Every day, the world around us becomes more diverse. As the world evolves, people from different countries, religions, beliefs, demographics, backgrounds, and ethnicities engage with us in our classrooms. As a result, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have moved front and center into conversations about online course design and delivery. Online courses must evolve as we learn more about how to combat inequalities in our classrooms. A commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in our courses is a commitment to student success.
Right now, your online classrooms are filled with students from various backgrounds. Their cultures, experiences, and even their ways of thinking are diverse. Because of this great diversity, we must be intentional about creating a safe space for learning to occur for all students. Courses that are intentionally designed to incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion enhance the educational experience, encourage critical thinking, and help students learn to communicate effectively with people from various backgrounds.
Below are some strategies you can use today to better incorporate DEI in your courses:
Strategies for Course Design
- Include a DEI statement on your syllabus. This sets the tone of your course and lets students know that you value and respect differences.
- Revise your Netiquette statement to address DEI. Embracing differences does not mean that students will agree with each other. It may actually cause uncomfortable disagreements, as backgrounds and beliefs can shape how students may respond. Because of this, faculty should be explicit in how students will respect each other and how to disagree respectfully.
- Use a variety of teaching strategies. If you lean heavily on recorded lecture videos, consider revising the course to include written content and interactive learning content. This shows that you are being intentional about bringing different learning preferences into the learning space
- Revise course materials and examples to reflect diversity in your industries. Including images, examples, stories, case studies, and videos of diverse populations of people completing jobs regularly obtained by your graduates allows current students to see someone who looks like them successfully achieving their educational end employment goals.
- Include diverse examples, images, and names throughout the course. Look for textbooks and articles by diverse authors, seek out diverse guest speakers, and utilize case studies that consider diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Give students varied opportunities to engage in learning. Provide various ways they can demonstrate their learning in major assessments. For example, consider how a final project could be assessed if it is delivered by students in different mediums such as written, verbal, or visual.
- Build accessibility into your workflow. Accessibility is an often overlooked component of DEI. All course materials must be accessible and ADA-compliant to create a culture of inclusion in your course. Check out our tips for creating accessible materials if you are at the beginning of your accessibility journey.
Strategies for Course Delivery
- Don’t be afraid to talk about the hard stuff! These are opportunities for teachable moments, and your students need to know that you care. Embrace discomfort in lectures and course conversations. Be open, honest, and vulnerable with your students.
- Actively engage all students in the learning process. Recognize the contributions of individual students in Course Announcements and give shout-outs in Discussion Boards.
- Allow the differences of your students to transform the online classroom. Let their lived experiences, preexisting knowledge, demographic backgrounds, and attitudes contribute to how they respond to course activities, such as discussions.
- Embrace differences and introduce diverse perspectives. This allows students to learn from each other and consider new ideas and perspectives that may not have otherwise been considered.
- Request and encourage feedback from students about DEI in your course. Listen to that feedback and continue to make improvements.
Maya Angelou said, “In diversity, there is beauty and strength.” For AP, this means that there is beauty in our desire and passion to equally include all students in the educational experience and there is strength in including DEI in an unapologetic way that values and promotes the differences amongst us.
- “Diversity and Inclusion Syllabus Statements.” The Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning. Brown.
- “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Resources.” Educause.
- Krasnoff, B. (2016). “Culturally Responsive Teaching: A Guide to Evidence-Based Practices for Teaching All Students Equitably.” Region X Equity Assistance Center at Education Northwest.
- Moody, J. (2020). “Diversity in College and Why It Matters.” US News & World Report.