This teaching guide serves as an introduction to the key concepts of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and provides examples and practical applications to begin applying in any learning environment. Revisit this page in the future as we are providing updates regularly!

What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

The UDL Guidelines

The UDL Guidelines developed by CAST, “are a tool used in the implementation of Universal Design for Learning, a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn.” The guidelines provide concrete strategies for implementing UDL in any learning environment. UDL’s three principles align with our three brain networks: recognition (what, representation), strategic (how, action & expression), and affective (why, engagement). An in-depth explanation of the UDL Guidelines graphic organizer is available on the CAST website, and at the video below. 


Impact of UDL

This video shows why educators from across the globe are implementing UDL in their learning environments. 

UDL also challenges the myth that when we design for the “average” learner then we are designing for most learners in the learning environment. High school dropout turned Harvard faculty, Todd Rose, talks about how a simple new way of thinking helps nurture individual potential in the following TEDx presentation. 

Essential Principles of UDL

Applying the curb-cut effect

Rather than design for average, UDL employs what is known as the curb-cut effect, which relates to its origins in architectural universal design. Much like a curb-cut in a physical sidewalk, the Curb-Cut Effect describes how addressing the needs of learners with disabilities and other marginalized identities creates an environment that benefits all learners by enabling everyone to participate and contribute fully. 

Baking in Accessibility

Another benefit of UDL is that the guidelines support instructors in proactively integrating accessibility into all aspects of the learning environment. Accessibility is incorporated into UDL practices to serve all learners and reduce the need for individual accommodations. Accessibility is Delicious: Food Analogies for Digital Inclusion uses stories about food to show how technology can be made accessible for learners with disabilities.

Essential for Some, Beneficial for All

Aside from the fact that accessibility practices are necessary for compliance with our university policies and federal/state regulations, using these practices provides support that is essential to learning for students with disabilities. When UDL is used to address accessibility, the added benefit is an improved learning experience for all students. Creating accessible content is a great way to get started with UDL. UNCG’s Accessibility Resources site has lots of how-to information on creating accessible content.

Creating Expert Learners

Unlike other approaches like differentiated instruction that require instructors to provide personalized learning experiences for each student, UDL promotes students’ agency and self-efficacy to understand how they learn best. CAST’s Top 5 Tips for Fostering Expert Learners is a great resource to begin empowering you to help your students become expert learners “where mastery of learning itself is the goal, not simply mastery of skills and content.” 

Getting Started with UDL

Getting started with UDL can be exciting, but also overwhelming. Keep in mind that you do not have to completely redesign your course to start practicing UDL! Implementing UDL should begin with a reflection on your own learning experience, your current teaching practices, and the variability (challenges and strengths) your students bring to the learning environment. Consider how you can apply the concept of +1 to make one small change to apply UDL in your teaching in the coming semester. For more information, visit UDL On Campus’ page on getting started with UDL. In addition, the UDL Checkpoints infographic provide excellent examples of teaching strategies that follow each of the UDL guidelines. 

Learn More about UDL

Check out the resources below to discover more about applying UDL in your teaching: 

UNCG Examples

Are you using UDL in your teaching and learning environment? Let us know and you could be featured on our website! Email with information on how you use UDL to promote inclusive and accessible learning spaces for all students at UNCG.

Share This