Meme about teaching online

Think about equity in your online discussion

…then think again

As faculty go online this summer, we can all think about ways to make the potentially more fluid online environment a safe space. Sometimes, without even realizing we are doing it, we can recreate similarly dominant spheres to those which privilege certain groups in real life (Vander Valk, 2008; Leonardo & Porter, 2010). We need to think about ways we persist in unduly “sustaining access to some and excluding others” (Young, 2014). Ideally, as the online community evolves, in our discussions and through our chats and conferences, we will become as learners and teachers “emotionally and socially invested…[and feel] a sense of connection, belonging, and comfort” (Putnam, Ford, & Tancock, 2012).  

Recently, Phoebe Kang and the library resource team developed a great resource around Equity Focused Digital Pedagogy and Learning https:/   I am just reading through some of the great resources and loved this one about Faculty Focus on “Supporting International Students in the Online Environment”  

The article highlights very practical challenges in teaching foreign students. She tells stories (I love this!!) about her students and some very obvious (to her) online exchanges that were really examples of her not really seeing where her students were (as students, not even related to geography) or where they were going. 

For one of her students, who was challenged by language barriers, she relates,  

Finally, frustrated, I recommended that we communicate verbally at the beginning of each week which may help with the understanding of requirements. A returned email indicated that this student lived in Romania, and course content was translated on her computer in her native language. Again, I was humbled by my naivety and embarrassed by my inability to look beyond my daily frustrations into the world of my students. 

She also gives great pointers and concludes: I never anticipated the impact my extra time and attention would have on this particular student. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? 


Vander Valk, F. (2008). Identity, Power and Representation in Virtual Environments. Merlot Journal of Online Learning and Teaching. 4 (2), 205-211. 

Leonardo, Z. & Porter, R. (2010). Pedagogy of fear: Toward a Fanonian theory of ‘safety’ in race dialogue. Race Ethnicity and Education. 13 (2), 139-157. 10.1080/13613324.2010.482898 

Young, Michael. (2014). Curriculum theory: what it is and why it is important. Cadernos de Pesquisa, 44(151), 190-202. 

Putman, S.M., Ford, K. & Tancock, S. (2012). Redefining online discussions: using participant stances to promote collaboration and cognitive engagement. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 24 (2), 151-167. Retrieved from ISSN 1812-9129 

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