Incorporating UDL Practices into Course Design

communicating using sign language
Published: Monday, March 7, 2022

Learn how you can incorporate Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles in your course.

As instructors and designers, we’re often deep in production trying to innovate with new ideas and content to create engaging courses for our students. Part of our job is to make sure that all learners who engage with the materials are able to get a rich and inclusive experience. One of the ways that we can ensure we meet that philosophy is through Universal Design for Learning.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework of principles that support diverse populations of learners that guides the design of courses. All learners should be able to deeply engage with course content. We want to offer practical, concrete, actionable solutions within Universal Design for learning that can be implemented into any course.

“Universal design focuses on eliminating barriers through initial designs that consider the needs of diverse people, rather than overcoming barriers later through individual adaptation” (Rose et al., 2006)

Start Small

To get started with UDL in your course design, look through this rubric and identify what you already are doing in your teaching. Then, choose 2-3 more options that would be helpful to students and are interesting to you for the next version of your course.

Affective Networks: The Why of Learning. Recognition Networks: the What of Learning. Strategic Networks: the How of Learning


*Note: In mobile and smaller screens, scroll horizontally <-->to view the contents of the table.

Multiple Means of Engagement Multiple Means of Representation Multiple Means of Action & Expression

How do I promote interest, persistence, and self-regulation for my students?

How do I represent my content in more than one way?

How do I create different ways for students to demonstrate their skills?

Keeping Students Engaged

Ways to Represent Info

Demonstrating Skills

Under 30 Minutes

  • Write a unit welcome email message
  • 1 mid-week encouragement e-mail
  • Expect that students can do the work
  • Allow students to reflect on progress
  • Show how activities are applied in the real world
  • Compose “way to go” messages

Under 30 minutes

  • Create alt-text description for images
  • Give background knowledge (activate schema)
  • Highlight patterns/relationships
  • Clarify vocabulary and symbols
  • How do I represent my content in more than one way?

Under 30 Minutes

  • 1 assignment in audio/video
  • Build skills step by step
  • Enhance 1 discussion board
  • Collect student work samples

Under One Hour

  • Help students set goals
  • Help students plan the work
  • Show monitoring techniques
  • Offer no-consequences practice
  • Share coping skills and strategies
  • How do I represent my content in more than one way?

Under One Hour

  • Provide transcript for video and audio
  • Select one item to outline
  • Guide information processing
  • Screencast a process
  • Turn PPT into video in Panopto
Under One Hour
  • Many tool options for work
  • Explore 1 “outside” free tool

Under Two Hours

  • Show content relevance to students
  • Tie course goals to student lives
  • Vary demands and resources of work
  • Create self-assessments throughout
  • Foster collaboration and communication
  • Increase mastery-oriented feedback

Under Two Hours

  • Break content into chunks
  • Get or make an e-text
  • Start with text first when creating content to keep the topic focused
  • Caption a video
  • How do I create different ways for students to demonstrate their skills?

Under Two Hours

  • Design multimodal assignment
  • Let students choose format
  • Design group assignments

Interested in Learning More?

UDL On Campus

Check our Events page for the workshop Inclusive Design for Everyone: Applying Standard 8 (IDE8)

Adapted from: Tobin, Thomas J. (2014). Increase Online Student Retention with Universal Design for Learning. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 15(3) 13-24, 48. Retrieved from

Authored By:

Janet Smith

Janet Smith
Assistant Director, Continuous Improvement

Tiffany McClelland

Instructional Designer 1, Continuous Improvement