Online Equity & Inclusion

What is it?

Our main role as instructors is to facilitate student learning even in potentially modified forms during remote instructional periods. For this to happen, it is essential that we create an inclusive and equitable learning environment where all our students can learn. It is also essential that we understand what pedagogical, socioeconomic, or social-emotional barriers could be hindering some of this learning and that we act to remove them. 

Why is it important?

UC Davis is committed to providing a high quality education to our diverse students in equitable and inclusive ways. We enact this mission by using inclusive and equitable teaching practices in our remote, online, and face-to-face classes. The UC Davis Principles of Community and To Boldly Go strategic plan emphasize the principle that we “embrace diversity, practice inclusive excellence and strive for equity. (We) make UC Davis a place of excellence for learning and working by supporting a culture that values the contributions and aspirations of all our students, staff and faculty; promotes wellness and a culture of sustainability; and cultivates the open interchange of ideas.”

How can I ensure equity and inclusion in my remote class?

1. Get to know your students using a pre-class survey.  Whether you are teaching face-to-face remote classes, or redesigning a course for fully integrated online delivery, it is essential for instructors to understand who their students are and what type of educational experiences, prior knowledge and skills, and academic preparation they bring to our classes. You may want to survey your students prior to class learn more about who they are and what goals they have for your class. It is also very important to understand how many of your students may work or have families. Knowing whether your students identify as international students, First Generation college students, or multilingual learners is also valuable as you consider how you might integrate their experiences into the classroom (e.g., using diverse examples, including the contributions of diverse scholars in course content). 

Faculty instructors can go to to see the technology readiness level of the students in your class, as well as the overall campus numbers, via the Know Your Students tool (part of our Campus HHMI Inclusive Excellence award). This is a prototype tool and survey data is updated daily. An evolving quick start guide is available.

2. Plan for a remote teaching that is aligned with the technological tools that students can access.  Equity and inclusion in online learning start with technology. Make sure that you have clear information about what tools your students can access. This can be determined by questions about which tools they have access to as part of the pre-class survey referenced about.  Adapt your teaching to these tools to make sure that your class is equitable and inclusive. Stanford's (2020) "Bandwidth Immediacy Matrix" asks instructors to consider how connectivity and responsiveness factor into the remote learning experiences.  

3. Adopt inclusion and equity as a pedagogical mindset. Let what you’ve learned about your students inform your pedagogical decisions and actions, ask yourself if it is inclusive of all your students and their needs. Include a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion statement in your syllabus to communicate your goals to students. Silvia Carrasco Garcia (instructor for BIS104, BIS2D and MCB160L) uses this language in her syllabi (it appears on the first page, and in the first paragraph):

  • Colleen Bronner (Civil & Environmental Engineering)
  • Diversity & Inclusion I am firmly committed to diversity and equity in all areas of campus life. In this class, we will work to promote an anti-discriminatory environment where everyone feels safe and welcome. I recognize that discrimination can be direct or indirect and take place at both institutional and personal levels. I believe that such discrimination is unacceptable and am committed to providing equality of opportunity for all by eliminating any and all discrimination, harassment, bullying, or victimization. The success of this policy relies on the support and understanding of everyone in this class. We have a responsibility to each other to not participate in, or condone, harassment or discrimination of any kind. Instead, we will promote practices of empathy and kindness, and constructive feedback and dialogue. When we disagree, which we may in this class, we will discuss these issues in a respective tone.
  • Clare Cannon (Human Ecology)
  • Statement on Diversity. Diversity is a necessary and important aspect of social and biophysical life. Diversity is multi-dimensional and occurs across a spectrum of different social locations (i.e., race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, documentation status, disability, etc.), cultures, experiences, learning styles, and knowledges. Together we must create a safe, inclusive, and equitable learning community for all our members. Doing so advances our own knowledge and expresses our care and respect for one another. Through an active engagement with course materials and with your own experiences and perspectives, we will learn more about how diversity increases our own awareness and knowledge around major course themes. Creating this learning community of care is an important strategy in implementing our UC Davis Principles of Community. To this end, we endeavor to make course materials accessible and inclusive to all students. suggestions to increase access and inclusion of course materials and activities are encouraged and appreciated.
  • Con Diaz (Science & Technology Studies)
  • This course addresses a lot of material that affects all of us. We will talk about criminal law and bias, abortion and reproduction, disability, and the laws that have governed sex and reproduction in the U.S. However, it is important to remember that each of us experiences these things in ways shaped by our own cultural experiences, social locations, access to resources, and belief systems. We will therefore aim not to debate each others' individual world views, but to understand how and why our relationships with the same laws can vary so much from one person to the next. 
  • Silvia Carrasco Garcia (Molecular and Cellular Biology)
  • It is my intent as your instructor to provide a learning environment in which we ALL can thrive. UC Davis is a diverse community in which we should all acknowledge and appreciate the exceptional joy of diversity and strive to protect it. However, you may not feel represented when we provide examples during the quarter of scientists who have made an impact in the field of cell biology since those covered may not share your race, religion, gender or socio-economical background.  Unfortunately, that is how science has been for many, many years…. let’s make a change starting today and prepare ourselves to be one of the driving forces of that change!!!

4. Create a remote teaching or online learning experience that is based on the principle of “highly structured with high levels of support”. Considerations for equity and inclusion do not require a major overhaul of a class, but they do require intention. “Highly structuring” your remote teaching or online teaching means that you are providing students with a course design and learning experience that is very well structured and very clear. A suggested structure for Canvas modules for remote teaching is available. All instruction should be explicit; course learning outcomes, assessments, and learning activities should be aligned; and students should always know what they are expected to do, when to do it, and how to do it.  

5. Expand your course design by adopting best practices from the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) for Higher Education Guidelines

The UDL Guidelines provide detailed information about how to create an online course that is accessible to a number of students that may need accommodations. The general principle is to offer multiple options and multiple formats for students to access the content, complete learning activities, and show their learning through assessments. Consider how to incorporate different dimensions of the Universal Design framework for your remote teaching or online learning plans. You may want to start small and adopt one dimension at a time.

6. Follow the pedagogical principle of “students do the learning, the instructor facilitates the learning process”. What this means is that students are at the core of the remote teaching or online learning experience. This means that you need to design a course where students are actively engaged in learning: accessing content, completing learning activities, interacting with other students, and completing multiple low-stakes assessments. You are creating a learning experience that intentionally incorporates structures that require students to be actively involved in learning. For example, work with the class to generate a list of Community Agreements (see page 4) to help set expectations and build community with students.

7. Transform any high-stakes assessments into multiple, low-stakes assessments. By creating multiple low-stakes assessments, you will help all students learn as they progress through the course. You will also have a better overall picture of student learning over time than you would following a more traditional “two midterms and one final” assessment strategy. As you plan for several, low-stakes assessments that support learning growth over time, make sure that students receive timely feedback on their learning.

8. Stay in touch with students. As you plan for remote teaching or redesign your course for online learning, make sure that you collect student learning information to adapt your course. Here are some suggestions for gathering evidence of student learning. 

Further Reading and Tools