Universal Design

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a way of thinking about teaching and learning that helps give all students an equal opportunity to succeed. This approach offers flexibility in how students access material, engage with it, and show what they know. Developing UDL lesson plans helps all students but is especially helpful for students with learning and attention issues.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

The principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) provide a framework for addressing diverse accessibility needs while simultaneously enhancing courses for all learners. The principles of UDL apply to all learning environments, not just online.

Using Universal Design Practices in Course Design

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles that provides teachers with a structure to develop instruction to meet the diverse needs of all learners. A research-based framework, UDL suggests that each student learns in a unique manner so a one-size-fits-all approach is not effective. By creating options for how instruction is presented, how students express their ideas, and how teachers can engage students in their learning, the instruction can be customized and adjusted to meet individual student needs.

If I don't have a student needing special accommodations, why employ Universal Design?

Most accommodations benefit all audiences and enhance content usability.

Do I need to re-create all my teaching materials to be accessible?

If you do not currently have a student that needs accommodation and you have not been notified of a student needing accommodation in the upcoming term, you can continue to use current materials and methods.

However, it is to your advantage to make all new materials accessible and remediate legacy materials over time. It can lower your risk of being unprepared for needed accommodations at a future date. Additionally, Canvas now has UDoIT available in all courses. This program will scan your material and let you know whether or not it is accessible.

Quality Matters is a non-profit organization that was initiated by MarylandOnline, a consortium of community colleges and post-secondary institutions. In 2014, it became a separate organization dedicated to quality assurance in online education, with more than 1,000 institutional subscribers from 48 US states and across seven countries. The organization has also provided professional development for more than 45,000 faculty and staff, and has certified more than 5,000 online courses.

Quality Matters

Creating accessible course content

  • Incorporates Universal Design
  • Provide Equal Access to all Students
  • It's the Right Thing to Do
  • It's Policy

One answer that can be given that is standard across most higher education institutes is the Quality Matters Standard of accessibility.

Quality Matters Standard 8 addresses the accessibility elements of an online/hybrid course. Standard 8 includes the following subsections:

  • Courses must incorporate ADA standards and reflect conformance with institutional policy regarding accessibility in online and hybrid courses.
  • Course pages and materials must provide equivalent alternatives to auditory and visual content.
  • Course menus and pages must have links that are self-describing and meaningful.
  • Courses must ensure screen readability.

Review Quality Matters Accessibility Elements - Standard 8 for more details and specific actions to take.

Through the application of principles of UDL and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, you should be able to design content and activities that meet accessibility guidelines and enhance learning for all students.

In the recommended resources provided below, you'll find more details on UDL, an accessibility assessment based on QM Standard 8, and links to Miami University resources on accessibility. Included is an Online Accessibility Handbook with lots of quick tips on how to make your course materials more accessible.

Points to remember: