Universal Design for Instruction (UDI)

Universal design for instruction (UDI) is an educational framework that applies Universal Design (UD) principles to all aspects of instruction: delivery methods, physical spaces, information resources, technology, personal interactions and assessments. The goal of UDI is to maximize the learning of students with a wide range of characteristics by identifying and eliminating unnecessary barriers to teaching and learning while maintaining academic rigor. [1]

In the traditional model for instruction, the focus tends to be on the ‘middle of the class’, teaching to the class mean, with 'outliers’ treated as anomalies.

Individualized instruction focuses on teaching that is adapted towards individual learning needs; however, this is not always possible or practical in a college classtoom with an hour for instruction.

However, Universal Design for Instruction:

  • Provides equal access to learning, not simply equal access to information
  • Is an approach to designing course instruction, materials, and content to benefit people of all learning styles with up-front planning so there is no need for adapting or retrofitting.
  • Does not remove academic challenges; it removes barriers to access.

UDI accommodations in the classroom benefit all students including but not limited to:

  • Students with disabilities
  • Students who use English as a Second Language
  • International students
  • Older students
  • Students whose learning style is inconsistent with the teacher’s preferred learning style
  • The students in the ‘middle’
  • The teacher himself/herself

Rather than providing accommodations for a specific student, one with disabilities for example, UDI benefits all students. UDI is not a dumbing-down of the curriculum but a better means of access. Simply put, it’s just good teaching.

[1] Burgstahler, Sheryl. (2015) Universal Design in Higher Education: From Principles to Practice. Harvard University Press, 2nd edition.