Universal design for learning or UDL is a pedagogical framework that advocates for flexible methods and materials for instruction that support all learners based on cognitive neuroscience.


UDL has three overall guidelines:

  • Provide multiple means of engagement to define the “WHY” of learning.
  • Provide multiple means of representation to define the “WHAT” of learning.
  • Provide multiple means of action and expression to define the “HOW” of learning.

To learn more about these guidelines, review the CAST (The Center for Applied Special Technology) UDL Guidelines.

How can UDL help learning and instruction?

By applying the basic guidelines of UDL, faculty members can meet the needs of various learners who have different physical, learning, attention, and communication abilities.

The guidelines for the UDL framework help faculty members address predictable variability in learning that is present in every classroom. Students do not have learning “styles,” but instead rely on many parts of the brain to work together to function within a given context.

Examples of UDL in instruction:

  • Using multiple delivery methods to motivate and engage learners.
  • Allowing students to turn in parts of a large project for feedback before the final project is due.
  • Using multiple ways to introduce the course syllabus to students such as screencast walk-throughs, instructor videos, welcome messages in text form, or infographics for all or parts of the syllabus.
  • Using examples that appeal to students with a variety of characteristics with respect to race, ethnicity, gender, age, and interest.
  • Allowing students to choose from multiple methods of assessment to demonstrate their knowledge.
  • Providing multiple methods for students to interact with the faculty member.

What is UDL’s connection to accessibility?

Accessibility and UDL are not the same thing, but they support each other and have the same goal: to enhance student success. Accessibility focuses on equal access to instruction, resources, and assessments. Universal design for learning is a pedagogical framework that focuses on learner diversity, giving them multiple ways to learn, engage, and demonstrate their understanding of the course content.

Students thrive in an accessible and inclusive environment. Making your content accessible is one way to diversify your content for all learners. For example, you add captions to a video for students who are deaf or hard of hearing, but this approach also helps students learn the information through reading the text on the screen. A hearing person sitting in a loud room could benefit from reading the captions.

Basic UDL chart

This UDL Chart from CAST (The Center for Applied Special Technology) does a great job of describing the three primary UDL components.

The CAST UDL chart can be overwhelming. Use the following resources to review the individual guidelines and explore ways to implement these approaches in your course.

Additional Resources