Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Universal Design originated in architecturally designed buildings and products with its main feature being to allow persons with unique needs to independently and immediately use them ‘as is” (King-Sears, 2009, p.199).  It has seven guiding principles that some educators have used for direction in creating Universal Design for Learning to meet the needs of a diverse population. Dave Edyburn regards this comparison as flawed, as a distraction (Edyburn, 2010, p.36) and points out that the built environment is static whereas the learner is a complex fluid creature.

Edyburn has ten propositions for new directions in UDL.  I especially like the last one that states that UDL is much more complex than we originally thought.  He affirms that it is technologically driven and supported and that it is fundamentally about valuing diversity and its core function is about design.

I have created several lessons for use in an online context and I feel that what I have done would not be recognized as UDL.  It has been my practice in the classroom to try to pitch my learning activities to the ‘middle’ and to have auxiliary materials on hand for the students at either end of the academic spectrum.  When I designed my digital lessons, I did not consider the three brain networks of recognition (the “what”), Strategic (the “how”) and affective (the “why”).  Because I am teaching apprentices, my focus is more on the knowledge and skills.  I expect that the enthusiasm is already there as they care about their chosen field of practice.  What I would like to add to the work that I have already done is the immediate feedback part.  As students attempt a stair calculation, I would like to insert prompts and signals that will correct them if they take a wrong turn.  I would like to add ‘bells & whistles’ when they get it right and also give them opportunity to delve deeper into other solutions that are acceptable according to the Building Code.  I can see a hand-in-hand collaboration with a technical ‘guru’.  Fortunately for us at the college, we have such people.


Edyburn, D. (2010). Would You Recognize Universal Design for Learning if You Saw it? Ten Propositions for New Directions for the Second Decade of UDL. Learning Disability Quarterly, 33(1), 33-41.  Accessed on May 24, 2014 at http://ezproxy.tru.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ909894&site=ehost-live.


King-Sears, M. (2009). Universal Design for Learning: Technology and Pedagogy. Learning Disability Quarterly, 32(4), 199-201.  Accessed on May 24, 2014 at http://ezproxy.tru.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ867620&site=ehost-live.


2 Comments on UDL

  1. keith webster says:

    Hi Michael,

    I’m interested in your ideas for developing automated feedback for students undertaking some of the mathematical or procedural tasks in lessons. I think you would find that Moodle will allow this within their quiz tool. There are also lots of opportunities to create this sort of interaction using JavaScript with or without some of the newer HTML5 web standards to create fairly rich environments without descending into a morass of Flash objects (which are harder to update and won’t work on iOS devices).

    The latter would require some technical assistance but I think you’d find the freedom to create what you need rewarding. This sort of work figured into my first entry into online distance learning when I was in the CF and I wanted to create an environment that would produce automated feedback for lessons in military writing.


  2. paquino says:

    While I like the idea of “bells and whistles”, when I think of working with an online environment I feel conflicted. As an instructor, what is my primary purpose? I want the course to be intuitive for students and provide for learning differences, but I could spend all my time programming for this. And shouldn’t I be focusing on the actual content and developing lessons that guide students into learning? It’s one of my concerns even in the traditional classroom, where more & more it seems to be expected that you incorporate media, & use tech tools, & have a website, & the list goes on. I enjoy the tech side of it, but it takes a huge amount of time (I don’t have a life…). It would seem to me that as an instructor, perhaps I would want some basic knowledge to be able to do some simple fixes, but I’m not sure I can be an expert programmer as well as an expert instructor?

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