Networking Coffee Break: Coffee Talk with O'Donnell Learn - Equity And Inclusion: What Are You Doing And How Are You Doing It?

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Brief Abstract

The shift to emergency remote instruction in the Spring of 2020 exposed how we place too many students on the wrong side of the digital divide. It is imperative we implement teaching strategies and learning solutions that promote access, inclusivity, and sense of belonging. Let’s discuss.


Specializing in leadership and collaboration efforts for teaching, learning, access/ibility, inclusion, and innovation in higher education. Prior to my position with O'Donnell Learn, I worked for 23 years in the California State University system, leading and supporting student success efforts at campus and system levels. This includes 15+ years teaching experience in Educational Technology, Teacher Education, UDL/Accessibility, and K-12 partnerships. In addition to teaching, I have served in leadership roles in multiple state and national projects, such as EnACT (U.S. DoE) and Access by Design (NSF). The primary focus of these has been on professional development for more effective and inclusive teaching methods, accessibility/UDL, technology, and assessment. For eight years, I led systemwide efforts related to Quality Learning and Teaching (online-blended-flipped-augmented), Universal Design for Learning/accessibility, Supplemental Instruction, and Transforming Course Design. Many of these projects have involved leading Professional Learning Communities toward more effective teaching-learning outcomes and Scholarship of Teaching and Learning outputs. Finally, I am actively engaged in research and dissemination related to professional development, teaching-learning effectiveness, accessibility, inclusivity, and instructional technology. This includes a broad range of pedagogical topics, educational uses of technology, as well as developing effective online resources for broader implementation. Related presentations and consultations have been at the national and int'l levels, including North America, South America, Europe, Middle East, and Asia. Specialties: instructional effectiveness; curriculum & instruction; accessibility; Universal Design for Learning; innovation, instructional technology; online learning; blended learning; diversity, equity, and inclusion; educational leadership; project management; professional learning communities; instructional continuity.
For over 25 years, Carrie O'Donnell has been a change-agent in the education industry, focusing on digital learning solutions for the workplace and higher education, and on using customer insight to build great learning experiences. Her firm, O’Donnell Learn, is a leading learning experience (LX) design agency in higher education. Founded 30 years ago as a virtual company, the team includes hundreds of learning designers who partner with institutions and their faculty to improve virtual or blended learning.

Extended Abstract

With the continued shift to online course delivery, there needs to be critical examination of how we ensure that courses, resources, and experiences are developed and delivered in an inclusive manner, yielding an experience as equitable as possible across a wide range of student variables. The emergency remote instruction of Spring 2020 exposed ways in which institutions or instructors placed more students on the wrong side of the digital divide. While some students had affordances such as extra rooms at home (or vacation homes!) to attend classes remotely, others were forced into environments that were very unstable, lacked a dedicated computer and broadband, and, given COVID-19, were not entirely safe. Many in the latter group either lost jobs or had to risk exposure as essential workers. In addition, the rapid remote instruction response also led to much greater instances of online course materials not being accessible, further marginalizing those students with disabilities or otherwise needing materials in an alternate format.

Participants in this session will:

  • Obtain greater understanding and empathy for ways in which rapid scaling to online instruction can exacerbate inequities in teaching-learning scenarios
  • Engage in dialog related to the main issues instructors and their students face, and solutions toward minimizing inequity in the learning process