Pearson Implementing Diversity and Inclusion in the online classroom

Implementing Diversity and Inclusion in the online classroom

Implementing cultural diversity and inclusion in a course, online or in person, can feel overwhelming when you think of all the elements that need to be considered. There is curricular content, pedagogy, accessibility, and universal design, all of which can affect students’ learning, motivation, and satisfaction. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that diversity and inclusion is at the heart of any course as it stands to have a strong positive impact on many aspects.

Why explore diversity in courses?

Researchers agree it can help encourage growth and reflection. It can help students develop their sense of empathy for others and bring about open-mindedness. Supporting tolerance is critical in our increasingly globalised world and allowing students to feel represented and seen while still being a part of the wider institutional community will help prepare them for the twenty-first century workplace.

Institutions have a commitment to creating an inclusive environment for all students, and this includes all abilities, genders, sexual orientations, races, ethnicities, nationalities, religious traditions, socioeconomic classes, and ages. This may seem like an insurmountable task with so many things to consider when designing a course, and most course instructors simply not having the time. However, there is some useful current research that can help you when creating a course to meet a diverse range of needs.

Tips for clear communication

Clear communication is key with any online course and making sure those communications are understandable and accessible to everyone is essential. One of the main differences between online and in person classes is how students and instructors interact in the ‘classroom’. Online classes mean all interactions happen in the digital space, and the vast majority of these will be written exchanges.

As there tends to be a high reliance on written communication, there is increased potential for issues related to how the content is interpreted, particularly if English is the student’s second language. They may look for hidden messages or decipher the feedback incorrectly. It’s important to take the potential for this into consideration when sharing feedback and try to be as clear and thorough as possible. It may be helpful to create examples of frequent mistakes or errors with detailed notes so students can easily see where they may have gone wrong.

This problem is not isolated to just students with English as their second language. Native English speakers will still have cultural influences that may impact the dynamics of your exchanges and their approach to the course. For example, cultural norms may affect how and when a student responds to questions. Students from western cultures may be more likely to view the course instructor as a facilitator to their studies, whereas in some cultures the instructor is viewed as having a much more authoritative role in their teaching.

Creating affinity groups and discussion forums can be a great way to make communications accessible to everyone and be a space to break down any problems or issues students may be facing. Using icebreakers and informal activities to get to know your cohorts in these spaces at the start of the course can help to establish their expectations of the course as well as your own.

Diverse course design

The importance of universal design principals should not be underestimated when designing your course. Paying attention to simple things like colour of text, font size and the density of text on a page can make a real difference to some students. Providing images and graphs with alternative text will also make content easier for any students using screen readers to follow. Furthermore, ensuring captions for video or transcripts for audio are provided will ensure your resources are more accessible.

Universal design principles will help create course content that is accessible to almost every learner, with flexible materials, techniques, and strategies. In turn, this will promote engagement from students as there are fewer blockers to their learning.

It’s also important to think about the material and resources you’ve chosen or created to form a part of your course. Do they represent the world your students are living and working in? Can they see themselves represented?

Creating safe spaces

As a course is being delivered, it’s important that as an instructor you set the tone for a safe space in all areas where students interact. This will allow them to share their experiences and perspectives freely. There are frameworks to help orient and engage students online, like wisdom communities, that may be helpful if you are new to online course instruction.

Making space for diversity and inclusion in courses can help create a positive educational experience for both students and faculty. With the need for online and blended courses likely to continue, it’s important we take this opportunity to make education as accessible to as many people as possible, and support students from a range of diverse backgrounds.

Are you are looking for further support with implementing diversity and inclusion in the online classroom?

Pearson’s course development experts can help. Their specialist knowledge can assist you in creating a diverse and inclusive online course that is accessible to all students. Find out more and get in touch for a consultation.




Brought to you by