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UDL On Campus · Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education

Blended Courses


What is this resource about? This resource explains how combining face-to-face sessions, synchronous sessions, and asynchronous spaces can be designed using the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guidelines to be engaging and inclusive of the diverse learners. There is information about Planning a Blended Course , a Course Example and Assessment Planning.


Why is this important for higher education? There are many opportunities in higher education settings to leverage technology to create both face-to-face and online learning environments, but there are important pedagogical and accessibility considerations to make these setting successful.

UDL Connection

Affective network icon

Providing flexible times and means for communication can reduce stress and allows students to participate in ways that are best for them as learners.

Strategic network icon

Provide multiple means of action and expression: The ability to participate in person, in real time online and asynchronously gives students more flexibility in how they can express what they know and engage with their teacher and other students.

Recognition network icon

Provide multiple means of representation: Moving content delivery into a digital format allows for multi-modal representations of content and use of assistive technologies.

Planning a Blended Course

It is important to start by identifying potential barriers. Learners and professors may need more flexibility than exclusively face-to-face courses can give them. Both may need the flexibility of any time and any place learning that a blended course can offer—and a blended approach can offer more options for how to represent information, for learners to express what they know and can do, and for engaging many different types of learners.

Accessibility is another very important consideration when planning any course. Higher education institutions have a legal responsibility to provide accessible platforms and materials to ensure that all students are able to participate in and benefit from learning opportunities. Go to the Legal Obligations for Accessibility page for more information. Visit the Accessibility and OERs page to learn about accessible online education resources or the Web Conferencing, Video, Audio, Images and Text pages to find out more about making those media accessible.

Think about UDL within each setting



Are there digital options available for representation in the LMS platform?


Sharing videos, captioning, speech-to-text and text-to-speech in break-out rooms.

Action and Expression:

What types of opportunities do learners have to communicate?


Providing learners with options for working in small groups or in break-out rooms.


How can learners contribute resources of interest?


Keeping chat open for contributions, making time for mic and video sharing, setting aside time at the end of class for sharing resources.



Think about using multiple examples to activate prior knowledge.


Learners post experiences and goals; teacher-created scenarios.

Action and Expression:

Think about ways of supporting understanding of assignments and task directions.


Use narrated video to clarify steps involved in an assignment.


Think about reducing anxiety to promote engagement.


Communicating frequently with the whole class and individuals may help to reduce stress and to encourage self-reflection. Discussion boards can be overwhelming. Support students by providing summarizations, highlighting critical points and facilitating discussions.



When presenting a lecture, is information presented in multiple forms?


Give learners personal access to materials used such as PowerPoint slides; assign different learners to take notes each class meeting and offer the option to post them for all to see.

Action and Expression:

Are there alternative ways to contribute during discussions?


In addition to speaking during class discussions, permit learners to write journal reactions or share in smaller groups.


What opportunities are available for learners to be actively engaged?


Encourage sharing by providing a back channel where learners can make comments and pose questions to each other as an ongoing part of course communications.

Course Example

This section looks at the instructional planning of an Introduction to Special Education course, which includes reflections from a course instructor.

“When I was first asked to teach this course there was not an explicit use of UDL evident. My goal was to use the existing objectives and plan specifically to both teach the class within a UDL framework as well as offer explicit instruction on UDL” (Course Instructor).

In order to accomplish these goals, this instructor can take each course objective and plan to incorporate methods and materials in keeping with the UDL guidelines (representation, action and expression, engagement) as well as incorporating options for each setting: asynchronous, synchronous, and face-to-face.



Accessible PowerPoint slides

Lecture to whole class

Learner presentations

Video sharing by the instructor as well as by learners

Action and Expression

Class Notes: 2–3 learners per session are assigned to take class notes

Small group discussions

Individual presentations


Provide opportunities for small group discussions and large group sharing

Provide opportunities for the class to create assignments and rubrics for them



Accessible PowerPoint slides

Text-to-speech (TTS) tools for use with text

Class web site with accessibility features built in such as TTS, mouse-over or call-out boxes for content supports (word definitions, graphic organizers, images)

Action and Expression

Learners post class notes to the appropriate course web site within the LMS for synchronous and face-to-face sessions

Learners post their work to the course web site and have the option to share their assignments with each other as models


Provide opportunities for group reflection

Provide opportunities for learners to post resources for the class on the appropriate course web site within the LMS

Provide choices for self-assessment to increase comprehension



Accessible PowerPoint slides


Identify clear objectives and activities for each session

Provide time to clarify content or answer questions raised in both synchronous and asynchronous settings

Guest speakers

Provide a variety of examples for each assessment

Action and Expression

Class activities and game

Learners identify barriers in lessons and educational settings

Provide examples of teaching and learning strategies


Provide opportunities for whole-group discussion

Offer choices for participating in class activities

Design assignments to encourage use of multimedia

Provide opportunities for learners to bring guest speakers to class

Assessment Planning

“Planning for assessments was very important. I decided that assessment would come in two forms: participation and projects. It was important to give the learners as much choice around each form of action and expression, and engagement, as I could. I really wanted each person to express what he or she knew in the way that best suited his or her learning style” (Course Instructor).


Choices for participation should give every learner a variety of ways to interact with class materials and to create their own schema for understanding.

  • Class Notes: Each class session, 2–3 learners will be assigned to take notes and the option to post them on the class web site.
  • Resource Gathering: Learners are encouraged to bring resources to class. Learners are also encouraged to share resources during class by using digital media available (for example, smart phones, tablets, laptops).
  • Small group discussions: Small group or one-to-one discussions occur face-to-face, asynchronously, or in the synchronous environment.
  • Identification of barriers: Learners choose an educational setting about which to reflect, focusing on barriers for persons with disabilities (individual assignment). A rubric for this assignment is developed by the class based on the UDL Guidelines.

“As the class was guided to use the UDL Guidelines and [its] checkpoints, many forms of the assignment became available. For example, one learner used his cell phone to record himself identifying barriers in a playground and then reflecting on the barriers. He turned in the assignment by texting the video to the instructor's cell phone” (Course Instructor).


“In order for the learners to be able to dig in and really demonstrate their grasp of content I wanted to give choice and support around evaluations. The biggest choices included the topics for the projects, style of project between group presentation and web site creation, and number of learners working on each project” (Course Instructor).

Projects (choice for evaluation)

Group Presentation: Groups of 1–4 learners will present information on a specific disability. Include a one-page hand-out that should be helpful for classroom use for either a general education or a special education teacher. Presentation must include examples of multiple means of representation, multiple means of action and expression, and multiple means of engagement. Assessment must specifically include evaluation of examples, models, etc., of multiple means of representation, action and expression, and engagement.

Web Site Creation: Groups of 1–4 learners will create a web site dedicated to a specific disability covered in the class curriculum. Web sites must include instances of multiple means of representation, action and expression, and engagement. Each UDL principle needs to be specifically addressed within the creation and presentation of the web site. The presentation of the web site to the class may occur in either a synchronous or face-to-face meeting.


Grabinger, S. (2010). A framework for supporting postsecondary learners with psychiatric disabilities in online environments. Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 8(2), 101-110.

Meyer, A. & Rose, D. H. (2005). The future is in the margins: The role of technology and disability in educational reform. In D. H. Rose, A. Meyer & C. Hitchcock (Eds.), The universally designed classroom: Accessible curriculum and digital technologies (pp. 13-35). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Okita, S. Y. (2013). Educational Technology and Instructional Design in Synchronous Blended Learning Environments. Transcultural Blended Learning and Teaching in Postsecondary Education, 170–192.

Research on the Effectiveness of Online Learning: A Compilation of Research on Online Learning. September 2011, The Future of State Universities.

Rose, D. H., Harbour, W. S., Johnston, C. S., Daley, S. G., & Abarbanell, L. (2006). Universal design for learning in postsecondary education: Reflections on principles and their application. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 19(2), 17.


UDL is an educational approach based on the learning sciences with three primary principles—multiple means of representation of information, multiple means of student action and expression, and multiple means of student engagement.

learning management system

A learning management system is a software application or suite of applications or a web-based system that provides educational programs and their components such as classes, resources, assessment, tools, and communication, etc.; as well as organizational tools for administration, record-keeping, information sharing, database management, etc., with the intention to manage all parts of a learning process.


Text-to-speech or speech synthesis is the artificial production of human speech and is generally accomplished with special software and/or hardware.


Video is the recording, reproducing, or broadcasting of moving visual images.


Assessment is the process of gathering information about a learner’s performance using a variety of methods and materials in order to determine learners’ knowledge, skills, and motivation for the purpose of making informed educational decisions.


Multimedia refers to the combination of several media (e.g., text, graphics, audio clips, video) to represent content concepts.

multiple means of representation

Multiple means of representation refers to the what of learning. Because learners vary in how they perceive and understand information, it is crucial to provide different ways of presenting content.

multiple means of action and expression

Multiple means of action and expression refers to the how of learning. Because learners vary in how they express their knowledge, it is crucial to allow them to express what they know in different ways.

multiple means of engagement

Multiple means of engagement refers to the why of learning. Because learners vary in how they can become interested or motivated to learn, it is crucial to provide multiple ways to engage learners.