We have looked at many of the issues related to diversity in the virtual class. Luckily, there are many practical things you can do in the classroom to ensure that you reach all students.
Key strategies for embracing diversity in the virtual class include:
- View each learner as an individual created in the image of God and deserving of respect.
- Acquaint yourself with each learner, including their names and a bit of background.
- Break down assignments into short weekly packages with clearly stated due dates and always send reminders for assignments due dates.
- Plan for bichronous online learning (link to part 5) which allows learners to have some synchronized learning sessions as well as asynchronized learning sessions.
- Include a variety of teaching strategies and assessment methods such as games, case studies, research projects, presentation, discussions; this helps reach learners with differing learning styles and backgrounds.
- Be flexible with submission times as some learners may experience challenges with internet access.
- Be culturally sensitive and adopt a multicultural approach. Encourage cooperation and networking instead of competition among learners.
- Visualize a hopeful future for each learner. Interact optimistically with each learner, even when giving feedback for a poorly done assignment. Each individual is facing their own unique challenges, so let them see that you believe in them.
- Address each individual learner’s needs. In addition to academic needs, learners may have other challenges with their health, finances, social life or spiritual life that could impact academic performance, so it’s important to take time to understand and help without being too intrusive.
- Be a role model for embracing diversity. By being loving, accommodating, patient, firm, principled, and celebrating diversity, you will encourage your students towards the same values and behavior.
Our world has become a global village. The virtual classroom with its diversity of learners is the new normal, but diversity has always been part of education. As Jesus said, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?” (Mark 11:17). Jesus valued inclusion, and so should we. We need to be deliberately proactive and pro-inclusive so as to engage all learners without leaving any behind. We should endeavor to remove barriers that hinder individuals’ ability to have successful learning experiences. Universal Design for Learning (part 1) provides a flexible framework for this. Embracing diversity leads to a community of learners who connect with each other without fear of discrimination and achieve their best possible outcomes.
This article is the last Part of the Series Embracing Diversity in the Virtual Class.