Resources for Online Courses
Inclusive Online Courses Overview
Online courses and degree offerings are becoming more prevalent in higher education. Currently, the University of Michigan has 12 online degree offerings, from an online MBA to an online MSW. Inclusive teaching practices in online courses are just as vital as they are in in-person courses. Online courses can include students with varying learning and technological needs as well as students from across the globe, creating a diverse classroom. Knowing the different needs of your students in an online setting impacts their learning and educational outcomes in your course. And, while online courses can create greater access to higher education for students, it depends on whether or not they possess the technological necessities for online learning. While there are many considerations to make for an online course, planning from a mindset of inclusivity and accessibility ensures that you are taking a student-centered approach.
The importance of inclusive online teaching has been made all the more relevant due to COVID-19. As classes have moved to an online format, what many institutions are currently implementing in light of COVID-19 is best described as emergency remote teaching. An online course can take months to plan, and many of the in-person courses that have since moved online were not designed to be in an online format. However, as campus communities quickly pivoted to online teaching and learning in spring 2020, we learned more about how to consider inclusive teaching in online learning spaces. While there have been different tips and strategies published, there are three principles that cut across most articles. The first is flexibility—both in the development of courses (synchronous/asynchronous, types of course assignments, etc.) and in the generosity afforded to students as they shift to a new way of learning and have disparate levels of disruption due to the immediate COVID crisis. The second is accessibility. COVID-19 has called attention to our students’ unequal access to resources (such as computers, internet access, quiet places to study) that are not always obvious in face-to-face classroom interactions. Finally, you must get to know your students. If there was ever a time to learn more about your students, this is it. Without knowing them, you may miss some of the ways they can contribute to the class and where they have needs greater than others. These three principles extend beyond our current moment and must always be considered in an online course and especially as we strive to move from emergency remote teaching to resilient teaching. For further insight into emergency remote teaching, the Center for Academic Information created a helpful “keep teaching” website in March 2020 to provide further support for instructors.
On this page, you will find resource and activity guides that will assist you in learning more about equity and inclusion in your online classroom and provide you with activities that actively promote inclusion in your online classroom. At the bottom of the page, you will find links to institutions that are working to improve inclusivity in online courses.
How to use these Resources:
The following resources have been curated specifically for online courses. The Resource Guides provide materials, readings, and strategies to further one’s knowledge and practice regarding inclusivity in online courses. The Activity Guides provide in-class activities that can be used to build inclusivity in your online classroom. These resource and activity guides are but a few of the many you can find on this website. If you are interested in additional resource and activity guides, you can find our resource guide catalogue on the Planning Page and our activity guide catalogue on the Activities Page.
Within each resource and activity guide, you will find:
- An Overview, providing further context about the guide and its relation to inclusive classrooms
- The goals associated with the resource or activity
- Two files containing a PDF and Docx version of the guide
- An associated video, where applicable, to provide additional insights into the topic
Resource Guides to Deepen Understanding of Inclusivity in Online Courses:
Activity Guides that Promote Inclusivity in Online Courses:
Additional Resources to Explore
Here are some resources from higher education institutions to help you think about inclusion and equity in online learning environments:
- The Columbia Center for Teaching and Learning – Outlines strategies for inclusive teaching online based on its 5 principles of inclusive teaching.
- The University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching – Identifies challenges to online teaching in the Covid-era. This takes you to a blog post on addressing those tricky situations.
- Rice University Center for Teaching Excellence – One of the first institution’s to publish guidance, found in the linked article, on inclusion when teaching remotely.
- The John S. Knight Institute at Cornell University – This resource provides guidance for faculty reaching and connecting with international students when they may be living and taking classes abroad.
- Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching – This links to a set of testimonials from faculty who quickly made the switch to online teaching in March 2020 and the equity and inclusion issues that they were considering at the time.
- Arizona State University – This resource offers 5 strategies for fostering an inclusive environment in an online course: 1) knowing your students, 2) reviewing course activities for cultural awareness and sensitivity, 3) tapping into your student’s backgrounds, cultures, and experiences, 4) incorporating tools to bridge cultural and socioeconomic gaps, and 5) striving to create safe, trustworthy, and positive rapport.
- Northwestern University – This resource provides guidance on inclusive teaching online, including a section for thinking longer term about access and universal design beyond the immediate crisis moment.
We appreciate your interest in our site. Generally, we are very happy to have our resources widely used in educational settings of all kinds. Reuse in a classroom, webinar/ professional development, or for individual reflection are all appropriate, so long as it is not for commercial purposes. If you share our resources, we ask that you please include an acknowledgement of our website or specific page reference, as suggested in our Reuse Permissions Guide in APA or MLA format, in addition to any acknowledgement of the original authors.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us via the Contact Form.