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About ACeS

The ACeS project is a demonstration project, funded by the US Department of Education Grant: Demonstration Project to Ensure Students with Disabilities Receive a Quality Higher Education. Awarded in 2008, the Achieving College Success Now (ACES) project attempts to positively impact postsecondary academic success of community college students with and without disabilities by enhancing their classroom experience through faculty understanding, adoption and infusion of transition support information and Universal Design (UD) strategies into designated courses.

Transition and Universal Instructional Design

College faculty and staff often do not have an understanding of the highly supportive and prescribed system students with disabilities leave behind in high school. Because college faculty members know little about this transition experience, they are unable to assist students to develop a new college-based skill set. The result is a high probability of impaired class performance and ineffective utilization of reasonable accommodations on the part of the student with a disability, both of which contribute to a lack of successful course completion.

Research in post-secondary education and disabilities also suggests that the infusion of universal instructional design (UID) strategies into college courses has the potential to positively impact the performance of students with disabilities. Speaking to the potential impact of UID when utilized as a retention strategy in post-secondary education, proponents of UID maintain that its use – the academic “curb cut” – not only benefits students with disabilities, but in fact, makes the classroom experience more accessible for all class participants.

To test these ideas, a faculty leadership team comprised of teaching faculty Disability Services staff and NCC’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) was convened to serve as a collaborative mechanism for the development and delivery of high quality professional development seminars and to facilitate systematic classroom curricular change using Universal Instructional Design principles. Thirteen faculty members participated in two professional development faculty seminars and met monthly as a Faculty Learning Circle (FLC) to implement the learned UID principles and the knowledge of transition support issues into their classroom practices.

Faculty Learning Circle

The Faculty Learning Circle (FLC) was an innovative and central component in this demonstration project that facilitated support in the implementation of attitudinal awareness, curricular innovation and classroom instructional practice to affect student post-secondary academic success. Its main purpose was to function as an interdisciplinary team and provide faculty with a collaborative forum for the exchange and evaluation of project techniques, strategies and experiences that have been incorporated into their classroom teaching through their newfound understanding of transition needs and UID. The FLC met in two hour monthly meetings, with further collaborations and discussions facilitated within the Blackboard content management system and NCC’s faculty intranet site.

While the FLC focused on implementation strategies and provided mutual support for continued change in instructional practice and curricular modifications, it also assessed the impact of such changes on academic success, including course completion and grade point average for both students with and without disabilities. Members of the FLC also participated in the internal assessment of the faculty professional development seminars, the efficacy of the FLC and the extent to which faculty have adopted and incorporated acquired knowledge of transition experiences and UID into their class instruction.

Project Timeline

The project observed the timeline below:

ACeS Project Timeline

While faculty joined this project for many professional reasons, they rated the professional development seminars quite highly and showed a significant gain in knowledge, especially regarding transition issues for students with disabilities. Furthermore, participants indicated that the Faculty Learning Circle was vital to this project as faculty participants found participation to be critical to the implementation of selected UID strategies; they felt more knowledgeable about Universal Instructional Design (UID) and the needs of students with disabilities, and the FLC would have a lasting impact on their teaching.

This project website is designed with the needs of faculty in mind: to provide the ability to acquire professional development regarding Transition and Universal Instructional Design, to provide UID strategies that positively impacted student performance and to provide a forum for discourse and collaboration both within and beyond the walls of Northampton Community College.



The Achieving College Success Now (ACeS) project examined the impact of faculty training on faculty knowledge regarding

  • transition issues for students with disabilities and
  • the essential components of UID

Following the training, participating faculty formed a Faculty Learning Circle, which served as a collaborative learning tool for planning and infusion of UID principles into their courses.

Grant Process

Faculty Training

  1. Two professional development seminars
    1. Understanding the transition needs of College Students with Disabilities
    2. Universal Instructional Design in the College Classroom
  2. Data collection
    1. Pre and post- test of transition needs of students with disabilities
      1. Faculty Transition Seminar Pretest
      2. Faculty Transition Seminar Posttest
    2. Pre and post- test of UID strategies
      1. Faculty Universal Instructional Design Seminar Pretest
      2. Faculty Universal Instructional Design Seminar Posttest
    3. Evaluation of seminars

Faculty Learning Circle

  1. Monthly collaborative gather for exchange of ideas, discussion, and support for implementation of strategies into courses
  2. Data collection
    1. Focus group interview
    2. Evaluation of Faculty Learning Circle Survey

Pre-Implementation of UID principles in classrooms (baseline)

  1. Faculty continued to teach their courses in usual fashion, not incorporating any new UID strategies
  2. Data collection
    1. Universal Instructional Design Project Survey (student form)
    2. Universal Instructional Design Project Survey (faculty form)
    3. Universal Instructional Design Faculty Perception Survey
    4. Final grades in course

Implementation of UID principles in classrooms (intervention phase 1 and 2)

  1. Faculty selected at least five UID strategies to implement in one course for the Spring 2010 semester and then to re-implement, revise, or develop five new strategies for the Fall 2010 semester
  2. Data collection
    1. Academic Self Efficacy Scales (pre and posttest (student form)
    2. Universal Instructional Design Project Survey (student form)
    3. Universal Instructional Design Project Survey (faculty form)
    4. Universal Instructional Design Faculty Perception Survey
    5. Final grades in course

© 2010 ACeS All Rights Reserved, US Department of Education OMB No.1890-0004

Northampton Community College