Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for teaching and learning that includes proactive planning of curricula (goals, assessments, methods, and materials). Planning with UDL does not assume a one-size-fits-all approach; instead it takes into account the diversity of all learners. UDL is based on research from a variety of fields including education, psychology, and neuroscience, and is organized around three learning networks of the brain: recognition network, strategic network, and affective network. 

Invisible (Hidden) Disabilities

The majority of students who work with the Center for Accessibility Resources have invisible disabilities that impact their learning. Invisible or hidden disabilities are not apparent and are primarily neurological in nature. Examples include chronic pain, fatigue, brain injury, mental health issues, autism, ADD/ADHD, learning differences, and cognitive issues. Over 90% of college students have invisible disabilities and 1 to 2 students per term have a major depressive episode. 

Common barriers faced by students with invisible disabilities include difficulties with fine motor skills, memory/recall, problem solving, focus and comprehension, reading and writing, and planning and organizing. 

Learning Networks of our Brains

UDL allows for multiple means of delivery for how our brains learn. 

  • Recognition Network: The "what" of learning. 
  • Strategic Network: The "how" of learning. 
  • Affective Network: The "why" of learning. 

As an instructor, focus on: 

  • Representation: How we collect and organize information. 
    • Key Concept - give/present information in more than one way. 
  • Action and Expression: Planning, performing, organizing, and expressing ideas. 
    • Key Concept - demonstrate knowledge in more than one way. 
  • Engagement: How learners get engaged; tap into learners' interests.
    • Key Concept - challenge and motivate to learn.
  • Create an environment for diverse learners. The learning space should accommodate students as well as instructional methods and be supportive. Minimize unnecessary physical effort.  
  • Be flexible in delivery of information. Content should be explicitly presented and delivered in a straight-forward, consistent, and readily perceived fashion. Keep it simple and easy to navigate. 

Additional Resources:

National Center on Universal Design for Learning

CAST: About Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design Ideas - UNC

Universal Design in College Instruction - UO Teaching Engagement Program