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Universal Design: Syllabus Best Practices


In addition to the best practices regarding accessibility, here are some things to consider when writing your syllabus from the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST)*:

  • Provide multiple means of engagement: Outline the learning goals and objectives, the relevance of the content, and any opportunities for choice within the course.
  • Provide multiple means of action and expression: Use the syllabus to communicate regular routines to establish expectations, outline the timing and format of assessments, and offer resources for the management of information.
  • Provide multiple means of representation: Be explicit about the ways in which students can access content (e.g., textbook, slides, course website, videos) where to find background information and multiple examples.

Instructor Introduction

  • Engage students by making this first introduction personal. Include a photo and a video to introduce yourself, the course, and your expectations.
  • If teaching online, add a video “tour” of critical features in the course including supports, communication, and progress monitoring.
  • Add several options for communication, including social media that you may use professionally.

Student Resources and Accommodations

  • Often accommodations are placed at the end of a syllabus. From a UDL perspective, consider placing information about support systems, including accessibility, at the top of your syllabus. This ensures that students see the supports available and sets the tone that you want them to succeed.
  • Students with documented disabilities can register with the Disability Support Services office. Please inform me about specific accommodation needs at the start of the course.
  • Students without documented disabilities who may need specific accommodations should contact me to set up a conference to discuss specific needs.

Course Description

  • Highlight the goal(s) of the course and include a note from the instructor about why the course material is relevant to students.

Course Objectives

  • State in your syllabus that objectives will be connected directly to assignments each week to increase understanding of the purpose. These can be outlined further in a separate learning guide or on the course web site.
  • Break up objectives by topic to help students see the structure of course material. You could also include a graphic organizer to display how the objectives relate to each other.
  • Include an objective that asks students to identify features of UDL within the course to increase awareness of their own learning preferences.


  • Include a variety of materials, beyond printed text, to increase the options of representation and increase engagement. Invite students to contribute to the collection of the materials to increase ownership of the course. Be sure that any materials included in the course are accessible to all learners, including links to outside resources and tools.

Assignments and Assessment

  • Provide assignments and assessments that provide choices for physical actions, expression and communication, and executive functions. In planning assignments and assessments, consider possible barriers and construct irrelevant factors.

Timing and Scheduling

  • Dependable routines and expectations within the course help students plan and prioritize. Establish a schedule that explicitly states when assignments are routinely due and when students can expect to get feedback.
  • A syllabus may be the best place to address the general routine and cover any additional communications such as the week-by-week content topics, the material to be covered and how the assignments connect to the course objectives.

Student Expectations and Responsibilities

  • Explain in detail expectations for learners at the beginning of the course and frequently throughout different points in the course.
  • In your introduction video, include an overview of your expectations and their responsibilities.

* References

Udl on campus: Udl syllabus. (n.d.). Retrieved March 10, 2023, from

From the University of Washington

Here are some things to consider when writing your syllabus from the University of Washington:

  • Make instructions and expectations clear regarding activities and assignments.
  • Give students enough information about assignments so that they can begin to make plans for organizing their time to complete the work.
  • To be more approachable, use first person and positive language.
  • Encourage students to arrange to meet with you one-on-one and give them the choice of multiple ways to do so (e.g., in person, by phone, via email, using a conferencing system or bulletin board in the learning management system).
  • Present content in multiple ways (e.g., use a pie chart to help convey information about grade distribution).
  • Address a wide range of language skills as you write content (e.g., spell acronyms, define terms, avoid or define jargon).
  • Include statements about your interest in ensuring your course is welcoming and accessible to all students and that you welcome feedback regarding accessibility issues, as well as the campus standard statement about where to obtain disability-related accommodations at your campus.


How can you integrate accessibility into your syllabus? | DO-IT. (n.d.). Retrieved March 10, 2023, from
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