3 Ways to Strengthen Your Online Courses Through Inclusive Design

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When students are recognized and honored as individuals, they thrive.

As the profile of online students in higher education becomes ever more diverse, so too does the educational imperative to put diversity, equity and inclusion at the center of learning design. Learning experiences and environments that welcome diverse perspectives, life experiences and educational backgrounds are mission-critical for online educators.

Integrating inclusive learning design practices into the classroom is essential for preparing students to succeed in a diverse global society. Centering diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the classroom also has proven cognitive benefits for students, such as "growth in their active thinking processes," as well as "higher levels of intellectual engagement and motivation."1

Developing inclusive curricula requires intentional planning. To ensure strong DEI-centered materials, course designers can leverage a set of best practices and guidelines. Everspring's team of learning design experts works closely with faculty across all levels of technical capability to integrate DEI best practices into courses that serve a variety of learners. Here are a few ways to strengthen your online courses through inclusive design:

1. Incorporate Diverse Content

A purposeful mix of content and modes of engagement enhances students' ability to interact with the material in the most effective ways for their learning.

  • Build a welcoming community through the intentional use of inclusive language and representative multimedia. Select and share a variety of insights from a wide range of texts, voices and perspectives.
  • Design for diverse modes of student engagement by providing a variety of instructional delivery methods for students to interact with: video from multiple sources, text on the page, images and infographics, gifs, interactive components such as polls, flashcards, matching activities and images with clickable content.
  • Center accessibility in course creation: captioning, mobile-friendly content, language levels, a tiered course system, asynchronous formats and alternative markers for content using color for emphasis or differentiation.

2. Practice Equitable Pedagogy

Recognize the impact of the digital divide on the student population and strive to make access, instruction and assessment equitable.

  • Invite guest experts from differing backgrounds so that students can experience representative perspectives.
  • Draw on students' previous experiences by assessing what they already know through pre-testing, polls and authentic assessments. Inviting students to bring their knowledge and expertise to the classroom encourages them to make stronger connections between what they already know and what they are learning.2

3. Create Inclusive Spaces

Cultivate classroom settings that model respectful and supportive practices for interaction, value the contributions and voices of each student, and empower students to bring their authentic selves to class. Inclusive spaces reduce barriers to engagement, which positively impacts learning.

  • Allow students space to develop skills in low-stakes practice scenarios that recognize their individual growth.
  • Utilize project-based, problem-based, and portfolio-building assignments that help students learn at their own pace and focus on attaining mastery as an alternative to high-stakes exams as a measure of their knowledge.3
  • Invite students "to be part of the content creation process" by co-constructing resource repositories and lists.” 4

The future of education is online. Everspring partners with colleges and universities to deliver life-changing, transformational education, which must be inclusive. Our proven instructional design approach, advanced tech platforms, robust faculty support and marketing services for higher education partners are created with unparalleled outcomes for your students in mind.

To learn more about how Everspring can help you incorporate DEI best practices into your online courses, please send us a message to connect with one of our learning design experts.

  1. Milem, Jeffrey (2003). The Educational Benefits of Diversity: Evidence from Multiple Sectors, University of Maryland: University Press, 7.
  2. Kawulich, B. B. (2011). Learning from action evaluation of the use of multimedia case studies in management information systems courses. Journal of STEM Education, 12(7&8), 57-70.
  3. Mintz, S. (2021, April). How to stand up for equity in higher education: Moving beyond symbolism and virtue signaling. Inside Higher Ed.
  4. Dailey-Hebert, A. (2018, December). Taming the beast: Principles to efficiently curate & customize online learning resources—Journal of Educators Online 15(3).