With many college campuses around the country either continuing to conduct classes entirely online, or in some hybrid fashion; there has been concern that diversity initiatives on college campuses might be overlooked—or may not be as important as more students remain learning from home. After all, if students are in their home environments are they even thinking about diversity and inclusion?
The short answer is “yes.” This is not only because prospective students are evaluating their college choices based, in part, on the institution’s efforts to create inclusive and diverse campus communities. More immediately, there is some evidence to suggest that students are more subject to harassment of all kinds when learning out of their homes. In addition, as they interact in the online environment, students are subject to some of the same issues and concerns around inclusion that they experience on campus.
The Educational Testing Service (ETS) and Diverse: Issues in Higher Education recently held an online panel exploring equitable access and inclusion during a pandemic. One insight was that because of COVID-19, “networking and conferencing have changed higher education tremendously, forcing administrators and faculty ‘to think about how we can be more inclusive in these video spaces’.” That, they say, is likely to be something that will need to be considered for the long term. “Some of these ways of connecting and corresponding — are here to stay.”
What will also continue to exist as virtual interactions become an expected way of building community is the need to teach skills that enhance respectful, civil, and inclusive interactions; as well as an intention to address disparities in access to the technology needed to engage.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion training for college students can be challenging. Vector Solutions (formerly Everfi's Campus Prevention Network) presents unique experiences of real people to explore key concepts such as identity, power, privilege, and communication.
When translating diversity initiatives on college campuses to remote learning there are some key considerations that should drive the development of these offerings.
Just as with other forms of training, moving from a live to a digital environment requires considerations that go beyond “cutting and pasting.” Educators and administrators should consider the type of content most likely to get and keep students engaged in an online forum. That may mean some combination of a synchronous and asynchronous format.
For instance, students might first be asked to watch a video and then, later, come back together in small or large virtual forums to discuss or respond to question prompts.
The best insights into how diversity initiatives on college campuses can be translated from a live to a virtual environment can come from the students themselves. Seek feedback from them: What worked? What didn’t? What recommendations would they have for future topics, formats, and forums to discuss issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in college?
Finally, make sure students, instructors, staff, and others understand the important role that they can play in both live and online interactions by serving as proactive bystanders to help support messages around inclusion and diversity. Whether in person or digitally, each person in the living, learning, and working community of your campus has a distinct and active role to play in creating an inclusive, safe and respectful culture.
Hear from four top diversity, equity, and inclusion leaders who share their best practices for creating an effective DEI Campus strategy.