Promoting Inclusive Learning Environments in Online and Blended Learning through a DEI Grant Project

Concurrent Session 3
Blended Equity and Inclusion

Brief Abstract

It’s crucial to create inclusive learning environments to include, connect, and engage every student in online and blended courses. This interactive session will share what we did and how we did to help faculty create inclusive learning environments and authentic leaning to engage all students through a DEI grant project.



Hong Wang is a professor and serves as Associate Director of Instructional Technology Training at NOVA Online in Northern Virginia Community College, one of the largest community colleges in the United States. She has been working in higher education for over 20 years with extensive experience in course design, online teaching, technology integration, training and development, and grant and program management. She has been managing faculty training programs such as blended learning and online teaching for the college. As a Quality Matters certified online facilitator and peer course reviewer, Hong enjoys collaboration with faculty and colleagues to build a community of effective practices in online and blended courses to support student success. Hong holds a doctorate in educational technology from Kansas State University with master’s degrees in both English and educational technology. She has been active in the field through professional services and presentations at national and international conferences on educational technology and online learning.
Heather Singmaster is Director of the Global Cities Education Network (GCEN) and CTE at Digital Promise Global. Her work focuses on integrating global competence into Career Technical Education (CTE or vocational education) programs at the secondary and postsecondary levels. Heather also leads the Global Cities Education Network (GCEN), a network of international cities focused on best practice sharing in education. She speaks and writes regularly on global education, including as the former host of Education Week’s Global Learning blog. She previously worked at the Center for Global Education at Asia Society, Council on Foreign Relations, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Office of the United States Trade Representative. Heather holds a Masters degree focused in Anthropology from New York University and a Bachelors degree in International Affairs from George Washington University.

Extended Abstract

Educational research reports that students are negatively impacted in the absence of inclusive practices. Numerous studies show that culturally responsive education can strengthen student connectedness with school and enhance learning (Kalyanpur & Harry, 2012; Tatum, 2009). The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization built upon the introduction of inclusion as an innovative pedagogical approach, affirming that the most efficient strategy for fostering inclusive educational environments is to promote “the inclusion of all children in regular schools” (UNESCO, 2000, in Krischler et al., 2019, p. 632).

Local communities and college student populations are becoming more diverse. Culture acts as human brain’s software, affecting how we look at the world and how we interact with each other. Effective integration of diversity, inclusion, and equity in online and blended learning can promote inclusive environments ideal for engaging in intercultural learning. Garson (2013) refers intercultural learning as the type of learning that fosters a student’s global competence and enhances their understanding of diverse cultural preferences beyond their own. Intercultural learning encourages interactions that are respectful, empathetic, and inquisitive. It occurs when students are engaged in safe and supportive environments. 

With a large diverse student population, our college is committed to inclusive excellence for all students. In 2021 the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiated a DEI Innovation Grant to encourage college-wide creative projects to promote inclusive excellence for all students. Due to lack of in-person interaction between instructors and students in online and blended courses, it’s more crucial to create inclusive learning environments to make every student feel included, connected, and engaged in learning. Our grant project’s overarching goal is to enhance all students’ learning experience in the online environments. A series of workshops are offered to prepare faculty with knowledge and skills to enhance students’ learning experiences with a focus on online and blended courses. In collaboration with an expert from Digital Promise Global, these interactive workshops provided an opportunity for faculty to learn strategies to create inclusive learning environments and authentic learning through the lens of global competence. 

To take advantage of global market opportunities, companies desire workers with global competence—the capacity and disposition to work with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Faculty must prepare all students for work and civic roles in a world where success increasingly requires the ability to compete, connect, and cooperate on an international scale. Engaging all students through content that highlights diverse cultures is critical because cultural relevance leads to enduring engagement in CTE careers. This session will share the workshop series we offered for faculty as well as free professional development materials created by Digital Promise including career awareness tools for students, sample lesson plans embedded with global career readiness skills, professional development modules, and much more. Faculty’s learning experience will be also discussed and shared.

Level of Participation

Both presenters have extensive experience in teaching and training with engaging presentation skills. This session includes both presentation and interaction with participants. We’ll start the session with an interactive activity, followed by presentation and demonstration, and end with time for questions and discussions with the audience.

Session Goals

After this interactive session, participants will be able to

  • describe the importance of creating globally competent, inclusive learning environments to support all students
  • explore how global programs and courses can increase faculty engagement with students
  • identify free tools and resources to create inclusive learning environments for all student success



Garson, K. D. (2013). Are we graduating global citizens? A mixed-methods study investigating students’ intercultural development and perceptions of intercultural and global learning in academic settings [Doctoral dissertation, Simon Fraser University].

Kalyanpur, M., & Harry, B. (2012). Cultural reciprocity in special education: Building family-professional relationships. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.  

Krischler, M., Powell, J.J., & Pit-Ten Cate, I. M. (2019). What is meant by inclusion? On the effects of different definitions on attitudes toward inclusive education. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 34(5), 632-648.

Tatum, A. (2009). Reading for their life: (Re) Building the textual lineages of African American adolescent males. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

UNESCO. 2000. Education for All 2000 Assessment: Global Synthesis. Paris, France: UNESCO.