Universal Instructional Design (UID) (also known as Universal Design for Learning or Universal Design of Instruction) represents a set of emerging initiatives, principles, guidelines, and projects that promote and work toward inclusive and equitable access to learning. Diversity of learners in today’s classrooms requires flexibility and resourcefulness of the curriculum, teaching methods, and classroom set-up. UID initiatives work toward concrete solutions that would meet such demands through the development and delivery of learner-centered models and approaches to learning.
UID follows in the footsteps of Universal Design in architecture that resulted in, now standard, accessibility features such as ramps, automatic doors, switches, curb cuts, etc. Even though designed to accommodate persons with physical disabilities, increased accessibility also proved beneficial in numerous ways to other populations. By the same token, UID works to make learning accessible and to accommodate every student regardless of his or her learning style, preferences, or deficits. Once again, even though initially envisioned to allow persons with sensory and learning disabilities equitable access to education, UID applications will most certainly provide all learners with better tools and opportunities for learning.
Universal in UID does not stand for the one-size-fits-all model. Quite contrary, UID acknowledges and values the unique learning strengths and weaknesses each student brings into the classroom. In simple terms, UID’s main principle is flexibility of curriculum, course design and delivery, and teaching and evaluation methods. As an integral component of UID, technology is used to allow for such flexibility in all stages of the learning process: acquisition of information, engagement with the material, and expression of knowledge.
This flexibility is already applied on an individual basis by creative teachers cognizant of the learner diversity in their classroom. In this sense, UID principles have long been in use, but more and more this approach to teaching and learning surfaces as a necessity rather than an individual choice. In addition to a large number of students with physical deficits, a rapidly growing population of students identified with learning disabilities presents a challenge to our educational system on many levels. Currently, this challenge is being met through individual classroom and exam accommodations and one-on-one learning support.
UID strives to incorporate the principles behind accommodations and learning support as a standard component of the curriculum and classroom. This perspective is largely supported through the development of new technologies that allow for creativity in teaching methods, alternative means of presentation, and choices for equally effective assessment in the classroom.
- Universal Instructional Design at the University of Guelph
- Classroom Observation Checklist
- The Seven Questions Toward UID
- Centre for applied Special Technology (CAST) – Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning
- See Instructional Strategies at Queen’s University – Instructor’s Handbook: Accommodating Students with Disabilities