Universal Design: Building Capacity

Think College Learn

Section 7: Building and Sustaining Campus Capacity for Universal Design

How to Bring UDL to campus

If you want to bring UDL to a university, a concerted campus-wide effort is needed. One way to do this is to assemble a group of staff who learn about UDL principles, and then provide training and support to faculty.  We like to call this group a UDL Core Team.  Informing faculty about UDL is often helpful, but unless they have a peer support network to go to as they begin incorporating UDL into their work, it is less likely that it will be fully embedded into the campus. UDL Core Teams can help build a stronger campus commitment to using UDL.

To learn more about how a staff and faculty inquiry group brought UDL to a whole campus,  watch the interview with Susan Martin, Director, Learning Accommodations Center at Northern Essex Community College.

Who should be on the UDL Core Team?

The UDL Core Team should be comprised of individuals from different departments across campus that are serving faculty, students, or both. Members do not need any prior knowledge or expertise in UDL. It is more important that the members have a commitment to improving teaching and learning on campus, and are willing to explore new strategies to meet diverse learners. Each UDL Core Team should have 4-6 consistent team members. Examples of people to include on a UDL Core Team are staff from:

  • Disability Support Offices
  • Instructional Technology
  • Library/Media
  • Center for Teaching and Learning
  • Office of Cultural Diversity
  • Office of Student Affairs

Some campuses have made pointed decisions to NOT involve someone in an authoritative position (dean, provost, academic chair). These individuals may inhibit faculty from sharing problems they have in their courses. On the other hand, some campuses have included a team member with administrative stature due to their campus climate; this can contribute to team credibility. The makeup of the UDL Core Team really depends on the campus.

What does the Core Team Do? 

The first step is to assemble a team and get members to commit to one meeting per month for an entire semester. Before working with a group of faculty, the team should devote a semester to developing their own instructional expertise in UDL. A team can learn more about UDL in a variety of ways:

  • Choose a faculty or staff role model to guide the team
  • Learn about UDL as a team (sometimes as a learning community with key readings or websites as guideposts)
  • Bring in a UDL Expert

After spending the first semester learning about UDL, the team should plan to recruit faculty members to join the team. The team will advise the faculty members in a workshop setting and promote the work of the faculty members. See the resource on this page for UDL team planning. 

What makes a successful Universal Design for Learning Core Team?

Successful UDL Core Teams often create a mission statement and specific goals. Use the Action Planning sheet in the resource section of this page to help articulate a concrete vision statement. The great news is that UDL Core Teams often find that this group fits perfectly into their job descriptions and helps them to build greater resources across campus. More often than not, UDL Core Team members report that they are able to use the UDL philosophy and strategies when they are asked to be parts of other campus-wide initiatives. For example, one university was building a new satellite campus for an allied heath program. Many of the UDL Core Team members were asked to be involved in the development of the new program and campus. The UDL Core Team members were able to help the planners think about accessibility and multiple learning styles from the beginning of the planning stages.

How do you sustain UDL Core Team on a college campus?

Each team’s effort to sustain UDL on a campus is different, depending on campus-wide politics and competing priorities. However, the biggest assurance of UDL sustainability is the development of the UDL Core Team. The UDL Core Team drives the introduction of UDL from a campus-wide workshop to individual faculty experiences.

A few factors to keep in mind to sustain UDL on a campus:

  • Initiate the movement from within 
  • Listen to students (with and without disabilities) 
  • Emphasize that UDL is for ALL students 
  • Garner administrative support 
  • Celebrate faculty champions and mentors 
  • Leverage the goals with other campus initiatives (e.g. strategic plans, Title III, Achieving the Dream, TRIO, etc.)


This video features Susan Martin, Director of Learning Accommodations at Northern Essex Community College, talking about how staff and faculty inquiry brought UDL to the entire NECC campus....Read more

Provides ideas for three different kinds of meetings of a campus-based Universal Design for Learning core team.Read more

This template is designed to help educators assess a particular part of lesson planning, to ensure UDL is being implemented. Read more