Digital Learning As A Tool for Equity And Racial Justice In Higher Ed

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Brief Abstract

Access to a quality education can have a profound effect enabling students to reach their full potential. Unfortunately, higher education has historically been unjustly denied to Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students and poverty-affected students for generations. The future of education depends on our ability to better serve these students moving forward, and we believe that equity-centered, student-focused, and anti-racist digital learning strategies are a catalyst for this change.


Jessica is the Director of Every Learner Everywhere, a network of organizations with a mission to help institutions use new technology to innovate teaching and learning and better serve Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students, poverty-affected students, and first-generation students. As Director, she provides leadership and vision for the network and leads the operation of the network strategy. Prior to this role, Jessica served as the Completion Grant Initiative Project Director for University Innovation Alliance. She also worked as Project Director in Georgia State University’s Office of the Senior Vice President of Student Success. During her time at Princeton University, Jessica served four years as a Diversity Fellow at Princeton University’s Office of Academic Affairs and Diversity and was honored with the Patrice Y. Johnson *80 Memorial Service Award by the Association of Black Princeton Alumni in recognition of her high levels of performance and service to the university. Jessica has devoted her career to helping institutions better serve marginalized students. Jessica earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia and earned both her M.A. and Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from Princeton University. She is also a mother of four children. As her spare time allows, Jessica enjoys traveling and escaping into the world of literature.

Extended Abstract

Over the last year we have seen drastic declines in postsecondary enrollment of students in across all racial categories, but losses were greatest among Black and Indigenous students. While deficit thinking often causes us to conclude that the academic struggles of racially minoritized and poverty-affected students are attributable to innate scholastic deficiencies, the reality is that this county and its systems are inherently anti-poor and anti-BIPOC, because they were founded and predicated upon a racialized, capitalistic value system that assigns more value to lives within the dominant culture than the lives of marginalized populations. This includes our educational system, which is designed to work in the interest of affirming, standardizing, and centering whiteness and, by default, white supremacy. The Every Learner Everywhere Network is working to help colleges and universities pursue equity focused, anti-racist, student centered, faculty-powered, and institution-driven improvements in teaching and learning through the implementation of courseware and other digital tools. We believe that digital courseware can be a catalyst for improving course outcomes for marginalized students by enabling faculty to adapt instruction to students’ needs and capabilities, promoting active and collaborative learning, and providing learners with actionable, timely feedback. While technology alone is unlikely to bring about the improved outcomes we seek, we believe technology has transformative potential when paired with evidence-based teaching practices and faculty trained to address the affective, interpersonal, and situational challenges that Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and other minoritized student groups experience. In this session, I will help faculty and institutional leaders understand the historical and current challenges facing Black, Latinx, Indigenous and explore digital learning strategies that center equity and racial justice.