Pros and Cons of Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Last Updated on October 5, 2023 by Editorial Team

‘Flexible learning methods that complement the needs of students with diversities and difficulties’ – a lot has been said about the importance of this. And, the institutes are going through a transformation too. Universal Design for Learning is one such conscious step that institutes adopt to make their classrooms suitable for all. A non-profit research and development organization, CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology), based its recommendations on modifying the classrooms using the principles of UDL

Let’s explore the application ideas based on UDL and their pros and cons to understand how successful educational institutes have been in promoting inclusion.

UDL recommendations to apply in the classroom

UDL aims to make assistive technology tools a part of classroom infrastructure. Also, the teachers are supposed to do a lot of bits from their side to give a fair chance to all students learning. Some of the ways as suggested by research[1] that can help put UDL in action in a typical classroom environment are:

  • Using audio textbooks, highlighters, text-to-word converters, etc.: Imagine a class that is fully equipped with translators, text-to-word converters, highlighters, and so on. The students having their specific needs to intake the content through spoken and written means, or having a diversity of language, etc. can pick the accommodations as needed and participate in the classroom sessions without causing disruptions.
  • Lesson goals provided in advance: The students who need support in orienting the mind to learning can get the required impetus from lesson goals shared with them in advance through digital reminders and other means. It helps them prepare a bit extra so that they put in the requisite efforts needed from their side.
  • Flexibility in assignment submissions: Learning abilities differ from student to student. A few need additional support because of the lack of essential skills like reading and writing through conventional means. Hence, offering suitable reforms[2] to submit assignments helps such students be active participants. Classroom learning-related anxiety is replaced with fun.
  • Creating flexible learning spaces: UDL is applied in creating flexible learning spaces that provide the correct environment to students with varying accessibility needs. Those trying to cope with physical challenges can adjust to the classroom environment effortlessly.

These are a few of the applications of UDL that the institutes, claiming to be in consonance with ADA and IDEA, utilize in designing their learning spaces. Let’s find out how effective these applications prove and where the challenges lie.

Pros of UDL

Universal Design for Learning’s sole purpose is to make the learning environment genuinely accessible for all. The disability-supporting washrooms, parking lots, seats, and communications tools at workplaces are a testament to the UDL in action in public life. UD in learning is simply an extended manifestation of these arrangements in the education sector. 

If we take the intention behind adopting UDL into consideration, the process and the solutions to be adopted seem quite appropriate. Though the outcomes only can tell whether the process was effective or not, UDL has got the nod due to the promises it makes. These positive outcomes include:

  • Better participation rate: Students feel driven to attend classes where learning is made hassle-free.
  • Increased learning: The students can augment their learning with the use of solutions that ease knowledge dissemination. Consequently, the hesitation towards taking up difficult subjects is also removed and students are able to join the courses of their preference. 
  • Better connection between learning goals and methods: UDL as a curriculum reform provides the most apt solutions needed to meet the learning goals. Thus, the IEPs and other such programs deliver better results.
  • Promotes learner satisfaction: The students with the help of assistive tools can wield the learning tools[3] easily, indulge in active learning, and gauge their progress. Since the outcomes are clearly visible to them, they feel better satisfaction in terms of acquiring new skills.
  • Removes confusion of any sort; brings better clarity: Since instructions reach a learner precisely as required, they attain more clarity and are able to retrofit newer concepts that were otherwise not possible to include in the knowledge build-up. 
  • Helps build confidence: Learners with diverse needs and concept-grasping abilities find favorable conditions in the class to learn with the help of UDL. They display better sustenance of learned concepts. With the help of wieldable means to receive and process information, communicate ideas, and express opinions or raise doubts, the learners feel confident in the knowledge gained. They are able to apply the skills to prove their talent, which leaves a positive impact on their mental framework too.

Cons of UDL

Despite all the benefits offered, the implementation still poses a challenge. UDL has a long way to go before becoming a universal concept. It poses difficulties, like:

  • May add to the stress for all in the absence of adequate training
  • Distractions may cause disruptions, hence, it raises the need for the proactive introduction of solutions to learners
  • The implementation may prove costlier both time and money-wise
  • Students who need to change location may not find the same conditions in all cities. It can disrupt their learning flow. The task of searching the schools with UDL implementation adds to the worries of parents.
  • Not all entities welcome changes with a positive approach. The ones averse to changes may take more time than expected to adopt UDL solutions. 

Pros and cons of UDL summarized

Pros and cons of UDL

Effective ways to promote UDL in the classroom

UDL is still in a nascent stage as the technology in education is bringing new variables to deal with. There may be a considerable amount of confusion among the institutions’ management and teachers regarding its implementation; it was established in a study too[4]. Hence, the very first need to fulfill is to have a clear dialogue about the impending change. A few of the effective solutions to try to make UDL implementation successful are:

  • Complete teacher training: Encouraging teachers to join professional learning committees to cope with changing infrastructure and to be conversant with digitally advanced solutions.
  • Proper onboarding: Acquainting the teachers, students, and parents with a UDL-enriched learning environment is essential for successful implementation. Proactive onboarding ensures that all stakeholders are on the same page.
  • Feedback management: It is important to take feedback on the progress made by students and find the relationship between it and UDL implementation. The feedback recording and sharing with the concerned authorities is a must too. 
  • Continuous evaluation of UDL: Evaluation does not cover only the testing part; one has to ensure that the infrastructural changes implemented are functional all the time too. The authorities need to ensure that the equipment is up-to-date and is truly ‘available’ when required by students and teachers.

Wrapping up,

UDL has now got the backing of technological breakthroughs using which the classes can be made ‘smart’ in the actual sense. Hence, while UDL offered food for thought, the technological interventions have offered workable solutions. The changing scene in the classes may garner different responses from the students with diversified learning requirements. Hence, the need is to promote better guidance, continual training, and patient adoption of the transformed infrastructure and curriculum.


  1. Galkiene, Alvyra & Monkeviciene, Ona. (2021). The Model of UDL Implementation Enabling the Development of Inclusive Education in Different Educational Contexts: Conclusions. 10.1007/978-3-030-80658-3_12. 
  2. Hitchcock C, Meyer A, Rose D, Jackson R. Providing New Access to the General Curriculum: Universal Design for Learning. TEACHING Exceptional Children. 2002;35(2):8-17. doi:10.1177/004005990203500201
  3. Dean, T., Lee-Post, A., & Hapke, H. (2016). Universal Design for Learning in Teaching Large Lecture Classes. Journal of Marketing Education, 39(1), 5–16.
  4. Senechal, M. A. (2016). Implementation of Universal Design for Learning (Unpublished doctoral thesis). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB. doi:10.11575/PRISM/26469

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