As our colleagues previously highlighted, the literature on inclusivity “addresses the question of respect and shared agency.” Inclusivity is a rare moment in our academic theory where thought requires action–requires the practice of inclusive teaching.
At a coffee hour earlier this summer break, we were joined by instructors from across campus who shared their successes and struggles in navigating inclusivity in the online classroom, ensuring that students from all backgrounds and abilities are able to access the learning outcomes and engage equitably in our courses. Three core themes emerged in our conversation: our social presence, communication, and universal design for learning. These themes overlap and inform each other, but here are some tips and resources for a deeper dive into each.
Social presence: Finding ways to bring your personality and humanity into your online space, and sharing those methods with students to invite them to do the same, contributes to rapport and offers more ways to connect with and gain insight about your students. See more in this post on social presence in the online classroom.
Communication: A lively online space depends on lively, varied communication. It gives students the opportunity to engage with the resources and modes that work best for them, especially if a variety of options are available for receiving information and submitting assignments. Further support communication by:
- co-creating classroom norms to define engagement,
- drawing on technological solutions to support inclusive communication,
- gathering information on students’ access to resources and technology,
- using methods for informal communication and idea-sharing (Jamboard, for example),
- utilizing small groups in Canvas or Zoom breakout rooms to allow for more in-depth conversation, and
- putting relationship at the foreground of online teaching.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL): UDL offers principles to support students’ ability to reach learning outcomes. As with communication, variety is key. Consider:
- creating a FAQ page or discussion board post to more easily share information and invite students to point out where clarification is needed,
- revising your syllabus to center on empathy in a changing learning context (adapting your late policy, for example),
- offering a rubric that leaves assignments open to multiple modes of submissions for assignments,
- giving students the opportunity to engage with written, audio, and video materials, and include tools to support their accessibility,
- giving students options for synchronous and asynchronous time with you and their peers,
- being responsive to students’ availability, particularly as we move through the precarity of a pandemic, and
- exploring what is feasible through IUware and IUanyWare, in alignment with students’ Internet and computer access, before setting assignments and activities that depend on particular software.
As you begin planning for the fall semester, it’s a good time to work through the IU Online Faculty Starter Kit. For more conversation and to learn with your fellow instructors, find our recurring open coffee hours on the CITL events page or join in an upcoming coffee hour, like Running Online Discussions.