Introducing Inclusive Practices into Online Courses

One of FIU’s best qualities is its genuine way of bringing students from different cultures and backgrounds together every semester. These students bring their own perspectives, ideas, and experiences into our classrooms. Being able to empower these differences in the classroom can greatly benefit our students. It can help keep them engaged, as well as bridge a connection in an oftentimes difficult to connect digital environment. There are many ways to facilitate  students learning while keeping these differences in mind using Inclusive Teaching. 

Defining Inclusive Teaching

Inclusive Teaching focuses on an array of teaching approaches centered on different student backgrounds and experiences. An important component of inclusive teaching is developing a curriculum focused on equitable learning. 

What are some Inclusive Practices?

Create an Inclusive Environment 

Develop and share equitable conversation guidelines for students to use. Encourage students to use them when meeting with others during Zoom meetings or in discussion boards. You can collaborate with students on these guidelines to emphasize inclusive practices and foster collaborative communication strategies.

Use Inclusive Language

 When speaking or writing to students, it is recommended to use words that are inclusive. Keep in mind a given students’ personal pronouns, as well as their gender-specific words and phrases. For example, instead of greeting your class with  “hey guys,” try using gender-inclusive terms like “hello everyone.”

A man and two women sitting together with their computers in an inclusive setting.

Develop Inclusive Content 

Add instructional material that bring different perspectives. Share content from people of different cultures and backgrounds through a variety of outlets such as PowerPoints, articles, and videos. This provides students with new ways of looking at the course material. For example, an article focused on teaching practices in Greece can be added to a Classroom Management course. This gives students in this course an opportunity to analyze different approaches in teaching from a different culture.

Add an Inclusivity Statement into your Syllabus 

Add an inclusivity statement to your syllabus and promote the idea of respect and appreciation for diversity and different perspectives. Reviewing the inclusivity statement when you introduce the syllabus to your students will support your commitment to inclusive practices. You can create your own inclusivity statement or use the following as an example. 

“This course will serve to embrace the diversity and inclusivity found in Florida International University. We appreciate and respect diversity, equality, equity, cooperativeness, community, and sustainability in our online courses. We are committed to the ongoing education of our students and their participation in the course regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, geographical location, religion, and disability. We strive to encourage collaboration by preparing our students to value the differences in others. At the core of our intentions is the encouragement of acceptance and appreciation of differences that exist in our student population and community.” 

Get to Know Your Students 

Learning from your students will enable you to adapt the course to fit their learning needs.  Knowing your students’ interest gives you the opportunity to add relatable material. You can add additional instructional material they may have any easier time connecting with and understanding.

Bringing our students together by empowering our differences can make a great impact on our students’ learning and our community. Making small changes such as these can help our students feel comfortable and connected in our online courses. It can encourage them to think beyond what is expected and be worlds ahead. 

FIU instructors may request more information by opening case ticket through FIU Canvas Help.

Cora Fernandez is an Instructional Designer with FIU Online at Florida International University. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education in 2015, and a Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction in 2018 from FIU. Previous to working at FIU Online, she was employed as the Undergraduate Office Specialist in the English Department and later as the Writing and Rhetoric Office Specialist. Also, she has taught First Year Experience, SLS1501. Teaching this course allowed her to gain experience as a facilitator in a hybrid setting. Currently as an Instructional Designer at FIU Online, she assists faculty in developing courses and earning Quality Matters certification.