Many of you may be familiar with the Online Education Initiative’s Course Design Rubric. (If you’re not and you teach online, you should consider completing the Course Design Academy or the Certificate in Online Teaching & Design by @ONE which both support you to redesign your online course according to the OEI rubric.) In 2017 we, the Peralta Community College Distance Education team, aligned our faculty training with the OEI rubric, but we also wanted to address equity for online learners. When we couldn’t find a rubric to support online course equity, we created the Peralta Equity Rubric to foster an expanded understanding of, and appreciation for, student populations, particularly for disproportionately impacted students. The rubric is structured to foster online learning environments that are inviting, inclusive, and meaningful for all students; additionally, the rubric is designed to support our students’ entire online experience–in distance education courses and also when seeking technical support or student services.
The rubric was developed through exhaustive research about the aspects of online courses that most negatively affect online student persistence and/or success:
- Make Technology Easy: Smartphones and Internet access seem so prevalent these days that it’s easy to assume every student has the technology they need to complete an online course successfully. We need to provide viable technology alternatives and support for students who need them.
- Value Diversity and Inclusion: To make every student feel welcome and encouraged to contribute, we need to create online courses in which all students “see themselves” and are valued participants.
- Improve Images and Representations: Our courses and materials–textbooks, lecture presentations, Canvas content pages, etc.–need to represent our students accurately and avoid stereotypes that can hinder academic and professional success.
- Reduce Human Interaction Bias: Based on student names alone, many online teachers reply more often to white male students than to other students (Baker, Dee, Evans & John, 2018). Once we’re aware of this possibility, we can proactively address it.
- Make Content Meaningful: Cultural bias can hinder learning in different ways. We can check for this bias as we design and deliver our online courses–from content selection to language choices for exam questions.
- Foster Personal Connections With and Among Students: Almost everyone sets up some form of interactivity in an online course, but the next step is to make sure that regular interaction is required as a way to strengthen connections and deepen learning.
- Use Universal Design for Learning: Based on a mantra of “teach every student,” UDL principles support providing online learners with flexibility in how they approach learning and showing what they know.
- Offer Student Support: Students often need virtual access to help beyond our online courses, including a) general student assistance, b) online academic supports; c) assistance with using technology; d) health and well-being resources; and/or e) resources for students with disabilities.
- Social Belonging (coming soon): Online teachers and learners alike should value that all students feel a sense of belonging, and research shows that belonging enhances the online learning experience through increased participation and motivation.
While we’re pleased that we just earned an Online Learning Consortium’s Effective Practices Award, we’re still refining the rubric, so email us with your suggestions! The rubric has a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license (CC-BY-SA) so you are free to adapt or adopt it at your own institution as long as you share your version too. Other next steps involve 1) collecting and sharing examples of what it looks like to address these rubric criteria in an actual online course and 2) creating a library of rubric-related resources to help online teachers, technology help desk staff and student services staff as they support online learners from a distance.