Uniting Toward Equity: OLC and EDUCAUSE Present Digital Learning Equity & Innovation Summit


Katie Fife Schuster, Director of Programming | OLC

Kathe Pelletier, Director, Teaching and Learning Program | EDUCAUSE

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OLC and EDUCAUSE are proud to announce that we are joining forces to bring our communities the Digital Learning Equity and Innovate (DLEI) Summit. The DLEI Summit serves as the prelude to this year’s OLC Innovate 2024 conference. 

What is  Digital Learning Equity and Innovation?

As a basis for our collaboration toward a vision of equitable digital learning, our colleagues at Every Learner Everywhere (ELE) have defined this approach as one that deliberately centers on race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, ability, and gender, harnessing these characteristics as pedagogical assets. This shared commitment serves as the foundation for meaningful discussions that will set the stage for the DLEI summit.

Our colleagues at Every Learner Everywhere (ELE) define equitable digital learning as:

…the application of digital learning with an intentional focus on race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, ability, and gender and leverages these learner characteristics as pedagogical assets. Equitable digital learning transforms teaching and learning by providing the pedagogical resources necessary for Black, Latino, Indigenous, poverty-affected, and first-generation students to achieve equitable student outcomes. (https://www.everylearnereverywhere.org/digital-learning/

The Online Learning Consortium’s Five Pillars of Quality Online Education serve as building blocks for providing support for successful online, blended, and digital learning. Digital learning, defined as “…the use of technology to enable pedagogical practices and strategies in the teaching and learning process for student success,” (https://www.everylearnereverywhere.org/digital-learning/) can provide effective and scalable educational experiences that directly correlate to quality in these inter-related areas by enhancing access for students, streamlining processes for faculty, and contributing to overall satisfaction among both educators and learners. While the five foundational pillars were conceptualized nearly 30 years ago, they still ring true as foundations to the critical work that both OLC and EDUCAUSE are engaging in today to support our institutions and educators in their efforts to ensure that digital learning innovation is equitable, accessible, and inclusive. 

Let’s take a closer look at ways in which digital learning aligns with these foundational elements: 

  1. Learning Effectiveness: Digital learning platforms provide various tools and resources that can enhance the effectiveness of learning. Features like multimedia content, interactive simulations, asynchronous engagement tools, and adaptive learning technologies contribute to a more engaging and personalized learning experience. Analytics and data-driven insights from digital platforms can also help educators assess and improve learning outcomes.
  2. Scale: Digital learning enables scalability by breaking down geographical barriers. Online courses can reach a broader audience, allowing institutions to accommodate more students and their diverse needs. 
  3. Access: Digital learning enhances access to education by providing flexibility in terms of time and location. Learners can access course materials, lectures, and assessments from anywhere with an internet connection. Digital solutions can reduce the cost of these course materials, particularly for poverty-affected students. This increased accessibility is critical for individuals who may face physical, financial, geographical, or time-related constraints. 
  4. Faculty Satisfaction: Digital learning platforms offer faculty members opportunities for innovation and efficiency. By providing tools for content delivery, assessment, and communication, these platforms can streamline administrative tasks, allowing educators to focus more on teaching and engaging with students and adapting to students’ needs and capabilities in order to improve academic outcomes. 
  5. Student Satisfaction: Digital learning enhances student satisfaction by offering flexibility, personalized learning experiences, and interactive content. Online platforms often include discussion forums, collaborative tools, and multimedia resources that cater to diverse learning styles. Additionally, immediate access to grades and feedback fosters a sense of transparency and can contribute to student satisfaction.

Why DLEI Matters to the Student Experience

The EDUCAUSE 2023 Students and Technology Report offers insights into students’ experiences with higher education and the role that technology plays. In this report, a number of findings related to digital learning and equity stand out related to modality, accessibility, and actions educators can take to create an equitable learning experience.  

When it comes to digital learning and modality, students are primarily seeking flexibility and choice. Students are more likely to be satisfied with their hybrid course experience when they are able to choose the modality for engaging in course activities. In addition, regardless of personal preference, a significant majority of students (82%) indicated that every student should be able to participate in course activities in whatever way works for them. 

Accessibility is an important issue in digital learning. Students reporting a disability or impairment are less satisfied with technology supports and services at their institution, including instructor use of technology. As higher education continues to evolve its online and hybrid learning models in particular, the inclusivity and accessibility of those learning models will be an important consideration for both faculty and students. 

The integration of technology and innovation in education plays a pivotal role in addressing the diverse needs of both educators and learners in our evolving learning landscape, and in creating a more equitable educational experience for all.  

Amplifying Our Impact

The partnership between OLC and EDUCAUSE is a collaborative commitment to fostering digital equity and innovation in education. Both organizations bring their unique strengths and expertise to the table, creating a synergistic alliance that amplifies the impact of our efforts.

While OLC and EDUCAUSE are serving as the principal planning organizations for the DLEI Summit, this event brings together experts on digital learning equity and innovation from leading educational organizations, including (listed in alphabetical order):

The collaboration of all these organizations for the DLEI Summit brings us one step closer to creating a more inclusive and equitable educational landscape. By bringing together our expertise and the expertise of all of our communities, we hope to jointly address the immediate challenges of the digital divide and lay the foundation for a future where technology serves as a catalyst for positive educational transformation. The DLEI Summit is not just an event; it is a testament to the collective commitment of the education community to ensure that every learner has the opportunity to thrive in the digital age.

Learn more and register to attend OLC Innovate 2024 and the DLEI Summit.

Sign up for updates to stay informed about future OLC + EDUCAUSE collaborations. 

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