Developing Project-Based, Blended Diversity Education Modules Across College Campuses

Concurrent Session 6
Blended Equity and Inclusion

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

See how project-based learning, digital storytelling, and experiential, virtual simulations motivated students to grasp abstract concepts in diversity education modules embedded in undergraduate writing and media and graduate change management and education courses. Participants will hear how simulations/modules were constructed and disseminated between two colleges in blended and in-person formats.


Farah L. Vallera teaches instructional technology and teacher education as a Professor of Practice in Lehigh University's Teaching, Learning, and Technology graduate degree program and is a practicing instructional design consultant in higher education. She is currently serving as a Creative Inquiry Faculty Fellow where she is working to reimagine and redesign existing courses by integrating new (or different) active pedagogies for students to pursue inquiry through new intellectual, creative, and artistic pathways. She received a Ph.D. from Lehigh University in Teaching, Learning, and Technology, where her focus was on using innovative educational technology in the design and dissemination of STEM-integrated agricultural literacy curriculum for elementary students. She also has an M.A. and B.A. in sociology from Lehigh University and Centenary College, respectively. Aside from teaching courses and research in instructional design, design thinking, makerspace development, mobile technology, and blended/flipped learning, she develops multicultural, inclusion, and diversity awareness course materials and enjoys practicing urban agriculture and volunteering as an agricultural educator for diverse audiences. Dr. Vallera has presented on building makerspaces, instructional design strategies for blended/flipped learning, and using augmented and virtual reality in multiple settings at international, nationals, and regional conferences, such as: OLC, NAAEE, NARST, NAITC, ASA, PETE&C, NE-ASTE, and many others. She has several chapters and articles published about building courses and materials using innovative educational technology for multiple audiences and content.

Extended Abstract

Our world is changing faster than it ever has, primarily in terms of technology, diversity, and education. These changes bring exceptional challenges. One way to help prepare students for lives full of change and diverse interactions is to cultivate their empathy, tolerance, and multicultural competence. While it is difficult to “teach” appropriate attitudes/beliefs related to diversity and social change, developing awareness and competencies to navigate change with tools and transferable knowledge in integrated topic areas may lead to more well-rounded and transformative lifelong learners amenable to change. It was time to combine forces across colleges and make an impact.

Diversity education should be available to everyone, as everyone will encounter individuals unlike themselves throughout their lifetimes. It should be accessible, innovative, relevant, and authentic. Such information is necessary more than ever, particularly since the world is having trouble getting along with itself. The primary goals of this project were to develop materials that encourage transferable knowledge, skills, and attitudes/beliefs (KSABs) about diversity and multicultural competence that could be incorporated into myriad subjects or courses, at multiple levels in undergraduate and graduate education, on several college campuses. We hoped to increase the numbers of 1) cross-campus collaborations that exist, 2) participants in diversity initiatives, 3) sustainable pedagogical and andragogical practices, and 4) vetted course materials available to educators.

The modules were designed using project-based learning strategies available in online, blended, or in-person courses to provide students with realistic experiences to get them learning skills they'll need to be successful, conscientious citizens and engaged lifelong learners. We designed and tested modules that could be used individually to supplement an existing course, or collectively as a full course in Diversity, Intersectionality, and Multicultural Competence. Our project used hybrid learning techniques, digital tools and storytelling, and innovative technologies, as well as design-based, collaborative approaches to our own teaching and learning. This set of modules, materials, and virtual simulations is an examination of underrepresented minority group relations in the U.S., introducing students to the concepts, theories, and issues involving race/ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, identity, socio-economic status, and ability/disability. Students explore diverse interpersonal relationships, while developing multicultural competencies and becoming aware of social forces that shape everyday interactions with others and the social environment. The modules consist of in-person and online presentations, demonstrations, videos, discussions, activities, and participation in experiential learning opportunities/simulations.

The modules/course are housed online in a shared learning management system (LMS) between multiple colleges using open educational resources (OER). Universal Design for Learning and ADA compliance were incorporated into each aspect of the project development. As some of the goals were to appeal to several audiences on multiple campuses, similar activities were designed alternatively to meet the needs of undergraduate and graduate learners. Many are available online so those unable to travel still have access to experiences. All are customizable to meet the needs of the faculty, audience, course, and subject. These tools give students greater access to learning experiences, interactions, and approaches they may not have on their own campuses. Significantly more learners from currently served and underserved populations can participate conveniently and easily in this general education, gateway "course" applicable to many programs.

The modules were implemented in Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 at two colleges and have been adapted for different courses, audiences, and campus needs. In Fall 2017, one college implemented several individual modules in a First Year Writing Seminar and a graduate business course in change management, while the second college tested individual modules in a graduate education course on design thinking. The full course was also tested at the first college in a First Year Writing Seminar in Fall 2017. In Spring 2018, the first college implemented several modules in an undergraduate media course, while the second college implemented modules in a graduate education course on project- and scenario-based learning. While it is difficult to develop sustainable materials that can be implemented across varied media, disciplines, and audiences, by utilizing project-based learning methods, digital storytelling, and experiential learning opportunities (in real life and as authentic web-based simulations/scenarios), we created adaptable materials addressing human needs along with related content development.

This session will provide participants the opportunity to see how project-based learning, virtual simulations, experiential learning, and digital tools and storytelling motivated students to grasp and apply complex, abstract concepts to their coursework. Participants will 1) learn about the instructional design and technology components used to construct the simulations, materials, and modules, 2) see outcomes from in-person and blended students’ projects/activities, and 3) hear about students' evaluations of the experiences. By the end of the session, participants will have an idea of what is needed to create their own blended, project-based diversity modules.

Participants will walk through sample simulations and modules as our students had. They will be given access to several materials used in our modules. We will demonstrate the design, development, testing, and dissemination tactics of our project. We will discuss the collaborative nature of the planning and processes involved in the content and module development, as well as the technological and instructional design skills and tools needed for the construction of the simulations. Attendees will be encouraged to participate in the activities as students, yet ask questions as we go along to gain an understanding of our design and development processes.