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Universal Design for Learning (UDL) at Mac

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a research-based framework for creating accessible learning environments. UDL builds flexibility into the educational context with the understanding that barriers to learning and engagement are structural and not based within individuals. At Macalester,  our goal is to use UDL principles and practices to create inclusive learning experiences for all members of our community.

Macalester has a working group of staff, faculty, and students who are committed to advancing the goals of Universal Design.  Information from a wide variety of national research-based best-practices guide our work.

Universal Design does not completely eliminate the need for accommodations, as some students may have specific access needs that can’t be addressed globally.  

How do I design a course with UDL in mind?

  • Consider your learning outcomes:
    • What are the outcomes you want every student to have?
    • What outcomes are flexible and can be provided in a variety of ways?
    • What outcomes are non-negotiables or limited in how they are demonstrated?
  • Books and course documents:
  • Do you have films/videos (in class or Youtube/online)?
    • Check to see they are captioned correctly
    • If they are not or you need assistance, contact Disability Resources for support for captioning.
  • For online courses, consider Zoom auto-captioning for all students (Disability Resources will work with you on students where auto-captioning would not be appropriate).
  • Determine various ways of “input”: discussion, chat, hands-on, projects, small quizzes, experiential.   Need ideas?

In Class

  • Make sure you have a syllabus statement about accommodations and name a commitment to working with students with disabilities as part of course access.
  • Allow for electronic devices in your course for all; faculty can set parameters on recordings in keeping with Macalester’s policies.
  • Consider a wide variety of experiences for learning: flipped classes, chats for discussion, pair-share discussion, credit for experiential work.
  • Asynchronous options for learning:
    • Record lectures and share on platforms (voicethread).
    • Supplemental video/resources
  • Consider the flexibility of attendance and alternative ways of “seat learning”.  How is attendance essential to learning in your course?
  • Consider deadline extensions including what is reasonable for extensions and where do limits exists?
  • Consider note-taking:
  • Provide syllabus/course materials/deadlines for papers and exams ahead of time as much as possible.


  • Provide grade feedback often: Moodle, email updates.
  • Check-in at midterms and provide midterm grades
  • Consider many options to evaluate knowledge and offer choices.
  • Consider testing/accommodations:
    • Can you find spaces for distraction reduced exams that are close to class?
    • Work with Disability Resources staff on accommodations early in the semester.
    • Additional time in class for all students?
    • Are there alternatives to timed exams?