Conducting an Online Course Cultural Curriculum Audit: Steps Toward Student Equity and Success

What is a Cultural Curriculum Audit?

Long Beach City College (LBCC) facilitates numerous student equity initiatives for basic needs, student services, and access, just to name a few. Academically, however, we were not student-ready based on multiple measures. Namely, in Spring 2018, LBCC was ranked 113th out of 114 California Community Colleges for course-level student success. Our students of color experienced the greatest obligation gaps in terms of course-level success, retention, and transfer; these gaps were exacerbated in our online classes. 

Clearly a change was in order.

In response, LBCC began a collective effort between Student Equity, Curriculum, Faculty Professional Development, Academic Senate, Administration, Institutional Effectiveness, and Guided Pathways. Our Vice President of Academic Affairs has also been involved since the beginning, and continues to support the faculty-led project. We developed a training program that would invite full-time and part-time faculty to redesign their courses for student equity and success. This includes an examination of course-level student success data, revisions of syllabi, reviewing the Course Outline of Record through an equity lens, and creating culturally relevant curricula.

By Summer 2019, 30 faculty gathered on campus for the inaugural Cultural Curriculum Audit (CCA). This was a three-day intensive workshop that included guest speakers, presentations, discussions, and a 100+ page workbook. The program was so successful, it was repeated in Winter 2020 with a larger cohort.

LBCC faculty seated at round desks, participating in a check-in session.

With the pandemic-induced campus closure in March 2020, we modified our CCA so as to not lose momentum. We devoted Spring 2020 to building a robust online program for equitable online teaching. In Summer 2020, we offered a three-week audit using a blended model of synchronous Zoom meetings and asynchronous Canvas learning. Feedback was so positive that we facilitated the fourth iteration of the CCA in Winter 2021, which welcomed faculty leaders from other California Community Colleges and Long Beach Unified School District, our K-12 partner. 

What Do We Do in the Audit?

The three-week Online Course CCA is a pragmatic experience. We merge elements of the CVC-OEI Course Design Rubric with our dynamic set of equity precepts (e.g. Welcome our students, build Partnerships in our classes, Demystify college processes, etc.). Content draws from the growing body of research, literature, and presentations specific to student equity and online teaching. 

Each week has two 90-minute Zoom meetings featuring peer presentations, discussions, and breakout activities. Our asynchronous content includes Pages with multimedia presentations, Discussions, Assignments, and feedback surveys. The CCA is divided into three broad modules of teaching:

Module 1: Student Equity in the Online Context

This first week includes an overview of student equity, confidential distribution of course-level success data to participants, and the application of welcoming practices to our online classrooms. The three main content areas include:

  1. Student Equity Online: An overview of equity, distinction of equity from equality, student success data, and recent survey results that inform the student experience at LBCC.
  2. Equity Precepts and Protocols: The introduction of equity-minded course redesign practices, and how they can be applied to our syllabi, Canvas Home Pages, and other parts of our classes.
  3. The Welcoming Online Classroom: A walkthrough of practices that humanize our web classrooms, and concrete steps we can take to make students feel more welcome in the online learning space.

The week 1 assignment tasks participants to create an equity-minded class orientation module which employs the protocols in part 2 above. And finally, the discussion forum has participants peruse a mock Canvas course and apply a campus space review that we have adopted from the USC Center for Urban Education and modified for online courses. 

Module 2: Equitable Content and Communication

Week 2 features explorations of short and long-term steps toward student equity online. The three content areas are as follows:

  1. Active Online Learning: We present a curated list of 85 Online Active Learning Strategies, emphasizing that such activities engage our students more effectively than traditional summative assessments. 
  2. Effective and Intrusive Communication: Drawing from Dr. Frank Harris III and Dr. Luke Wood, we blend principles from the CVC-OEI Rubric Part B: Interaction, with the practice of intrusive communication–a proactive approach to reach our students.
  3. Culturally Relevant Curriculum: We encourage a critical examination of the Course Outline of Record in addition to rethinking class content, examples, images, language use, and others to be more culturally relevant. 

The week 2 assignment asks participants to respond to a mock email from a struggling student, while identifying their application of principles above. The discussion forum requires participants to locate an accessible and culturally relevant video clip, embed it in the forum, and describe how it fits in their class.

Module 3: Equitable Assessment and Accessibility

The final week explores our assignments, assessments, and accessibility, leaving participants with some next steps once the CCA has concluded.

  1. Equitable Assignments/Assessments: Participants take self-assessments that inform their teaching style, read literature that speaks to this style (e.g. Becoming the Warm Demander), and apply the Transparent Assignment Template to their online classes.
  2. Accessibility and Universal Design: Drawing heavily from the CVC-OEI Rubric, Part D, we affirm that Universal Design is good design. Participants learn about the Ally Accessibility Checker as well as LBCC-specific services for serving our students with disabilities.
  3. Moving forward: A summation of practices for additional implementation and reflection, as well as references to encourage continued learning.

The last assignment has participants read, “The Wise Feedback Model,” and write a self-reflective piece on how they employ feedback in online classes. Our final discussion forum is a space for participants to share some next steps for redesigning their online courses for student equity based on what they have learned.

Final Module: Deliverables

Once the Online CCA is complete, participants have additional time to put their skills and practices to work in their online courses. In order to receive a stipend for the audit, we ask them to submit the following deliverables as evidence of their applications:

  1. Equitized Syllabus: A revised course syllabus with substantive changes to some or all of the following aspects of the course: course content (readings, topics, etc), classroom activities, assignments, grading structure, language, class policies.
  2. Welcoming HomePage: A “front page” in your Canvas course that students see as soon as they log in, which will contain redesigned formatting, content, and images.
  3. Canvas Content Page: A new or updated “Page” in Canvas with changes to formatting, content, images, hyperlinks, etc. This page may be: Learning content, Course Success/Resource Page, or Weekly Introductions.
  4. Transparent Assignments: One or more new or revised assignments using the transparent assignment template.
  5. Active Learning Activities: An explanation of two or more newly designed active learning activities (synchronous or asynchronous)
  6. Highlights Powerpoint: A short powerpoint presentation highlighting the changes you made to your class.
    1. Sharing with the Campus: Participants should be willing to share their curriculum audit work at other venues such as the Curriculum Committee, Academic Senate, or Flex events.

Outcomes and Next Steps

Our CCA Leadership Team solicits participant feedback to continue improving the program. In addition, we monitor the initial cohort’s course-level student success data over time. Early findings show a 9% course-level success rate increase for LBCC Black, LatinX, and Pacific Islander students. However, equity gaps still persist, so we endeavor to revise, innovate, and train.​

We will continue offering the CCA. Many of our participants have expressed a desire for an “Audit 2.0” so they can continue this type of professional development. While there are many things that need to happen to make the CCA successful, there are two priorities that are paramount:

  1. Build a strong and cohesive leadership team. Every audit has featured at least two Lead Facilitators with an advisory group to support from start to finish. 
  2. Equity work is dynamic, and a readiness to adjust our methods, check ourselves, own our mistakes and work to ameliorate them is essential. 

Lastly, we hope to invite faculty leaders from other colleges to join us in this effort, so they can create comparable programs for their institutions. You are welcome to complete our interest form here to learn more: Long Beach City College Cultural Curriculum Audit Interest Form

Posted in Online Teaching, professional development.

Michael is an associate professor of Anthropology at Long Beach City College and also serves as the Online Education Faculty Coordinator and Cultural Curriculum Audit Co-Facilitator.

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