Universal Design for Learning

Northwestern University is required to provide equal access to all students. To provide equal access to students with disabilities, this has typically meant providing accommodations in courses. However, implementing Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in your class makes your class accessible, often without the addition of accommodations, to students with disabilities as well as other students who often experience challenges in courses. (For example, you may frequently feel compelled to make special arrangements for students who get the flu, sustain an injury, report terrible test anxiety, or have a weaker academic background.)

One basic UDL implementation involves creating a flexible course rubric. In other words, you would build into your course numerous options of students demonstrating their knowledge (e.g., participation, homework, paper, project, presentation, quizzes, take-home exam) and let the student have input on which items constitute their grade and how heavily. Flexibility can also be built into the grading options (such as allowing the participation grade to consist of posting on a course blog, emailing you points for discussion, and/or speaking in class).

Please see our general UDL strategies and the many resources available on Universal Design for Instruction through DO-IT for more information. Professors who have instituted UDL in their courses have noticed a significant reduction in the accommodations and other special arrangements that need to be made and are positively rated by their students as being approachable and responsive. If you would like to learn more or are considering implementing UDL in your course syllabus, please contact the Director of AccessibleNU for consultation.