Dr. Rebecca Cory: Rethinking your Course Using Universal Design

Dr. Rebecca Cory, Division of Doctoral Studies
Dr. Rebecca Cory, Division of Doctoral Studies

Think for a moment about the students who have taken your classes in the past. Who are they? How old are they? What background do they come from? What gender? What race? How many of them speak English as a first language? How many as a second, third, or fourth language? How many of your students have physical or learning disabilities? What about having a new baby or aging parent at home?

Universal Design is a concept that helps us think through these questions (among others) about our current and future students and design accessible classes and curriculum for all of them. The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) has developed three principles for Universal Design of Learning:

These principles emphasize the importance of providing multiple pathways for students to access courses. Universal Design is a process that involves us imagining the diversity of our students and designing our courses to help all of them feel included. Then, if we meet a student who does not fit in our classes, we broaden our imagination to bring them in.

Here are some of my favorite ideas from my years of teaching Universal Design to faculty and staff:

These ideas benefit all students—those with disabilities, those who have limited English proficiency, those who are tired because of a new baby at home, those who need to miss part of a class, or even those whom the content is especially difficult to understand.

Universal Design is a process, not a product. If you look at your course, you will probably see that you are already providing multiple means of engagement, expression, and representation. Keep pushing yourself to include more and more ways.

To learn more about ways to use Universal Design in a class, look at the National Center for Universal Design in Learning or check out my book, Universal Design of Higher Education: From Principles to Practice.

CAST (2012).What is UDL? Retrieved from http://www.cast.org/udl/index.html

Published August 30, 2013



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