Best practices in applying UDL principles to your online courses

UDL, which is based on brain science, interprets human variability in relation to the parts of the brain that control the “what” (recognition network), the “how” (strategic network) and the “why” (affective network) of learning.

Accordingly, UDL has 3 principles that underpin its approach. Click each title to learn more about them.

Apply to your course: Resources & Tools 

The table below outlines questions to ask to make your online courses more equitable and accessible.

UDL Elements


Resources/ Tools

Multiple Means of Engagement

How can I engage all students in my class

  • In what ways do I give students choice and autonomy?
  • How do I make learning relevant to students’ needs and wants?
  • In what ways is my classroom accepting and supportive of all students?
  • Survey students about their interests, strengths, and needs. Incorporate the findings into lessons.
  • Use choice menus for working toward goals.
  • State learning goals clearly and in a way that feels relevant to students.
  • • Share some things you (the instructor) have learned from students and how you incorporate that in your teaching
  • Qualtrics
  • Google Form
  • Canvas Survey
Multiple Means of Representation

How can I present information in ways that reach all learners?

  • Have I considered options for how printed texts, pictures, and charts are displayed?
  • What options do I provide for students who need support engaging with texts and/or with auditory learning?
  • Make it easy for students to adjust font sizes and background colors through technology.
  • Provide options for engaging with texts, such as text-to-speech, audiobooks, or partner reading.
  • Accessibility Checkers
  • Canvas External Links
  • Canvas Rich Content Editor
  • Zoom, Echo360, Canvas Studio
Multiple Means of Action and Expression

How can I offer purposeful options for students to show what they know?

  • When can I provide flexibility with timing and pacing?
  • Have I considered methods aside from written tasks for students to show what they know?
  • Am I providing students access to assistive technology (AT)?
  • Provide calendars and checklists to help students track tasks for meeting a learning goal.
  • Provide access to common AT, such as speech-to-text and text-to-speech.
  • Allow students to show what they know through a variety of formats, such as a poster presentation or a graphic organizer


CAST. (2020, September 25). About Universal Design for Learning.

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

CAST (n.d.). UDL Syllabus. 

The Center for Universal Design in Education, University of Washington. (2019, April 30). What is the difference between accessible, usable, and universal design?

Perez, L. & Johnston, S. (2020, July 30). Bringing Equity and Inclusion to Remote Learning with UDL [Webinar]. ThreePlay Media: Boston, MA.

Posey, A. (2020, August 13). Universal Design for Learning (UDL): A Teacher's Guide.

UA Little Rock Disability Resource Center. (2020). Ten Steps Toward Universal Design of Online Courses.     

The IDEAS team has several resources you can access to learn more about creating accessible for your course.

How to cite this page:

UMass Amherst IDEAS Team. (2024, March). Universal Design for Learning (UDL).