Friday, August 28, 2020

Thoughts on Creating an Inclusive Environment in Online Classes

The following article was written by Ray Schroeder, Associate Vice Chancellor or Online Learning at the University of Illinois Springfield.

In preparing for the fall term, most colleges and universities are responding to the renewed public consciousness about equality, inclusiveness and fairness for all students.

As we reflect on American history and, in particular, the history of our institutions of higher education, we see that in so many conscious and unconscious ways we have failed in our responsibility to promote the core values we express as a society, most notably inclusion and equity. The country has been reminded that Black lives matter -- not that all lives don’t matter -- but, that despite the Civil War, despite Emancipation, despite the civil rights legislation over the years, we still are not equally united across racial, cultural and gender lines. This is abundantly clear in widely reported horrifying acts of racial violence against minorities, but is also evident in the disparity of salaries for the same work, disparity of diversity in positions of prominence and disparity in preparedness and success of youth entering higher education. Polls show that most Americans agree that we must do better. And the time to renew our commitment is today.

The opportunities to begin to make a difference are endless through the online platform, where that platform is equitably available. Not limited to students recruited to the campus, not limited to students who can relocate and come to campus, online programs reach across cultures and locations to serve students where they are. And yet, minority and low-income students do not thrive at the same rates as others in the current system. So where can we begin in developing more successful diverse and inclusive online programs?

This article appeared in Inside Higher Ed on August 26, 2020.