A Systems Approach to Operationalizing Equity and Inclusion
Concurrent Session 3
In this session, we will share how at a large public research-focused university in the Southwest, we have and how we continue to operationalize equity and inclusion through course design standards, hiring practices, data analysis, technology integration, training, resource creation and more, specifically, but not exclusively, for the online modality.
In the wake of the disruption from a global pandemic and the rising attention to the many racial injustices occurring in this country, much attention has rightfully been turned to how our systems, structures, policies and practices either overtly or inadvertently uphold oppression, deny access, reinforce biases, and keep us from moving towards more equitable and inclusive learning spaces for all learners and their many identities.
“The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility, we have the opportunity to labor freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom”. ~ bell hooks
As a team of Instructional Designer experts (IDs) during this time of massive shift, we understood our unique positioning by utilizing a systems approach to implementing DEI efforts across the university and through our portfolios of directly engaging and working with many faculty members. Considering this sphere of influence, we worked to create the conditions and support for IDs to introduce designing learning experiences with equity and inclusion at the core from the outset of the course design and development processes as well as our organization. Hence, our systems approach led to the integration of DEI practices in the course design process, ID training and onboarding, data-driven decision-making and evaluation, technology evaluation, and hiring practices.
One of the first tasks we embarked on to operationalize equity and inclusion into our core functions was to integrate the award-winning Peralta Online Equity Standards in our set of course design standards (based on the Quality Matters Higher Education Rubric/Standards). Our Online Course Design Standards are a set of vetted, researched, and actionable design requirements that faculty and IDs work with from the beginning of their engagement to design and develop fully online courses and degree programs. This revision/integration process involved many members of the team who engaged in the deep and deliberate work to purposefully integrate equity and inclusion in to our existing framework, being careful not to treat diversity, equity and inclusion as a “nice to have” or an “add on”, rather as integral and necessary in the design process.
Simultaneously, we asked and encouraged our team of instructional designers to participate in and complete the 15 short courses on various types of bias that are part of the Starbucks To Be Welcoming program. The team enthusiastically took up this work as part of their own personal journey and learning, with around 77% of the team of 45 individuals completing the full suite of the To Be Welcoming courses.
Of course, data has been central to this entire effort. We can’t fully understand what is happening in our learning experiences and who is disproportionately affected, if we aren’t making efforts to measure the current landscape. An internal dedicated data team continues to advance this work in looking at disaggregated data points that provide specific insights into the populations we serve and how they are successful in our learning experiences. Program and course profiles have been developed and utilized in conversations around course and program redesign to ensure that we are focusing the conversation on who is being served by the system and who is not being served well by the system. While these conversations can be challenging and emotionally draining, they are also centrally important to how we approach this work and enacting real, lasting and systemic change.
Efforts have also taken shape in evaluating and leveraging technology tools that provide opportunities to increase access, equity, and a sense of belonging for learners. Several strategic partnerships have emerged that merge the analysis of data on equity gaps with the need for historically underrepresented learners to be more engaged, have greater access and feel a deeper sense of belonging.
As it relates to hiring practices, we’ve worked incrementally to review and adjust our hiring practices to create a team with more diversity in the identities represented to better advance our ability to design and deliver learning experiences that serve all of our learners. From rewriting job descriptions to remove potential for gender bias and include growth mindset words aimed at attracting a more diverse candidate pool, to scoring candidates immediately after an interview to remove bias that can be introduced with relying on memory, to specifically asking “where is bias showing up in this decision?”, we continue to look at opportunities to revise hiring and interviewing practices to reach the diverse talents we know are out there.
In addition to each of these focused and concerted efforts, a number of grassroots efforts have emerged from the team. By creating an environment through open sharing, engaged dialogue, strategic redesign with leadership support and advancement, we’ve seen team members identify and pursue additional opportunities to engage themselves and the team in continuous learning related to diversity, equity and inclusion. From a student-worker on the team creating and sharing a mini-learning series on rightful presence to the expansion of faculty-facing resources on creating equitable learning experiences, it’s been demonstrated that the team is engaged personally and professionally in this work.
Attendees for this session can expect to learn specific details and strategies that were employed by an Instructional Design team to operationalize equity in all areas of our work. From the details of the work to revise the course design standards to changing hiring practices, to sharing example course and program equity measures and profiles, we aim to inform and inspire participants to engage more deeply in this critically important work.
Plan for interactivity:
We plan to engage attendees in this session through idea generation and sharing about what they are doing at their own institutions, how they might see additional ways to advance equity and inclusion, and through open discussion at the end of the session with the goal of further engaging participants in this work and feeling more inspired/equipped moving forward at their institution.