Penn State University

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) layers brain-based, research-backed teaching and learning strategies onto the architectural principles of Universal Design (UD) to enable learners to reach their educational goals more efficiently and effectively, whether or not they need or officially request an accommodation.

Why UDL?

Students encounter a variety of barriers to achieving their educational goals. UDL enables us to identify and reduce many learning barriers, including physical, emotional, intellectual, and socio-economic challenges, as well as challenges caused by athletics or work schedules, family obligations, distance, learning a new language, lack of technology, or unreliable internet access. By proactively addressing the variability of our students’ diverse abilities, cultural expectations, and prior knowledge, UDL makes learning more accessible, thus creating a more equitable environment that is highly engaging and inherently inclusive. Therefore, it features prominently in the Schreyer Institute’s diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility initiatives.

UDL Framework

The UDL Framework, developed by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), proposes that we provide students with multiple means of engagement, representation, and action & expression. Each of these three UDL Principles corresponds to an area of the brain as identified by CAST’s cognitive neuroscientists.

The guidelines within the framework present specific, evidence-based teaching and learning strategies that activate those parts of the brain to foster deep learning. Implementing these strategies advances the goal of UDL, which is to enable students to become expert learners by providing them with multiple ways to become purposeful & motivated, resourceful & knowledgeable, and strategic & goal-directed learners (CAST 2018).

Learn More

UDL Team

  • Matt Dingo, Assistant Director for Faculty Development, Penn State World Campus
  • Catherine Esposito, Instructional Design Team Lead, Academic Technologies & Customer Experience, Penn State University Park
  • Lauraine Hawkins, Assistant Professor, Biology, Penn State Mont Alto
  • Gina Pazzaglia, Director, MPS Program in Nutritional Sciences & Associate Teaching Professor, Penn State University Park
  • Mary Ann Tobin, Associate Research Professor & Instructional Consultant, Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence, Penn State University Park
  • Sonya Woods, Accessibility Consultant & Training Coordinator, Penn State World Campus

Contact Us

To learn more about UDL, our courses, or to invite the UDL Team to present for your department or committee meeting, contact Mary Ann Tobin at

Penn State University