Inclusivity: Universal Design Strategies for the Online Classroom

  • Sarah Keene University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
  • Amy LimBybliw University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Keywords: universal design, inclusitivity, inclusive, online, hybrid, identities


Universal design (UD) posits seven core principles to consider in design. Many are familiar with UD strategies, but inclusive classrooms go even further in recognizing the agencies of students with a wide variety of needs and backgrounds. The importance of inclusivity work is backed by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, who in 2005 charged higher-education institutions to work toward “inclusive excellence” by promoting a positive campus climate, establishing diversity as a core component in achieving desired student learning outcomes, linking diversity with quality, and rethinking and modifying pedagogy to reflect and support goals for inclusion and excellence (Williams, Berger, and McClendon, 2005). In addition, research conducted at higher-education institutions have demonstrated that the extent to which students felt their institution had a nondiscriminatory environment positively impacted students’ openness to diversity and taking on challenges (Pascarella et al., 1996). In this session, presenters will define and make a case for the importance of inclusivity in the online classroom. Presenters will provide several examples of how the Rothenberger Institute currently practices inclusivity in their high-enrollment online courses throughout course development and facilitation, as well as discuss other inclusive practices that instructors, instructional designers, and teaching or graduate assistants can implement. Presenters will discuss current identity-related and sensitive language and why it matters. Presenters will also discuss areas of opportunity to increase inclusivity, including course content, syllabus statements, media production, citations and sources, exam questions, survey design, grading rubrics, grading processes, course policies, and interactions with students. Finally, responses from course evaluations from students who reported directly benefiting from inclusive practices will also be shared.

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Author Biography

Sarah Keene, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Sarah Keene, M.S.Ed., M.Phil.Ed. is the instructor of Success Over Stress and Sleep, Eat & Exercise at the Rothenberger Institute. In this role, she works with 15-20 undergraduate teaching assistants each term to deliver these online courses to over 2500 students per academic year. Sarah has also earned the Basic Equity and Diversity Certificate from the U of M's Office of Equality and Diversity.