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UDL On Campus · Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education

Working with Industry Partners


What is this resource about? This guide discusses the importance of working with industry partners and strategies and Examples for involving them in course development. Learn more about Working Together and Creating Scenarios with industry partners.


Why is this important for higher education?

  • Community colleges and four-year institutions often have industry partners who are potential employers for graduates of these programs.
  • Industry partners are a valuable resource as they have a vested interest in preparing students for employment in their fields.
  • Experts from the field can help to ensure that content is relevant and co-develop engaging scenarios that reflect the skills required for a particular profession.

UDL Connection

Affective network icon

UDL guides teachers to design curriculum in a way that recruit interest is to highlight the utility and relevance of the content through authentic, meaningful activities.

Strategic network icon

Provide multiple means of action and expression: Industry partners can work with faculty to guide the best means for students to express knowledge so that it better aligns with real workplace scenarios.

Recognition network icon

Provide multiple means of representation: Working directly with industry partners supports transfer and generalization of content knowledge and skills.


An example of a realistic workplace scenario is presented here as part of a curriculum development model, demonstrating both college–industry partner activities and an accurate, useful workplace scenario as the outcome of their collaboration.

Faculty at a community college planned to develop a unit on Communication and Critical Thinking in the Workplace for their students. They decided that collaboration with an industry partner would be crucial to the development of these instructional materials in order to make the content current, engaging, and relevant to their students.

Janet, who was in charge of developing the unit, gathered information on several potential industry partners and selected ARINC, a major provider of communications and systems engineering for airports. After a brainstorming session with several of ARINC’s employees, it was decided that the unit would center on Kelly, a new employee. Working with the industry team, Janet created a video introducing Kelly and her new job

[A image of women typing on a laptop appears. Bookshelves are in the background. The screen says "Introducing Kelly."]

[Narrator] Kelly earned her cyber certificate last month and is excited to begin working for ARINC at one of their airport operations centers, which is responsible for monitoring various technical systems and troubleshooting and repairing equipment as needed for a variety of airport services.

[An office building appears followed by a man observing airplane activity on several monitors.]

[Narrator] She is training to be an operations technician as a member of the operations team.

[The scene changes to Kelly sitting next to a man in front of the monitors.]

[Narrator] Kelly's team monitors communication systems at airports around the world to make sure that the airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the air traffic controllers and the planes waiting to take off and land on the runways can all communicate with each other.

[The screen shows an illustrated map with flight paths across the world, then an office building, the FAA seal, an air traffic control tower, pilots in a cockpit, and an airplane on a runway.]

[Narrator] After her first week, Kelly is very excited about how dynamic and important the job is and she is looking forward to learning as much as she can!

[The scene changes to Kelly smiling in front of a white background.]

[Narrator] Her team dealt with several emergencies, including a breakdown in ground station equipment and a major power outage. She saw firsthand how critical communication was for the team.

[The screen shows a row of concerned team members talking on telephones, then a plane and ground crew, a man in a hard hat surveying power output levels, and another group of team members looking concerned as they talk on telephones.]

[Narrator] Due to a breakdown in the communications systems, several flights were cancelled at one Midwest airport and numerous others were delayed at others, due to a ripple effect.

[A computer screen shows flight times and the word "Cancelled" next to each flight.]

[Narrator] Many passengers whose flights were delayed missed connecting flights and had to be rescheduled. The airlines affected lost both money and the good will of their passengers.

[Crowds gather around airline counters inside an airport.]

[Narrator] Kelly saw how important it was for team members to act quickly and communicate with each other.

[The scene changes to Kelly thinking in front of a white background.]

[Narrator] She wondered if she could develop the critical thinking, timely action and effective workplace communication skills that she would need.

[Upright arrows appear from left to right with the words "Critical Thinking," "Timely Action," "Effective Workplace Communication" followed by a downward facing arrow with the word "Cost."]

[Narrator] She could see there was a lot to learn about company procedure and how to communicate effectively with customers, coworkers, and her manager during the changing conditions of emergency situations and that mistakes would be costly for everyone.

[Narrator] After several days of on-the-job training, Kelly is ready to begin working as a full-fledged team member.

[Two men and a woman in business attire sit across from Kelly. The man in the middle, her manager, reaches out to shake Kelly's hand.]

[Narrator] Her manager, Tom, assigns a senior member of the team, Raphael, to help her get up to speed.

[An image of a smiling man appears on the screen. Other men are in the background.]

[Narrator] Join Kelly now as she prepares for a successful career with ARINC.

[The scene ends with Kelly smiling as she works on her laptop. The background remains showing the following credits:

O Come All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles), CC-BY-NC
ARINC building and Airport Operation Center background photos provided by ARINC, Inc., Used by Permission

U.S. Federal Aviation Administration building by Matthew G. Bisan on Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA

U.S. Federal Aviation Administration Seal by U.S. Government on Wikimedia Commons is public domain.

All of the rest of the images from Shutterstock, Used by Permission.]

Janet then worked closely with Tom, a member of the ARINC team, to develop content directly related to the course objectives: locating and interpreting key information, analyzing information to determine appropriate actions, and accurately recording and communicating events. Tom provided examples of how Kelly would use these skills in her job, and Janet and her team created student activities based on what Kelly was learning. Janet wanted to include an event that would showcase the need for critical thinking skills. Tom and the ARINC team suggested a major storm affecting airports along the East coast. Adding the storm required Kelly to apply the skills she has just learned to make several critical decisions and to communicate effectively with her colleagues.


[The title text appears with an image of a weather map of the U.S.]

[Narrator] It's 6 am, and Kelly and the rest of her team are arriving at ARINC to begin their shift.They notice several people watching the television monitor tuned to the Weather Channel.

[A digital clock appears showing 6:00am. A number of team members gather around weather monitors.]

[Weather Reporter] A major storm is moving up the east coast, causing high winds and 0:18storm surges in coastal areas, with some minor power outages. The storm is moving rapidly and is expected to be over land in the next few hours.

[A weatherman appears with a map showing the storm formations around certain areas of the country.]

[Narrator] Tom, the operations manager, calls the team together for their morning briefing.

[Team members gather around a table with their manager.]

[Tom] The storm is moving faster than they thought it would, and our technicians are monitoring the equipment and checking the back-up systems. They've already had to make several equipment 0:41repairs. We need to be alert today -- the storm may have a major impact on the airports up and down the East Coast, causing delays and cancellations. The Field Service Technicians have been alerted that they may have to repair or replace equipment once the storm has passed.

[A technician works on a laptop surrounded by equipment. The scene shows a man in a hardhat looking at a damaged pipe, then an airplane on the runway, and an air traffic control tower. A man and a woman in hard hats appear.]

[Narrator] Kelly is anxious about this first real test of her skills as an operations technician.

[Kelly looks at a screen with a concerned expression.]

[Kelly] This is going to be a busy day for us. We're going to need to stay on top of things.

[Kelly sits with her coworker in front of computers.]

[End credits appear: The Pressure (Frank Unplugged) by Zep Hurns on cc Mixter, liscenced under 3.0 CC-BY-NC
Airport Operation Center background photos provided by ARINC, Inc., Used by Permission

All of the rest of the images from Shutterstock, Used by Permission.]

Next, Janet and her team developed activities in which students applied critical thinking skills to decide how Kelly and her colleagues would need to deal with different aspects of the storm’s impact on airports. Throughout the unit development process Janet stayed in close contact with Tom. He reviewed all content for accuracy and turned to his team at ARINC with any questions. The ARINC team became very invested in the Kelly character; Tom said they felt they knew her and wanted her to succeed.

To view the complete unit materials on communication and critical thinking skills, see the open STEM Readiness course developed under CAST’s Project OPEN in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon's Open Learning Initiative (OLI) and The National STEM Consortium. Click “Enter Course” and view Unit 2.

More Examples

Courses that cover a specific professional area will require more focused scenarios, interviews, or other curricular elements designed with the aid of a smaller sub-set of industry partners in the profession. Below is a video of interviews with partners in the healthcare industry about selecting an Electronic Health Vendor (EHR). This video was developed as part of a course called Health Information Technology Foundations which can be found on the OLI course site.


[The title text appears over outlined figures in professional attire and stances.]

FEMALE NARRATOR: Interviews with Industry Partners. Selecting an EHR Vendor: Introduction.

[upbeat music]

[The screen transitions to a shot of Austin Regional Clinic, in Austin, Texas. A wing of the building with large window panes and a sign identifying it is framed by a cloudy sky and a leafy tree. Next, the screen cuts to shots of a middle aged man walking through the clinic offices and organizing files on his desk. One of the shots identifies him as Garry Olney, Chief Operations Officer.]

GARRY OLNEY: Good morning, my name is Garry Olney and I’m the chief operating officer for Austin Regional Clinic and my primary responsibility is clinical oversight for the 18 clinics that we have around Austin.

[upbeat music]

[The screen changes to show shots of another man in his office. He works on a computer and engages with administrative staff. The nameplate on his door identifies him as Norman H. Chenven, M.D., Chairman.]

NORMAN CHENVEN: I’m Norman Chenven. I’m the founder and CEO of Austin Regional Clinic. We’re a 310-physician multi-specialty group here in Austin, Texas. Because we’re a large multi-specialty group, we have the need of having information transferred from one facility to the next, from one doctor to the next.

[Narrative text appears on a white screen.]

FEMALE NARRATOR: Who are the various stakeholders involved in the selection of an electronic health record vendor?

[The screen shifts to Garry Olney, seated in his office. The screen then cuts to clinicians in exam rooms entering information into a computer. A label with the text, “Physicians and Nurses,” is overlaid on the screen.]

GARRY OLNEY: The various stakeholders involved in the selection process of the EHR that Austin Regional Clinic decided to purchase were obviously our physicians and our nurses. They are the number one stakeholder in implementing the electronic health record.

[The screen changes to a computer with a generic electronic health record page displayed. A label with the text, “IT Department,” is overlaid on the screen. Garry Olney appears again then the screen transitions to a montage of different clinicians utilizing computer-based electronic health records in various settings within the clinic.]

GARRY OLNEY: Second was the IT Department because as we assess each of the different electronic health records that we were considering purchasing, an important aspect of that purchase is to make sure that electronic health record can be integrated into systems that we currently have in place: radiology, lab, and our billing systems.

[The screen transitions to an empty exam room with a large computer monitor displaying an electronic health record management system page. A label with the text, “Operations Staff,” is overlaid on the screen. Shortly after, the scene changes to briefly show nurses and physicians working side-by-side on computers.]

GARRY OLNEY: And lastly was operations. And operations is also key to the selection process because you’re familiar with the current workflows that our physicians and our nurses use at our clinics today.

[Norman H. Chenven, M.D., sits in his office. After a few moments, the screen cuts to organized rows of paper-based medical records then back to Dr. Chenven in his office. Next, there are shots of a physician and a patient conversing in an exam room, with the physician documenting the conversation on a computer.]

NORMAN CHENVEN: We spoke to lots of people in the industry who had similar sized organizations. And that was a big consideration for ARC. Some medical record systems work perfectly well for a small or single office, for even as many as 10 or 15 physicians within one location. But our situation is that we have 18 facilities in 3 counties. Plus, we have doctors in and out of hospitals … so that added to the complexity of our decision.


[A white background appears with the following credits:

Interviews with Industry Partners: Selecting an EHR Vendor

Produced and edited by CAST

“Prelude No. 16” by Chris Zabriskie, available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC-BY) license:
“Gentle Chase” by Podington Bear, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC 3.0) license:

Special Thanks
Austin Regional Clinic
Larry Kravitz, M.D.
Kerry Rosker
Daren Lyman
Linda Shanblum
Jennifer L. Paul
Garry Olney
Miranda Brown
Norman Chenven, M.D.
Dawn Zimmaro

Developed as part of the Open Professionals Education Network
(Logos for OPEN, CAST, and Open Learning Initiative)
(Logo for Creative Commons CC BY)]

Working Together

How do I find industry partners?

Industry partners vary depending on the programs offered by each community college. They include professionals from a variety of fields, such as health care workers, those who assemble or repair automobiles, and personnel who monitor water quality. Community colleges are usually involved with local employers at a number of different levels. Corporate training departments often have a variety of business contacts in their local area and can usually pinpoint a key contact at a particular local business. Colleges also maintain representation on local chambers of commerce and other business industry groups; a college representative to one of those organizations can be a big help in locating a key contact at a particular business. Many academic programs have cultivated groups of industry advisors for their school-sponsored employer advisory boards that meet regularly with college staff to review curriculum and to make recommendations for improvements, updates, or course additions/deletions.

Colleges may also consider contacting their local One Stop Career Center or state-level workforce development agency to see if they can help in locating a good contact for a particular company. Most employers post their jobs in the national One Stop system, so branch One Stop offices can usually provide a name, email, and phone number to facilitate contact.

How Can Industry Partners Help?

  • Identify a need for new training for their business.
  • Assist in determining objectives and desired learning outcomes for a particular course in a new or existing training program so that students are well prepared for employment.
  • Ensure that course content is accurate with regard to new requirements and trends such as upgrades to software and equipment; changes to licensing requirements, laws; etc.
  • Assisting in creating real-life workplace scenarios that can be used to make a particular course more relevant for students
For a more detailed steps for working with industry partners, download this guide.

Creating Scenarios

Workplace scenarios allow learners to visualize and practice the skills they will use in a particular career field. They often provide a preparatory step useful just before a learn-by-doing activity. Industry partners may be able to provide detailed information about their workplace that can be incorporated into a particular training program. For example, a company may have a set of procedures that must be closely followed by employees that they are willing to share for use in scenario assignments. The college can work closely with such an employer to make sure that these procedures are incorporated into training courses in a realistic way, ensuring that students can practice real-life work skills while they are in class and providing the employer with desirable job candidates. Gathering information from employer partners and finding the best ways to weave these into a course make industry partners a valuable resource for course development. Using scenarios in courses is a good way to engage students and to help them learn knowledge and skills in context. It is important that any scenarios included accurately portray situations that would be encountered on the job. Employers are aware of dilemmas or issues that commonly arise in the work environment and can help in creating scenarios that realistically depict these situations.


  • Today, most community colleges have industry partners who are employers in local industries
  • The character of industry partners varies depending on the programs offered by each community college
  • Industry partners can help colleges and their students most by—
    • Identifying training requirements for successful employment in their industry
    • Determining skills and knowledge to be included in training programs
    • Ensuring course content is accurate
    • Connecting academic content to real-world experiences
  • Industry partners can be helpful in all aspects of course development


To access the STEM readiness course materials as a guest, follow the instructions below:

  1. Go to the OLI STEM Readiness Page
  2. Select ENTER COURSE on right
industry partners

Industry partners, in this context, are individual professionals, groups, or businesses with specialized knowledge about a particular area or field, who provide expertise and support.


UDL is an educational approach based on the learning sciences with three primary principles—multiple means of representation of information, multiple means of student action and expression, and multiple means of student engagement.


Video is the recording, reproducing, or broadcasting of moving visual images.