A Rubric for DEI Course Design, Part Two

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EDUCAUSE Exchange | Season 3, Episode 2

A community of educators created a rubric for designing courses that integrated the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility into the strategy. This episode will cover the second half of eight topics within the rubric. Read more about this topic in the article "A DEI Course Design Rubric: Supporting Teaching and Learning in Uncertain Times".

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Gerry Bayne: Welcome to EDUCAUSE Exchange, where we focus on a single topic from the higher ed IT community and hear advice, anecdotes, best practices, and more.

This is the second part in a two episode run talking about A DEI Course Design Rubric that was created in 2020 to assist instructors and instructional designers during a time when a massive number of courses were being moved online. In our previous episode, we covered the first four dimensions in the eight dimension list of the guiding principles for this rubric. The first four on the list included syllabus and general course design, standard support, content and engagement, and building relationships. I encourage you to listen to our previous episode to hear the authors expand upon those topics. Also, to see a full explanation of this course design rubric, check out the EDUCAUSE review article entitled A DEI Course Design Rubric: Supporting Teaching and Learning in Uncertain Times. We'll provide a link to that in the show notes. This brings us to the fifth dimension of the DEI Course Design Rubric, and that's implicit bias. This states that the instructor and the learners should be aware of any biases or stereotypes that may interfere with learning.

Kim DeBacco: I think the first step is for instructors, both in the syllabus but also just in their conversations with the class to acknowledge that they're going to demonstrate sometime bias that they're not going to be aware of.

Gerry Bayne: That's Kim DeBacco, Senior Instructional Designer at UCLA. She's part of the working group from the University of California Instructional Design and Faculty Support Community that helped to author this rubric.

Kim DeBacco: There needs to be perhaps some way of signaling when that happens without shaming or demonizing people. I think good instructors build this into course design the opportunity to reflect on their biases in some way. I think it's important too in this area of implicit bias for instructors to put in a trigger warning perhaps, a content advisory when you're handling difficult material. If you're teaching a course on documentary film, you need to perhaps alert students that some of the content in a certain film was filmed in another era at another time when social mores and attitudes were different.

Gerry Bayne: The sixth dimension are considerations around technology. This dimension encourages educational technology tools needed to support learning outcomes and provide equitable opportunities for student success.

Nick Matos: Having that as your baseline, if that student can be successful, you hope that other students would also find whatever technique or tool that you're using helpful in the course. So captioning all of your video content, making sure that all of your course materials, PDFs are accessible by a screen reader.

Gerry Bayne: Nick Matos is also part of the design rubric group, and he's a senior instructional designer at the University of California San Diego.

Kim DeBacco: The other area of concern in the area of technology is proctoring of exams, and I've got one big concern here. When we use webcams and we do proctoring through certain third party tools that are out there, there've been cases recently where students who have dark skin colors, the technology red flags them, and there are cases where technology itself is not very inclusive, where its practices are not equitable. So again, we need to be thinking about that, and this dimension is designed to draw the attention of instructors to the technology that they're using or expecting their students to use.

Gerry Bayne: As with all these topics on the list, each one affects every other topic mentioned. Number seven is accessibility, which is often at the heart of DEI thinking

Nick Matos: We used DEI, but again, many others are using DEI&A for access or accessibility. We've had those conversations as a group too about should we or when should we include that, but we felt like at least at the time when we put the rubric out there, that it fell under the idea of equity.

Gerry Bayne: Nick says accessibility is often one of the items that instructional designers are most focused on, making sure that a student who needs some assistive technology is able to be successful in the course.

Kim DeBacco: If you can make accommodations available, if you can provide multiple options for assignments, for example, and that's in line with UDL principles as well, if you can have multiple ways of participating or completing something in the course, that actually is not just there for students with a disability who might need that kind of accommodation, it's actually great for everybody to be able to complete an assignment in the way that they feel they can do it best.

Gerry Bayne: And that brings us to the final of the A DEI Course Design Rubrics, and that's continuous improvement. And while it might be implied without saying, an eye to always improving students' chances for success is a good thing to remember.

Kim DeBacco: I really feel like it's encouraging instructors and all of us, instructional designers as well who use the rubric to engage with professional development, for example, to learn more, to keep learning as instructors. I think continuous improvement is all about our learning, our self-improvement, as well as improving the course experience that you might have designed and taught. We are all works in progress and it's inviting us to keep improving.

Nick Matos: This area, again, is sort of fit in what we turned into, an introduction to the rubric or sort of almost a philosophy that the group that drafted this had different levels of experience in all of these areas, and these conversations are always evolving, and again, we talked about that now, next, later mentality rather than good, better, best.

Gerry Bayne: What Nick's referring to here is a choice the group made in designing these course design dimensions so it did not promote an inbuilt hierarchy of judgment. Thus, they decided on the now, next, later column headings to organize what is essentially a long list of DEI strategies.

Kathe Pelletier: I really love the now, next, later approach to the rubric.

Gerry Bayne: That's Kathe Pelletier, EDUCAUSE director for our teaching and learning program. She says this approach allows instructors and designers to find the strategies that are most approachable at varying levels of experience and capability.

Kathe Pelletier: Really putting the agency in the hands of the faculty member or the instructional designer to think about this as a kind of ongoing opportunity for them to take action. And especially as it relates to diversity, equity, and inclusion, where we're all learning, and every day I know I really discover new opportunities for development myself. It feels like a really supportive approach.

Gerry Bayne: If you'd like to learn more, including a link to the rubric, check out the EDUCAUSE review article entitled A DEI Course Design Rubric: Supporting Teaching and Learning in Uncertain Times. We'll provide a link in the show notes. For EDUCAUSE Exchange, I'm Gerry Bayne. Thanks for listening.


This episode features:

Kim DeBacco
Senior Instructional Designer
University of California, Los Angeles

Nick Mattos
Senior Instructional Designer
University of California, San Diego

Recommended Resource

A DEI Course Design Rubric: Supporting Teaching and Learning in Uncertain Times