Universal design for learning

Viveca Olofsson

8:30 – 12:00 (half-day morning workshop)

Preparatory reading (see below)

This practice-oriented workshop has several aims. One aim is to close the gap between the demand for broad recruitment and the need for broad participation in higher education. A second aim of the workshop is to enhance knowledge about our students, and factors (developmental and mental health) that affect their ability to learn. Another important goal is the exchange of experiences and/or ideas across national contexts.

Universities worldwide are facing increasingly diverse student groups with differing educational needs and goals. This workshop requires that participants undertake some preparatory reading to get acquainted with the concept of universal design for learning. Participants can chose between reading the introduction and chapters 1, 3, and 7 in the book Transforming higher education through universal design for learning: An international perspective or the articles on universal design for learning listed in the bibliography below. In addition, all participants are asked to prepare by familiarizing themselves with the UDL guidelines posted at the Centre for Applied Special Technology (CAST) website.

In the first part of the 3.5-hour workshop, we will give short presentations of some basic developmental factors, stress and other health factors, within the normal range, that influence our students and their learning. Knowledge of these factors can support educational developers’ arguments for pedagogical development towards broadened participation and accessible education. Together we discuss possible implications for our work as pedagogical developers and exchange experiences and ideas.

In the second part of the workshop, we give a short introduction to the concept of universal design in education and universal design for learning, and together we discuss its potential for supporting higher education that is relevant, broad, equal and accessible. Universal design for learning is currently being introduced internationally as a means of facing the varied student groups characteristic of higher education today. Depending on the degree of the participating educational developers’ experience with universal design for learning, we will then discuss and exchange knowledge, experiences and practical ideas on how to enhance accessible and sustainable education within higher education before working, concretely and practically, with the participants’ own projects; for instance, course specifications, modules or “how to change attitudes and motivate pedagogical change”.


Preparatory reading:

Bracken, S. & Novak, K. (2019). Transforming higher education through universal design for learning. An international perspective. (ed.) Routledge. NY.

The introduction and chapters 1, 3, and 7 (app. 60 pages incl. references)


Al-Azawei, A. Serenelli, F. & Lundqvist, K. (2016). Universal design for learning (UDL): A content analysis of peer-reviewed journal papers from 2012–2015.  Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 16, 39–56. doi: 10.14434/josotl.v16i3.19295

Pearson, M (2015). Modeling universal design for learning techniques to support multicultural education for pre-service secondary educators. Multicultural Education, 22, 27–34. Retrievable at: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1078698.pdf

Roberts, K., Park, HJ.,  Brown, S. & Cook, B (2011).  Universal Design for Instruction in Postsecondary Education: A Systematic Review of Empirically Based Articles. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 24, 5–15. Retrievable at: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ941728.pdf

Vreeburg Izzo, M. Murray, A. & Novak, J. (2008). The faculty perspective on universal design for learning. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 21, 60–72. Retrievable at: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ822094.pdf




The Centre for Applied Special Technology (CAST) – UDL guidelines: http://udlguidelines.cast.org/?utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=none&utm_source=cast-about-udl