Introduction to Universal Instructional Design (UID) at the University
What is UID?
- Universal Instructional Design (UID) is a process that involves
considering the potential needs of all learners when designing and
- UID means identifying and eliminating unnecessary barriers
to teaching and learning while maintaining academic rigour.
- UID evolved from the concept of universal design in the physical
world, where domains such as architecture and industrial design have
identified key goals for their products, including flexibility, consistency,
accessibility, explicitness, and supportiveness. UID applies these
very same principles to teaching and learning.
- UID is about truly universal thinking - it goes beyond just accessibility
to reflecting on how to maximize learning for students of all backgrounds
and learner preferences while minimizing the need for special accommodations.
Why do UID?
- It's consistent with and promotes achievement of the University's
guiding principle of learner-centredness, as well as our learning
- It's consistent with universally-recognized principles of good teaching
(e.g., see Chickering
& Gamson), which have been proven to enhance learning for
- It's been shown to create conditions conducive for learning (see
UID project research report).
- It helps us meet the spirit of emerging legislation on accessibility.
- It reduces the need for special accommodations for our learners,
thereby contributing to a more equitable, inclusive environment while
reducing time spent by students, instructors and staff to seek and
support these accommodations.
How do I apply UID?1
The Seven Principles of UID describe how instructional materials and
activities should: 1) be accessible and fair, 2) be flexible, 3) be
straightforward and consistent and, 4) be explicit, and how the learning
environment should 5) be supportive, 6) minimize unnecessary physical
effort, and 7) accommodate students and multiple teaching methods.
The following is a summary of ways that UID can be applied to your
- Delivery Methods: Use a variety of delivery methods
and learning approaches, including lecture, discussion, hands-on activities,
projects, cases, internet-based interaction, etc. Make sure each is
clear and accessible to students with a wide range of abilities, backgrounds,
and previous experiences.
- Learning Methods: Make print materials available
in electronic format. Provide text descriptions of graphics presented
on web pages. Make projected presentations legible in large
spaces. Use captioned videotapes. Provide outlines in advance to allow
students to prepare for the topic to be presented. Create printed
and web-based materials in simple, intuitive, and consistent formats.
- Interaction: Encourage different ways for students
to interact with each other and with you. This may include in-class
questions and discussion, group work, and Internet-based communications.
- Feedback: Provide effective prompting during an
activity and feedback after the assignment is complete. Use feedback
to help correct errors and misconceptions. Allow opportunities for
self-assessment. Ensure that web or multimedia learning tools provide
proper feedback for both navigation and learning.
- Assessment/Demonstration of Knowledge: Ensure that
students’ opportunity to demonstrate knowledge is frequent and
if possible, flexible. Consider options besides tests and papers for
demonstrating knowledge, such as group work, demonstrations, portfolios,
- Physical Effort and Access: Ensure that classrooms,
labs, and field work are accessible to individuals with a wide range
of physical abilities. Make sure equipment and activities minimize
sustained physical effort, and accommodate people with different physical
abilities (e.g., something as basic as left-handedness). Assure the
safety of all students. Minimize the need for unnecessary physical
travel by making materials available or allowing them to be submitted
Where can I get more information?
Online Resources http://www.tss.uoguelph.ca/uid/index.cfm
Contact Richard Gorrie, ext.53731, for help applying UID for instructional support, technology-related support.
Bowe, F. G. (2000) Universal Design in Education. CT: Bergin
Burgstahler, S. (2005) “Universal Design of Instruction: Definition,
Principles, and Examples.” Accessed April 13, 2005 from http://www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Academics/instruction.html
Chickering, A.W., Gamson, Z.F. (1991). “Seven Principles for
Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.” Accessed April 7, 2006
Government of Ontario. (ND). “2005-2006 Accessibility Plan.”
Accessed April 20, 2006 from http://www.citizenship.gov.on.ca/english/accessibility/index.htm.
Scott, S., Shaw, S. & McGuire, J. (in press). “Applying Universal
Design to College Instruction.” University of Connecticut. Accessed
April 7, 2006 from http://www.facultyware.uconn.edu/files/UDI_principles.pdf
Strategic Planning Commission to the President (June 1995) Making Change:
The Strategic Plan for the University of Guelph.
1. Adapted from Burgstahler