Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is “A framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn.”[i]  UDL is based on the concept of Universal Design, or UD, which originated through the work of architect Ronald Mace. UD, and, by extension, UDL, suggests that we should include the assumption of diversity from the planning stage, and strive to be inclusive to as many different users as possible. It rejects the notion of a mythical “normal” or average user, and instead plans access for a diverse range of participants.

There are three principles of UDL

  • Multiple means of engagement (This is the WHY of learning)
  • Multiple means of representation (This is the WHAT of learning)
  • Multiple means of action and expression (This is the HOW of learning)


Attend a UDL Workshop                       Starting Your UDL Journey                         Engagement

Attend-a-UDL-Workshop.jpg                        Starting-Your-UDL-Journey.jpg                               Multiple-Means-of-Engagement.jpg 

Representation                                      Action & Expression                                    More Resources

Multiple-Means-of-Representation.jpg                        Multiple-Means-of-Action--Expression.jpg                               More-Resources.jpg


Attend a UDL workshop

For Students:

What the Heck is UDL?

Wednesday, January 20th, 3-4pm

Have you ever wondered what Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is? Have you had an instructor tell you that they are using UDL? Join us to learn how UDL can create a more inclusive learning environment for everyone, and what your role as a student is in UDL classrooms.

Join with Google Meet: meet.google.com/gcm-xpho-tws

Google Registration form: https://forms.gle/tz87pnivDhECnFPN9


For Faculty:

Diving Deeper into UDL Series (in partnership with the Academic Development Centre)

Facilitators: Janalee Morris (Accessibility Services) and Andrea Phillipson (ADC)

Perfectly Pitched UDL (February 9):  Although Universal Design for Learning principles are designed to be universally applied, different contexts certainly call for different approaches. In this session, we’ll discuss pitching UDL for the level of the course and stage of student development. Register.


Boosting UDL without the Burnout (March 9) Universal Design for Learning can seem overwhelming when you are trying to choose some principles to apply to your courses. In this session, we will discuss the parts of UDL that are easy to implement, and the parts that require a more extensive exploration of your course objectives in order to offer a deeper UDL experience to your students. Register.


UDL for All Sorts of Assessment (March 30) For many instructors attempting to implement UDL practices into their teaching, assessment is the biggest challenge. We’ll explore questions such as: How can we offer multiple means of assessment while maintaining integrity of the assignments? How do we design grading rubrics to accommodate different assignment types? Register.



Starting your UDL Journey

Universal Design for Learning offers an array of opportunities for both instructors and learners, but you may be wondering where to begin! For many, the first step is to consider the learning objectives for your course. What is it that you really expect your students to know? What skills do they have to demonstrate? Once you have determined the core educational requirements for your subject, you can be creative in the way you deliver that information, encourage students to work with the content, and evaluate student learning.

The most important part of incorporating UDL into your teaching is in the planning stages. It might be helpful to include UDL principles into your course syllabus, introduction of your course, description of your learning objectives, and access to course materials. The following resources may be helpful:


UDL Guidelines

Key Questions to Consider When Planning Lessons

Syllabus Example 1

Syllabus Example 2

Syllabus Example 3

UDL Syllabus Rubric

Visual Learning Objectives

Visual Learning Objectives - Expanded


Multiple Means of Engagement

Multiple means of engagement refers to the “why” of learning. It focuses on the reasons students choose to take a course, what piques their interest, and how they stay motivated over time. There are three concepts related to engagement in UDL:

  • Provide options for Recruiting Interest: Optimize individual choice and autonomy; Optimize relevance, value, and authenticity; Minimize threats and distractions.


  • Provide options for Sustaining Effort and Persistence: Heighten salience of goals and objectives; Vary demands and resources to optimize challenge; Foster collaboration and community; Increase mastery-oriented feedback.


  • Provide options for Self-Regulation: Promote expectations and beliefs that optimize motivation; Facilitate personal coping skills and strategies; Develop self-assessment and reflection


The following resources might be helpful:

Universal Design for Learning (Part 3): Engagement Strategies

UDL Engagement Tips Sheet

UDL Engagement Infographic


Multiple Means of Representation

Multiple means of representation refers to the “what” of learning. Here we are talking about the content of the course and the ways that that content is delivered to the student. These include your lecture, a slide deck, a text book or other readings, video or audio recordings, visual representations, models, or any number of other interesting and creative ways to demonstrate the important concepts of the material. There are three key considerations related to representation in UDL:

  • Provide options for Perception: Offer ways of customizing the display of information; Offer alternatives for auditory information; Offer alternatives for visual information


  • Provide options for Language & Symbols: Clarify vocabulary and symbols; Clarify syntax and structure; Support decoding of text, mathematical notation, and symbols; Promote understanding across languages; Illustrate through multiple media


  • Provide options for Comprehension: Activate or supply background knowledge; Highlight patterns, critical features, big ideas, and relationships; Guide information processing and visualization; Maximize transfer and generalization


The following resources might be helpful:

Universal Design for Learning (Part 4): Representation Strategies

UDL Representation Tips Sheet

UDL Representation Infographic


Multiple Means of Action and Expression

Multiple means of action and expression refer to the “how” of learning. This is where we consider how our students will interact with the content from the course. Forms of action and expression range from completing practice questions, participating in class discussions, group work, assignments and tests. The three key concepts of action and expression are:

  • Provide options for Physical Action: Vary the methods for response and navigation; Optimize access to tools and assistive technologies 


  • Provide options for Expression & Communication: Use multiple media for communication; Use multiple tools for construction and composition; Build fluencies with graduated levels of support for practice and performance


  • Provide options for Executive Functions: Guide appropriate goal-setting; Support planning and strategy development; Facilitate managing information and resources; Enhance capacity for monitoring progress


The following resources might be helpful:

Universal Design for Learning (Part 5): Action and Expression Strategies

UDL Action & Expression Tips Sheet

UDL Action & Expression Infographic


More Resources

Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education

La, Helen; Dyjur, Patti; & Bair, Haboun. May 2018. Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education. Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, University of Calgary

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)


Gordon, David T., Gravel, Jenna W., and Schifter, Laura A. (Eds), 2009. A Policy Reader in Universal Design for Learning. Harvard Education Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts 

[i]CAST (Centre for Applied Special Technology): https://www.cast.org/

Increasing Inclusivity and Social Justice in the Post-Secondary System through Universal Design - A graduate studies practicum project by MRU Alumna McKenzi Atkins (BA Psyc 2020)

The following materials were developed as part of a Social Justice practicum course. In keeping with Universal Design for Learning principles, the material is presented in a variety of formats:

(PDF)           (Word)          (PowerPoint slides)           (PowerPoint with narration)