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Embracing Diversity Online

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Numerous hands from people of multiple races, genders, and ages overlap in a circle
Embracing Diversity Online

Today I want to chat about something that's deservedly been a hot topic in the world: diversity. Our world is made up of billions of unique individuals and it's important we acknowledge and celebrate those differences. When it comes to online education, since educators may not see or directly interact with students, it's easy to forget how important it is that we create courses with diversity in mind. Too often, online courses are created as a one-size-fits-all model for simplicity or cost savings or, no doubt, any number of other misguided reasons.


Embracing diversity in online courses is about creating a space where every student, with their unique background, learning style, and life experiences, feels valued and understood.


Why does this matter?


Picture this: you're teaching an online course, and your students are from, well, everywhere! You've got someone in Cairo, another in Toronto, and maybe a night owl in Sydney. Each of these students brings something special to the digital table - different perspectives, cultural insights, and varied ways of thinking. This melting pot has the potential to turn your online course from a standard lecture into a rich, global discussion forum. But to make that happen requires some effort.


Why should we bother?


Because the student in Mumbai might relate differently to a case study set in New York City. Or a visually impaired learner might find it challenging to engage with primarily video-based content. And your neurodiverse student might get overwhelmed by a text-based lecture filled with a variety of internal and external links.


Many nations flags soaring to the sky
Make context universal where possible

Our job as educators is to ensure that each student feels included and has equal access to learning. This week, I've been studying about the ways we can do that in our course design and delivery. The following are some of the strategies I encountered:


  1. Universal Design for Learning, or UDL: This is the golden ticket. UDL is all about creating course materials that cater to a wide range of learners right from the start. It means offering materials in multiple formats – texts, videos, podcasts – you name it. It's like a buffet; there's something for everyone.

  2. Cultural Relevance is Key: Incorporate materials and references that resonate with a global audience. Use case studies from different parts of the world, or better yet, encourage students to share examples from their own cultures. It's a great way for students to see their cultures valued and for others, including the instructor, to learn something new.

  3. Interactive and Collaborative Learning: Foster a sense of community. Group projects, discussion forums, and peer reviews are fantastic ways for students to interact and learn from each other's diverse perspectives. Plus, it makes learning more engaging and less of a solo journey.

  4. Inclusive Language and Accessibility: This one's a biggie. Use language that's inclusive and avoid cultural biases. Also, make sure your course is accessible to everyone, including students with disabilities or different ways of learning. Caption your videos, provide transcripts for your podcasts, ensure your course platform is compatible with screen readers, and use a structured course layout.

  5. Feedback and Adaptation: Keep the lines of communication open. Regular feedback from students can give you insights into what's working and what's not. Be ready to adapt and tweak your course based on this feedback.

Embracing diversity in online learning isn't just about the course content. It's about creating an environment where students feel safe and encouraged to express themselves, where their opinions are respected, and their differences are seen as strengths. It's about showing empathy and understanding that each student might be facing unique challenges.


A diverse group of people celebrate
Diversity is beautiful

So, why bother with all of this?


Because when we embrace diversity in our online courses, we're preparing our students for the real world, a world that is beautifully diverse and interconnected. We're not just teaching subjects; we're fostering global citizens who are empathetic, culturally aware, and ready to collaborate with people from all walks of life.


If you're an educator, how do you embrace diversity in your online courses? If you're a student, what could be done differently to help you feel valued and understood in your courses?

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2 Comments


Blondie.crabtree
Dec 05, 2023

This podcast I missed the option to hear you speak. The place where you typically had option of two ways to hear was giggly lines instead of places to click. The subject of teaching to the world instead of a classroom of students certainly is challenging and interesting. You mentioned captions on videos and with poor hearing, I can attest to how much that is appreciated.

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Julie Stoltz
Julie Stoltz
Dec 05, 2023
Replying to

I checked and the soundcloud option is showing and working for me on several devices, so hopefully it was just a glitch. I love captions for lots of reasons. Sometimes its hard to understand the speaker. Sometimes I'm in a quiet place and have to keep the volume off. Lots benefit from them!

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