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 Services for support for captioning.
  • Determine various ways of “input”: visual, auditory, hands-on, experiential, etc. as opposed to
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 in keeping with Macalester’s recording policies.
  • Consider a wide variety of experiences for learning: flipped classes, small discussion, online, external experiences, etc.
  • 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. Can you institute group notetaking/shared documents or collaborations for notes? Use Google Docs for Crowd-Sourced Notetaking (George Williams, Chronicle of Higher Ed)
  • Provide 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 choice.
  • Consider testing/accommodations:
Can you find spaces for distraction reduced exams that are close to class?
Work with MAX Center staff on accommodations early in the semester?
Additional time in class for all students?
Are there alternatives to timed exams?

Helpful Information!