What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL)?

UDL is a set of principles for curriculum development and delivery that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn.

It provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone; not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs. (CAST, 2014.)

“Venn Diagram” by University of Denver is licensed under CC BY 4.0/ Design modified from original


UDL at a Glance


RDC Learner Centeredness Connection

UDL incorporates and supports many current research-based approaches to teaching and learning including, learner centered practice. The Principles of UID, can help to provide a learner-centered reference point for adapting curriculum and instruction.

Principles of Universal Design for Learning

The three primary principles of Universal Design are:

Provide Multiple Means of Representation
Provide Multiple Means of Expression
Provide Multiple Means of Engagement
“The What of Learning”
Presents information and content in different ways
“The How of Learning”
Differentiate the ways that students can express what they know
“The Why of Learning”
Stimulate interest and motivation for learning
Provide options for:

  • Perception
  • Language and symbols
  • Comprehension
Provide options for:

  • Physical action
  • Expressive skills and fluency
  • Executive functions
Provide options for:

  • Recruiting interest
  • Sustaining effort and persistence
  • Self-regulation


Getting Started With UDL


Universal Instructional Design (UID)

Universal Instructional Design is a process that involves considering the potential needs of all learners when designing and delivering instruction.

UID means identifying and eliminating unnecessary barriers to teaching and learning while maintaining academic rigor.

UID is about truly universal thinking – it goes beyond mere accessibility to reflecting on how to maximize learning for students of all backgrounds and learner preferences while minimizing the need for special accommodations.

Seven Universal Instructional Design Principles

  1. Accessible – be accessible and fair
  2. Flexible – provide flexibility in use, participation, and presentation
  3. Consistent – be straightforward and consistent
  4. Explicit – be explicitly presented and readily perceived
  5. Supportive – provide a supportive learning environment
  6. Minimize Effort – minimize unnecessary physical effort or requirements
  7. Learning Space – ensure a learning space that accommodates both students and instructional methods

Source: University of Guelph

UDL for Online Development and Teaching

Implementing UDL principles when designing and developing for online material is important to help meet the diverse learning needs of students.

Achieving UDL for online learning environments often begins with the UDL principle Multiple Means of Representation, however, actively seeking to incorporate all three UDL principles is important as well.

Learn more about UDL and Online Learning:
Accessibility to E-Learning for Persons With Disabilities: Strategies, Guidelines, and Standards. (An eCampus Alberta and NorQuest College resource)

Learn More



Burghstaler, S. (2012). Universal design in postsecondary education: Process, principles, and applications. Retrieved Feb 4, 2013 from http://www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Academics/ud_post.html

CAST. (2014). Transforming education through universal design for learning. Retrieved Feb 4, 2015 from http://www.cast.org

eCampusAlberta and NorQuest College, (2008). Accessibility to e-Learning for persons with disabilities: Strategies, guidelines, and standards. Retrieved February 21, 2015 from https://www.norquest.ca/NorquestCollege/media/pdf/centres/learning/Accessibility-to-E-Learning-for-Persons-With-Disabilities-Strategies,-Guidelines-and-Standards.pdf

Roberts, K., Park, H., Brown, S. & Cook, B. (2011). Universal design for Instruction in postsecondary education systematic review of empirically based articles. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 24(1), p.5-15.

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Updated September 20, 2019

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