Eastern Michigan University

Universal Instructional Design/Universal Design for Learning


Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework that guides the development of flexible learning environments that can accommodate individual learning differences. Recognizing that the way individuals learn can be as unique as their DNA. The UDL framework, first defined by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) in the 1990s, calls for creating curriculum from the outset that provides:

  • Multiple means of presentation to give learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge
  • Multiple means of expression to provide learners alternatives for demonstrating what they know, and
  • Multiple means of engagement to tap into learners' interests, challenge them appropriately, and motivate them to learn

Curriculum, as defined in the UDL literature, has four parts: instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments. UDL is intended to increase access to learning by reducing physical, cognitive, intellectual, and organizational barriers to learning, as well as other obstacles. These principles also lend themselves to implementing inclusionary practices in the classroom.


Who Benefits:
  • Students who speak English as a second language
  • International students
  • Older students
  • Students with disabilities
  • A teacher whose teaching style is inconsistent with the student's preferred learning style
  • All students
  • Identify the essential course content
  • Clearly express the essential content and any feedback given to the student
  • Integrate natural supports for learning (i.e., using resources already found in the environment such as study buddy)
  • Use a variety of instructional methods when presenting material
  • Allow for multiple methods of demonstrating understanding of essential course content
  • Use technology to increase accessibility
  • Invite students to meet/contact the course instructor with any questions/concerns


Compiled from North Carolina State University's Principles of Universal Design and Chickering and Gamson's Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. By Curriculum Transformation and Disability, University of Minnesota, Funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Project #P333A990015.
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