Universal Design for Learning


Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Description of the Framework
UDL is a new learning design framework that seeks t moeet the challenge of teaching to a diverse group of users and meeting high standards of learning. UDL is where integrated units, multi-sensory and multi-intelligences, use of computers and performance-based assessment intersect.


Why use the framework

UDL was developed by the Center for Applied Special Technologies (CAST) in response to results stemming from the "no child left behind" policies in education. These policies resulted in an expectation of meeting a high level of standards with a diverse group of users finding themselves together in the same classroom.

  • English as a second language
  • Limited vision, motor disabilities, emotional difficulties
  • Learning disabilities but who have extraordinary ability when using alternative forms of leaning
  • Gifted learners

As O'Donnell (1998) states, "Educators will be there to advise, guide, and encourage students wading through the deep waters of the information flood. They will use the best skill they have … to nudge, push, and sometimes pull students through the educationally crucial tasks of processing information: analysis, problem solving, and synthesis of ideas."
According to the UDL framework, using technology to develop a variety of learning methods to teach specific concepts and using embedded assessment to assess the learning is necessary for reaching and meeting high standards of learning for the diverse learners in classrooms today.


The Cisco Networking Academy http://www.cisco.com/web/learning/netacad/index.html connects collaborates and innovates using the principles of UDL and O'Donnell's concept that a teacher is there to guide in the learning process. The curriculum utilizes technology to develop traditional and alternative instructional methods including

  • textbooks and lab/study guides
  • on-line curriculum and activities
  • hands-on interactive labs
  • network and equipment simulators
  • Embedded assessments

An interesting note is that computers communicate globally around the world using one language, but the academy is written in eight different languages to accommodate the human network.



Center for Applied Special Technology, (2011), Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age, retrieved July 1, 2011 from http://www.cast.org/teachingeverystudent/ideas/tes/
O'Donnell, (1998) Avatars of the Word, Harvard University Press
Cisco Systems, Inc. (2011) Cisco Networking Academy retrieved July 1, 2011 from http://www.cisco.com/web/learning/netacad/index.html