Universal Design for Learning

Typically, providing equal access in class means providing individual accommodations to every student with a disability. Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which originated from the architectural concept referring to designing environments to be usable by all people to the greatest extent possible without the need for adaptations or specialized design, allows instructors to design courses with every student in mind. Implementing UDL makes your class accessible to all students, including those with disabilities as well as other students who experience other challenges in courses (For example, students who get the flu, sustain an injury, report terrible test anxiety, speak English as a second language, 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.

Through the NUDL project, AccessibleNU works with Northwestern instructors to help redesign their courses using UDL principles to make these course more accessible to all students.