Online Learning Design for Diversity and Inclusion 2017 Kansas CUPA-HR Conference, Nov. 8 - 9, 2017

Every learner is diverse...on a number of dimensions

  • age
  • race
  • ethnicity
  • gender
  • life experiences
  • languages
  • worldviews
  • values
  • beliefs
  • learning preferences

Combined, these dimensions result in "combinatorial complexity"...all to say that humans are unique...and their learning needs change over time...and their learning capabilities change over time.

Why be inclusive?

  • Inclusiveness is an important part of our democratic tradition.
  • Inclusiveness helps a society be more innovative and competitive.
  • Inclusiveness ensures that an instructional design is effective.
  • Inclusiveness "future-proofs" an instructional design and limits needs for retrofitting.

Inclusive instructional design...

Inclusive instructional design means designing for the common range of learners and also those who may be on the far edges / long tails (outliers) of a normal curve. Learners also range from novices and amateurs...to experts...depending on the population size of the trainees. Inclusion as a design value means most broadly accommodating and welcoming learners in all their real-world complexity.

(The normal curve depiction is an open source one by Dan Kemler. This was released through Wikipedia.)

The Approach for this Presentation

  1. A review of the academic literature (in the long version on SlideShare)
  2. Extraction of insights and practices for diversity and inclusion
  3. Integration with current instructional design practices
  4. Summarization of the main points

Intended and Unintended Messaging

Designs suggest that every element of the instruction has been thought-through…

  • the visual depictions of learners
  • the plotlines of cases and scenarios
  • the dialogues between characters in an interaction sequence
  • the locations in videos
  • the contexts in story problems
  • the colors of design “skins” for web pages and apps
  • and so on…

This means that those who design and develop trainings and learning objects and courses need to ensure that messaging is intended and clear (and that unintended messaging is avoided). This requires attention to detail. This requires discipline. Control.

Thinking about "Whole Learners"

Inclusion for Demographics

Inclusive design for demographics means…

  • not using stereotypes to show various sub-populations in derogatory light or in laudatory light (“model minorities”)
  • remembering that stereotypes may be of various dimensions of people: age, gender, class, racial identity, ethnicity, sexual identity, geography, and others
  • casting against type
  • not using depictions of individuals from minority groups as stand-ins for anyone not in the majority group (no tokenism)
  • not using exclusionary and excluding language; not using “hate speech”
  • not triggering “stereotype threat” in learners (which has been shown to lower learning performance)
  • not fomenting antagonisms in the learning population
  • not designing learning that privileges one group and harms others (learning opportunities should be equal to all)
  • not creating a social context of in-groups and out-groups, have’s and have-not’s
  • not providing special privilege(s) to the majority group at the expense of a minority group or vice versa

Some of this can be quite nuanced, and examining learning outcomes for signs of disparities and unequal treatments will be important. In other words, researchers should not just look for signs of fairness but purposefully look for signs of unfairness…in order to design, develop, and provide the optimal learning opportunities.

Inclusive design for demographics means…

depicting people in real-world complexity and without stereotypes (not one monolithic type)

using inclusionary and welcoming language

highlighting the capabilities of all learners

encouraging constructive socializing for learning in learning contexts

treating all learners equally

including all learners and groups of learners, and heading off the creation of “in-groups” and “out-groups” (discouraging cliques)

providing learning privileges to all learners equally

Inclusion for Culture

Respect varied cultures. There are a lot of ways to be...and lots of ways to be right.

Include a variety of different perspectives on an issue. There is not just one core way of understanding phenomena in a complex world.

Do not contravene core values at the center of people's cultural identities. Respect each person's dignity.

Infuse various cultural influences and differences into the learning sequence.

Respect learners and their differences.

Address or avoid points of tension. (Sometimes, friction or "desirable difficulty" may be helpful in learning. This can only be deployed well in a context of trust, though. Deploying friction also requires finesse and hard work to ensure that learners are aware of what is going on.)

Work to ensure "equity of outcomes." Everyone counts, or no one counts. Everyone should benefit equitably from the learning.

Culturally Inclusive Instructional Design

  1. “Adopt an epistemology that is consistent with, and supportive of constructivist learning and multiple perspectives.
  2. Design authentic learning activities.
  3. Create flexible tasks and tools for knowledge sharing.
  4. Ensure different forms of support, within and outside the community.
  5. Establish flexible and responsive student roles and responsibilities.
  6. Provide communication tools and social interaction for learners to co-construct knowledge.
  7. Create tasks for self direction, ownership and collaboration.
  8. Ensure flexible tutoring and mentoring roles that are responsive to learner needs.
  9. Create access to varied resources to ensure multiple perspectives.
  10. Provide flexibility in learning goals, outcomes and modes of assessment.” (McLoughlin & Oliver, 2000, pp. 65 - 68)

Inclusion for Language

Use clear and simple language.

Avoid excess information.

Use precise terminology.

Avoid humor, or use it with caution.

With current online tools that enable translation between languages (Google Translate), transliteration (Google Transliterate), dictionary tools, thesaurus tools, and other language tools, it is even more important to write with control and precision to avoid mis-communicating information, miscommunicating tone, miscommunicating intent, and ultimately offending learners. (Commitment to learning can be fragile, and the learning design should not get in the way of learning or incur "extraneous cognitive load".)

Inclusion for Learning Preferences

Use different digital modalities for different types of learning: slideshows, audio, imagery, video...

Use imagery to capture those who prefer visual thinking and visual learning.

Offer a wide range of learning activities and multiple activity choices.

Use multiple types of assessments, so you're not privileging learners who think or perform in limited ways only.

Inclusion for Accessibility

Universal Design (Approach 1)

Principle 1: Equitable use – provision of the same “means of use for all students; identical whenever possible, equivalent when not”

Principle 2: Flexibility in use – instruction for “a wide range of individual abilities”; learner choices

Principle 3: Simple and intuitive – “straightforward and predictable” instruction regardless of learner “experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level”; removal of unnecessary complexity

Principle 4: Perceptible information – information access regardless of learner perceptual abilities

Principle 5: Tolerance for error – and adjusting for learner pacing and prerequisite skills (cognitive scaffolding)

Principle 6: Low physical effort – minimizing nonessential physical effort

Principle 7: Size and space for approach and use – room to maneuver (in physical space)

Principle 8: A community of learners – interacting and communicating

Principle 9: Instructional climate – to be welcoming and inclusive

Accessibility Design (Approach 2)

  1. All images, figures, visuals, and maps require alternate text (alt texting) that is informationally equivalent to the visual depiction.
  2. All audio files require accurate (97 – 99%) verbatim transcription.
  3. All video files require verbatim closed captioning (timed text). Optimally, the captions should be enriched with relevant descriptive details in addition to spoken speech. (Auto-captioning, currently, is only about 60 – 80% accurate, so these should be manually corrected before they go live. Google’s YouTube and IBM’s Watson both have auto-captioning capabilities based on machine learning from online audio and video files.)
  4. All live events require live transcription (optimally). If lead-up and lead-away resources can be offered to enrich the event, that should be done.
  5. Animations, games, videos, and other action objects require user controls to moderate the experience.
  6. All interactive objects and online experiences should have keyboard shortcut capabilities to enable user access and navigation based on assistive devices (including devices, tools, hardware, software, or combinations of the prior). (Actions requiring mouse inputs would be considered inaccessible, for example.)
  7. Texts should be style-tagged / marked up with data structure, to understand the relative interrelationships between the words, such as the headers, subheaders, body text, captions, and so on. Such text interrelationships are noted by screen readers. Also, the names of documents should be properly and informatively labeled for easier navigation.
  8. Data tables should be clearly understandable, cell by cell, when read by a screen reader. This requires labeling in HTML. Summarize the contents of data tables in text format.
  9. Color should not be used alone to convey information. There should be labels, captions, textual descriptions, and other methods to share information. When color is used, it should be sufficiently contrastive for visual discernment. To enable those with color blindness challenges, certain hues of color should not be used. (The grayscale versions of the imagery should be sufficiently informative and contrastive.)
  10. Digital files should be created in universal product formats for access, usability, and digital preservation.
  11. Ideally, digital files should be machine-readable for Web 3.0 or the Semantic Web.
  12. Use clear and simple English, for accuracy and translatability.


Your Job, should you choose to accept it...a global health scenario

[Aedes aegypti in Resting Position by E.A. Goeldi (1905), released via Wikimedia Commons]

This section offers an instructional design problem-solving scenario. You are creating an on-the-fly training about a burgeoning contagious disease outbreak starting in a particular region of the world. The objective is to stop the spread of the mosquito-borne viral disease. The learners are global because the identified outbreak is only likely an initial indicator of a much larger syndrome. The information in the training is not fully known as-yet, and what seems to be known is tentative. However, the need to take some basic population health measures is clear.

You need to design various versions of the training to the different regions of the world—to encourage population health promoting actions—like the recognition of risk, the recognition of likely symptoms, the need for disease surveillance, and so on.

Then, there are direct actions that may be taken at the local level: removal of standing water where mosquitoes breed, preferred clothing to prevent mosquito bites, the uses of anti-mosquito netting, the uses of anti-mosquito sprays, and other actions. The idea is to be clear in the messaging and to avoid mis-comprehensions.


A Print Handout

A print handout is available for this exercise, but if you would like an electronic copy, please download below. There is either a .pdf or a .docx version, and the contents are the same.

What are the diversity and inclusion design aspects to this instructional design challenge, and how would you integrate diversity and inclusion in your work?


Debriefing the Global Health Scenario

  1. What sorts of diversity can you expect in a global audience? Why?
  2. How would you consider the "whole learner" in your training design plan? The many diversities in each person? The fact that each person is an individual in a context and in a culture...?
  3. What are some strategies and tactics to use to appeal to various segments of this global audience? Why is the burden on the trainer to connect with the global range of learners?
  4. Where would you get your informational contents for the training? (Remember, this health issue is a live and evolving dynamic issue.) Where does credibility come from in this case?
  5. How do you avoid offending learners in your instructional design? How can you be culturally sensitive? Respectful?
  6. What technologies (broadly speaking--and not just digital ones) would you employ for your online training? Why?
  7. Would you "version" your trainings and messages? Why or why not?
  8. How would you measure the effectiveness of your training? Why?
  9. Please rank-order the following types of inclusions for this particular exercise? Which of the following are most relevant in this training creation exercise? (The most important one is 1, then, 2, in descending order.) Why?
  • ___________ inclusion for demographics
  • ___________ inclusion for culture
  • ___________ inclusion for language
  • ___________ inclusion for learning preferences
  • ___________ inclusion for accessibility


Contact and Conclusion

  • Dr. Shalin Hai-Jew, Instructional Designer
  • iTAC
  • Kansas State University
  • 212 Hale Library
  • shalin@k-state.edu
  • 785-532-5262

The included images are open-source ones acquired through the Creative Commons Search.

Thanks to the organizers of this conference for including me! Thanks especially to Shanna Legleiter and Dr. Rebecca Gould for their feedback, which resulted in a better presentation.

To the audience and participants: Thanks for your interest and participation! :)

Created By
Shalin Hai-Jew

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