Diversifying design – exploring culturally responsive online design

Setting the Scene

Last year I spent a fair bit of time reviewing my understanding of foundational ideas and research that provide “us” (teachers and instructional designers) with guiding theories, principles, frameworks and guidelines to design “quality” programs, courses, lessons and learning activities. What I found was that, the closer I looked, the more it seemed as though there was no “best way” to recommend. The different ideas or theories each seemed to provide some value, in different learning contexts, for different learning outcomes, to address different kinds of knowledge or thinking/learning process.
I tried to incorporate that perspective in a four week online design workshop I developed for BCcampus and provided a quick review of the major (persistent and/or supported by a significant body of evidence) theories, etc. I selected three design approaches for participants to select (constructive alignment/reverse design, design thinking for education, open education) and asked each of them to think about their own beliefs about teaching and learning and to try to identify the reasons for their choices in their project design.

diversitySparks for Diversity

When we talked about facilitating, teaching, designing for online learners, we considered various perspectives on diversity. One major aspect of diversity that all educators seemed to be wrestling with is how to address the increasing diversity of cultural perspectives that students bring into online learning experiences. And, another challenging aspect identified by participants – how to deal respectfully and authentically with the issues of decolonization and “indigenizing the curriculum.” Although I had acknowledged diversity in my workshop design, I had sidestepped issues of decolonization, intercultural learning and indigenization, as I was uncertain how to address these issues meaningfully in a four week workshop.

One of my participants was Donna Desbiens, an intercultural learning expert currently with Royal Roads University. She shared a recent journal article she had co-authored with Gail Morong “Culturally responsive online design: learning at intercultural intersections”  The paper incorporates some thoughtful ideas about “internationalisation” and “indigenisation” and introduced me to some current thinking about “culturally competent facilitation” and “participatory intercultural learning”. Donna and Gail reviewed a wide range of research and provided some recommendations for learning design within online environments, from an intercultural and indigenous perspective. Their Culturally Responsive Online Design Guidelines list the “most critical research-indicated supports” and show how they can be integrated into course design. Although my main focus was to find new ideas for designing culturally sensitive (inclusive?) online learning, the article also introduced me to some new terminology and intercultural concepts that I’ll follow up over the summer to improve my understanding. Various references to AAC&U VALUE rubrics seem to indicate they could be a good place to start identifying ways to update our online facilitation practices as well.

Next Steps

  1. Review the treatment of quality/accessibility rubrics in FLO-Design workshop – find a simple way to introduce the basic tenets of intercultural learning and suggestions from Culturally Responsive Online Design Guidelines.
  2. Review the ideas and recommendations for creating culturally safe online environments and intercultural competencies in facilitation techniques – find a way to update “online community” and “collaboration” section in FLO-Fundamental workshop. Current thinking, as explained in Morong and Desbiens’ article is to clarify role of collaborative and cooperative work and allow space for individual learning and cultural contributions.
  3. Further exploration of recommended “crucial supports for intercultural learning” (suggested by research):
    – critical and holistic pedagogies;
    – explicit intercultural learning outcomes and assessments that address cultural knowledge;
    – affective learning;
    – relational skills; and,
    – intentional diversity group work
  4. Further exploration of “idiocultures” and potential impact on structuring and supporting online collaborative/cooperative groupwork or knowledge building.

Note:  idiocultures:  refers to unique small group realities,”a system of knowledge, beliefs, behaviors and customs shared by members of an interacting group to which members can refer and employ as a basis of further interaction (derives from G.A. Fine’s analysis of small groups and culture creation 1979)

Reference

Morong, G., & DesBiens, D. (2016). Culturally responsive online design: learning at intercultural intersections. Intercultural Education, 27(5), 474-492. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14675986.2016.1240901

 

 

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