UDL is founded on the understanding that there is no such thing as "an average learner." ALL learners are individuals with unique characteristics and combinations of strengths and weaknesses. UDL promotes the development of flexible learning materials, activities, and assessments that are effective for all learners. UDL also focuses on being proactive and designing a course for ALL students in advance, rather than taking a reactive approach and waiting until students are struggling. The focus again becomes ALL students and providing them with multiple ways to access content and participate in the course.
There are three fundamental principles, based on neuroscience, that serve as the framework for UDL:
View the Full UDL Guidelines Graphic Organizer (scroll down) to learn more.
Note that although they overlap, accessibility and universal design are not equivalent. Accessibility for learners with disabilities is an integral part of universal design. However, as the name implies, universal design concepts apply universally, with the goal of making education more effective for ALL learners.
The following are resources on the topic of universal design for online teaching:
The Three Principles of Universal Design - From the National Center for Universal Design in Education
How Can Universal Design Be Applied to Instruction - From the University of Washington Center for Universal Design in Education