Examples of Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

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Principle 1: Multiple Means of Engagement

The Why of Learning

Allows students to demonstrate and connect with their learning in different ways. It can involve offering choices, incorporating interactive activities, and tapping into individual interests, passions, and cultural backgrounds.

Provide options for recruiting interest (maintaining focus)

Students differ in how they are engaged and what stimulates their attention. Their interests can also change as they progress in their academic journey and build new skills. When designing course materials, it is important to think of ways to engage learners in multiple ways.

Provide options for sustaining effort and persistence

Students need to sustain effort and attention in order to learn. Motivation helps to regulate attention; however there are differences in how students self-regulate. Building skills of self-regulation and self-determination can happen when the external environment is supportive of learners.

Provide options for self regulation (controlling emotions)

Promoting both a motivating environment and fostering learners’ self-regulation skills is essential. Unfortunately, many classrooms neglect to teach self-regulation, making it inaccessible to some students. In order to be effective, address self-regulation directly, recognizing that individual differences require diverse strategies for managing engagement and emotions.

Principle 2: Multiple Means of Representation

The What of learning

Includes presenting course content and information in multiple formats (visual, auditory and tactile), with the understanding that students perceive and comprehend information in different ways. 

Provide options for perception

To facilitate effective learning, it’s essential that all information is easily perceivable and accessible to every learner. This can be achieved by:

  • Delivering the same content through different sensory channels, such as visual, auditory, or tactile means.
  • Providing customizable formats, like text that can be resized or sounds that can be increased in volume.

Implementing these varied and adaptable methods of presentation not only supports learners with specific sensory impairments but also enhances the overall accessibility and comprehension of the information for a wider audience.

Provide options for language & symbols

Learners have different abilities in understanding various forms of representation, such as words and pictures. What helps one learner understand might confuse another, like an equals sign in math or a graph showing two variables. To avoid this inequality and make learning clear for everyone, it’s important to offer information in different ways, not just for accessibility, but also for better understanding.

Provide options for comprehension

The goal of education is to teach learners to turn available information into knowledge they can use, not just to make information accessible. This process is active, involving skills like:

  • Focusing
  • Connecting new information with what they already know
  • Organizing information
  • Memorizing.

Since individuals vary in these skills and in their existing knowledge, it’s crucial that the way we teach and present information helps everyone access and understand this knowledge.

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Principle 3: Multiple Means of Action and Expression

The How of learning

Uses a variety of ways to stimulate student engagement and interest in learning course content. It acknowledges that students possess unique strengths and preferences when it comes to communicating their knowledge.

Provide options for physical action

Textbooks and educational software often have limited ways to navigate or interact, like turning pages or using a joystick, which can be difficult for learners with disabilities. This includes those with physical disabilities, blindness, or other challenges that affect their ability to use these materials. To make learning accessible to everyone, it’s important to design materials that work well with assistive technologies, allowing for different ways of navigating and responding, like voice-activated systems or expanded keyboards.

Provide options for expression & communication

No single way of expressing ideas works well for everyone or for all types of communication. For example, a learner with dyslexia might be great at telling stories verbally but struggle with writing them down. Therefore, it’s important to offer different ways for learners to express themselves, to make sure everyone has an equal chance and can easily share their knowledge and ideas in their own best way.

Provide options for executive functions

Human executive functions, centered in the prefrontal cortex, allow us to set and pursue long-term goals, not just react impulsively to immediate surroundings. However, these functions can be overwhelmed when too much effort is spent on basic, non-automatic skills, or when there’s a higher-level disability affecting executive capacity. To enhance learning, the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework suggests two strategies:

  1. Scaffold basic skills so they require less executive effort.
  2. Strengthen higher-level executive skills.

This approach helps learners efficiently manage both simple and complex tasks.

Would you like to contribute to our examples?

We are always looking for more examples on how you use UDL in the classroom and beyond. Please contact us for further details on how to be involved in this initiative!

Explore the sections

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UDL Principles

Review the three principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) that can be used in your course design

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Applying UDL Practices

Learn practical strategies and tools to ensure your course materials and instructional methods are designed in an inclusive and accessible manner

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Assessing Impact

Learn ways to assess the impact of including accessible and inclusive principles in your teaching

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Examples at UVic

Explore ways instructors and teaching staff are using UDL principles in their classroom and beyond (following the CAST framework)

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This page was last updated:

January 22, 2024

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