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Getting Started

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an evidence-based framework that allows educators to improve and optimize teaching and learning, by reducing barriers to instruction in any learning environment. The term “learning environment” includes, but is not limited to, physical and virtual classrooms, workshop spaces, asynchronous instruction, multimedia instruction, etc. The ultimate goal of UDL is for all learners to become “expert learners.” Expert learners are 1) purposeful and motivated, 2) resourceful and knowledgeable, and 3) strategic and goal-directed about their learning (CAST, 2018).

Although the word “universal” is used, UDL is not about finding one fixed solution to cater to all learners. In fact, UDL takes the complete opposite approach. A central priority of UDL is to employ a variety of strategies to build flexibility in every learning environment. Educators can address learner variability by recognizing the complex nuances among individual learners and prioritizing flexibility. UDL thinking is based on the premise that all learners should be able to access and participate in any type of learning experience with an equal opportunity to succeed. This is done offering multiple ways for learners to access instruction, engage in learning, and demonstrate what they know. 

The UDL framework offers a set of guidelines that can be applied to any discipline and learning environment. The framework has 3 broad governing principles, which are considered foundational to the goals of UDL in creating expert learners. These principles are outlined below in no specific hierarchy (meaning none outranks the others):

  • Multiple means of engagement
  • Multiple means of representation
  • Multiple means of action & expression


CAST (2018). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2. Retrieved from