL in higher education, describing the history of UDL and the main "players" in the movement in higher education.  New Directions in Higher Education 2007, 137:27-44.

Universal Design of Instruction

This is a detailed introduction to UDL. It sets forth a process for using UDL to design a class. Examples for steps and strategies are given for various learning situations such as large classes, test-taking, travel programs, and others. 

Checklist for Inclusive Teaching 

A practical list developed by faculty, for faculty, to help guide the creation of courses and course materials.

Ten Simple Steps for Universal Design of Online Courses

This simple webpage provides practical ideas for making your online course material easier for all students to use.