Course Development

Courses that are developed utilizing the principles of universal design meet the following criteria:

1. The essential components of the course are clearly defined

  • Identify what the students are expected to know, do, or value at the completion of the course
  • Consider the course objectives and requirements in terms of the function they serve

2. Prerequisite courses, knowledge, and skills are clearly defined

  • Identify the prerequisite skills or abilities students should have
  • Identify other courses or resources that would help students attain those skills and abilities

3.Expectations are communicated clearly


  • Develop a syllabus that reflects the essential components of the course and outlines the necessary prerequisite knowledge and skills
  • Have the syllabus available for students to obtain early if requested and/or post the syllabus online
  • Include the following elements of a universally designed syllabus (For more information, see The Universally Designed Syllabus.)
Introductory information Contact information
Prerequisites for the course Course goals and learning objectives
Textbooks and readings Course calendar or listing of topics
Additional materials required Grading procedures
Course policies Helpful tips or strategies
Disability statement

Quality work

  • Provide examples of good quality papers and projects
  • Post the examples online


  • Use rubrics to communicate how performance translates to grade
  • Provide a chart for students to use to track their own grades
  • Return graded items in a timely manner

4. The physical environment is accessible and conducive to learning

  • Request a new classroom location if you have a student that is unable to access the classroom
  • Ensure that the room has good lighting and that there is not a light source behind you
  • Ensure that students always have a clear line of sight
  • Limit extraneous noise in the classroom
  • Make sure that lab activities and equipment are accessible to students (For more information about lab accessibility, visit CATEA: Barrier Free Education or DO-IT: Faculty Room—Science Labs.)

5. The climate encourages and supports interaction

  • Encourage student-to-student and student-to-faculty interaction through discussions, questions, group work, and course listservs
  • Learn students' names
  • Recognize student diversity
  • Seek student input on components of the course that you would like to improve
  • Provide notes or outlines for lectures so that students may attend and participate more actively
  • Emphasize active listening and participation
  • Allow time for formulating questions and responses
  • Organize class time in a predictable format (e.g., begin each class with a review and end each class with a summary of important points)

6. Technology enhances instruction and increases accessibility

  • Post course materials (e.g., notes, handouts) online
  • Select videos that are captioned
  • Select textbooks that are available in digital or electronic text format
  • Ensure that course website is accessible (For more information, visit W3C: Web Accessibility Initiative.)
  • Choose software applications that are accessible to students using assistive technology

7. Technology enhances instruction and increases accessibility

  • Develop a variety of possibilities for students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills
  • Provide students with alternatives (i.e., examinations, projects)
  • Assign grades based on level of mastery rather than how they compare to the other students in the course

8. Feedback is clear, prompt, and frequent

  • Provide feedback supporting the grade assigned to papers and examinations
  • Include suggestions for improvement
  • Allow students to turn in early drafts of papers so that they may be redirected if necessary

9. Good study habits are encouraged and supported

  • Provide study guides and review sessions for examinations
  • Encourage the formation of study groups
  • Arrange for upper level students to provide tutoring
  • Provide students with a list of technical vocabulary for the course, and include definitions, pronunciation cues, and examples of how the terms are used in context
  • Provide tips for succeeding in the course
  • Encourage the use of on-campus academic support services