Facilitating Inclusive, Equitable, And Welcoming Online Learning

Concurrent Session 4
Streamed Session Blended Equity and Inclusion

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

The rapid shift to online learning caused by COVID-19 has exacerbated existing inequalities for underrepresented learners. Research shows that inclusive, equitable, and welcoming learning environments can close educational gaps and promote the learning of all students. Our CARE framework provides practical design principles that can make online learning welcoming for all learners.


Dr. Andy Saltarelli is the senior director of evaluation and research in Stanford University’s Office of the Learning Technologies and Spaces. He establishes and facilitates strategic, campus-wide initiatives in digital innovation, learning analytics, and educational research. He leads a team of analysts and data scientists that partner with campus stakeholders to generate insightful and actionable learning data infrastructure. Andy’s disciplinary background is in educational and social psychology and his research investigates how online technologies affect the psychological processes underlying teaching and learning. He has published over 15 research articles in prominent outlets such as the journal Science.

Extended Abstract

Many have feared that the the rapid shift to fully online instruction at universities caused by COVID-19 -- and the concomitant transition for most students to home-based learning -- would deepen existing inequalities and achievement gaps for disadvantaged and minority students. Unfortunately, a survey of nearly 6000 students at our institution indicates that first-generation and/or low income (FLI) and underrepresented minority (URM) students have been disproportionately negatively impacted by the shift to online learning (Stanford Spring Survey, 2020). Recent national surveys of college students have found similar results. While some of these discrepancies can be attributed to lack of access to basic resources (e.g., internet connectivity, adequate location for quiet study), research suggests that the design of online learning environments can ameliorate participation and achievement gaps for FLI and URM students (Kizilcec, Saltarelli, et al. 2017; Kizilcec & Saltarelli, 2019).

Whether students feel welcome and like they belong in learning environments has a direct affect on educational processes and outcomes (e.g., memory, persistence, motivation). Further, feelings of non-belonging have been shown to contribute to educational gaps for underrepresented students (Harackiewicz et al., 2014; Taylor & Walton, 2011). Even subtle cues in the learning environment can affect whether students feel welcome, and this is particularly true in online learning environments where contextual cues and social interaction may be less than in face-to-face environments. Thus, we have developed the CARE framework that outlines five approaches for designing online learning environments that are more welcoming to traditionally marginalized students: community, agency, representation, equal access, and pedagogies of care.     

In this educational session, attendees will:

  • review recent theory and research on inclusive, equitable, and welcoming online learning;
  • explore the CARE framework and consider practical examples of how to implement each aspect in online learning environments;
  • join breakout groups in the second half of the session and work together to design at least one learning activity based on the CARE framework;
  • leave with openly licensed materials they can used to promote inclusive, equitable, and welcoming online learning at their respective institutions.  


Harackiewicz, J. M., Canning, E. A., Tibbetts, Y., Giffen, C. J., Blair, S. S., Rouse, D. I., & Hyde, J. S. (2014). Closing the social class achievement gap for first-generation students in undergraduate biology. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106(2), 375–389. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0034679

Kizilcec, R. F. & Saltarelli, A. J. (2019). Psychologically Inclusive Design: Cues impact women’s participation in STEM education. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI).

Kizilcec, R. F., Saltarelli, A. J., Reich, J., & Cohen, G. L. (2017). Closing global achievement gaps in MOOCs. Science, 355(6322), 251–252. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aag2063

Stanford (2020). Stanford Spring Student Survey: COVID-19.

Taylor and Walton (2011). Stereotype Threat Undermines Academic Learning. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 37(8): 1055-1067.