Universal Design for Learning


Techniques and Activities to explore  

Provide Multiple Means of Engagement

Think about ways that you can encourage student choice with how they engage with their learning, set goals for themselves, and self-assess. This principle provides the “why’s” of their learning? Do you provide space for students to explore the contexts they bring to the classroom? Do you provide students with authentic, culturally and socially relevant work? Relevancy creates its own intrinsic value for students and helps students to become vested in their learning. Students become invested in the learning process because they are motivated and understand why they are learning the content provided.

Provide Multiple Means of Action & Expression

This principle address the strategic parts of the brain, the “how of learning. Consider the ways that students demonstrate their learning in your class. Do you assess only one type of skill set, leaving students without those skills at a disadvantage? For example: assigning only essays leaves students who struggle to express themselves with text at a disadvantage. This is not to say that you can’t assign essays, but UDL encourages instructors to support students as they build new fluencies by providing scaffolds, practice, and development. Think about ways that you can provide students with multiple means of demonstrating their learning such as writing a paper, preparing narrated slides, creating a domain, or even doing a podcast. Keep the learning objectives and assessment rubric similar but the demonstration of the knowledge varied. Consider utilizing formative assessment that recognizes student progress, not just mastery.  Start small, don’t expect to do this for your whole course. Maybe even choose different demonstration options for different assessments.

Provide Multiple Means of Representation

Examine your own preferences for receiving information and strengths in your area of study and how this might be affecting the design of your assignments. For example, if you prefer to read information, do you only post articles, book excerpts, etc. in your class? Do you consider students who perceive and comprehend information in a different way? This principle of UDL addresses the recognition parts of the brain to provide the “what” of learning. There is no single means of representation that will be optimal for all. Providing options is essential. Think about ways to provide information through a variety of means: visual and auditory.  Some examples may be video representation, text, slides, audio recordings, and graphics.

Online Accessibility Check-List

  • Use consistent layouts, headings, subtitles, and lists to give students clear visual cues and a sense of organization
  • Break up large chunks of text with images, videos, or icons
  • Caption videos and make sure that transcripts are available for audio content
  • Provide descriptive text for photos
  • Use descriptive wording for hypertext (example: “Universal Design for Learning” instead of click here!)
  • Before you adopt a new tool, consider accessibility concerns – for example: does the tool allow the use of screen readers?
This is just a start. For a more comprehensive accessibility check-list, see “Digital Accessibility Checklist for Courses

Applying UDL Instructional Methods

  1. Determine the observable, actionable learning objective(s) that will guide your assignment. Consider ways to involve students in the creation of their learning objectives. 
  2. Throughout the learning process, encourage students to consider “real-world” applications of the knowledge or skills they are building. Provide students with opportunities to discuss their field/discipline and how it informs their learning and the class.  
  3. Design assessment that measures the learning objective(s). Think formative and summative, with self-reflection and revision opportunities to help students see their progress. Consider providing students with a menu of ways to demonstrate their learning so they can choose a product that plays to their strengths.
  4. Present content in multiple modalities (combinations of text, video, audio, images, graphs, etc.). Provide background knowledge and define acronyms, vocabulary, and jargon. Provide scaffolding and opportunities to practice skills and receive feedback before assessment


Online reading and resources to help dive deeper

This page was adapted from the Open CoLab at Plymouth State University by St. Norbert College.
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