What is UDL?

The universal design for learning (UDL) framework provides an approach to designing environments that support learning variability. UDL practices help ensure all learners can meet learning goals by removing barriers to learning, and building flexibility into the curriculum. It provides a blueprint for designing strategies, materials, and assessments, to reach and teach all students, including those with diverse needs. Most practices are tweaks to course design that make learning more accessible for all students.

Why is UDL important?

Implementation of UDL principles creates an environment that supports all learners by removing barriers to learning before the learner encounters the barrier. UDL practices promote purposeful, proactive, and reflective design that improve student learning across all levels. As the JHU learning community grows, the potential for learning variability grows as well. JHU course design should grow with the learning community to continue JHU’s leadership in dynamic, meaningful learning. UDL can help JHU meet that demand.

UDL is guided by three basic principles:

  1. Provide multiple means of engagement
  2. Provide multiple means of representation
  3. Provide multiple means of action and expression

The team at the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) provide an excellent, visual guide to these UDL principles. This guide simply and visually breaks down each of these principles into simple, actionable, task-oriented guidelines. They even provide specific guidelines for applying UDL principles to creating assessments.

Infographic from CAST showing the three principles of UDL and what areas of the brain are targeted
CAST (2018). Universal design for learning guidelines version 2.2 [graphic organizer]. Wakefield, MA: Author.

UDL & Accessibility

While accessibility is somewhat intertwined with the UDL framework by nature, the UDL framework is focused on creating learning experiences that allow all learners to succeed through universally designed materials that provide variety, choice, options, and supports where applicable. Accessibility, on the other hand, is focused on specific standards and (oftentimes) individual accommodations to ensure equitable learning experiences. See also: Areas of Focus