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UDL On Campus

Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education – a guide


Provide options in assessing learners’ knowledge.

Selecting Media & Technology

Use digital media to create flexible learning environments.

Improving Institutional Policies and Practices

Ensure learning opportunities are inclusive of all.

Planning Your Course

Plan and design curriculum with variability in mind.

Teaching Approaches

Utilize innovative instructional practices.

The Average Learner Myth

Typically, a “mythical average learner” is used as the basis for creating a “one size fits all” curriculum. Often attempts to address learner variability take a remediation approach that emphasizes how individuals who least resemble the “mythical average” can overcome the ways in which they are different.

Universal Design for Learning In Higher Education

The most consistent finding to emerge from the interdisciplinary study of learning is that when it comes to learning, natural variability is the rule, not the exception. What is perhaps most important to understand about learner variability is not that it exists, but that not all of it is random. Because some variability is systematic, you can design for it in advance. This approach is called Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL is an educational framework that guides the design of learning goals, materials, methods, and assessments as well as the policies surrounding these curricular elements with a diversity of learners in mind.

The resources on this site focus on how UDL can be used to address learner variability in postsecondary education settings in order to help ensure that all students receive a high-quality learning experience and are able to succeed. For background information about the UDL framework, visit the National Center on Universal Design for Learning.

UDL works by using three main principles


Students differ naturally in the ways that they process information (i.e., access, comprehension, retention). High-quality learning environments include multiple representations of concepts that are flexible both in terms of their modality and examples (e.g., graphical vs. algebraic representation of gravity).

Action and Expression

Students differ naturally in the ways that they can effectively demonstrate knowledge about concepts or processes. High-quality learning environments necessarily include multiple ways for acting upon material, for developing meta-skills, and for demonstrating knowledge and understanding.


Students differ naturally in the ways that they engage with content and concepts and the level (and type) of challenge that they need for optimal learning. High-quality learning environments necessarily include multiple avenues that effectively capture interest as well as sustain deep, meaningful interactions with core material.

Definition of UDL in the Higher Education Opportunity Act

According to the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008—

The term UNIVERSAL DESIGN FOR LEARNING means a scientifically valid framework for guiding educational practice that—

(A) provides flexibility in the ways information is presented, in the ways students respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills, and in the ways students are engaged; and
(B) reduces barriers in instruction, provides appropriate accommodations, supports, and challenges, and maintains high achievement expectations for all students, including students with disabilities and students who are limited English proficient (20 U.S.C. § 1003(24)).