Technology to Support Equitable and Inclusive Teaching

Technology to Support Equitable and Inclusive Teaching

Research shows that creating inclusive classes can help your students improve their performance by enhancing their learning (Muruyama, et. al., 2000). A key starting point for inclusion is making sure everyone feels like they belong to the class community—that they have opportunities to be heard and engage with classmates. As an IUB instructor, you have access to technologies to engage every student in your class by giving them a voice and helping create a true learning community. This page shares some technologies that can help you meet those goals.

Get to know one another

One of the best ways to foster inclusion in our classes is to build strong personal connections among the students, particularly with classmates who they may not already know, or with whom they don't already share similar cultures and experiences. Building these relationships takes extra work in remote classes, but various technologies are well-suited to this task.


  1. Use the People tool in Canvas to see student photos and start learning their names. Ask students to complete a bio, although this should be relevant to all their classes, not just yours, since it is common across all their Canvas courses.
  2. Use NameCoach to help ensure that you and your students know one another’s preferred name and how to pronounce it. You can easily incorporate this tool into your Canvas site and create an assignment for students to record their names.
  3. Create a welcome video to set the stage for the semester, embedding it in a Canvas Announcement with the built-in Kaltura “Express Capture” tool. This allows you to introduce yourself and share your aspirations for the course, along with important information that students need for a smooth start. This is also an important time to establish a growth mindset in the class, conveying that you have high expectations, believe students can meet them, and are ready to help them succeed.
  4. Validate students’ varied backgrounds and prior knowledge by creating an activity and/or survey to learn more about your students and to help them get to know one another. And then make sure you address that range of backgrounds into your teaching. Consider using Canvas Quizzes, Discussions, CN Post, or Zoom for this purpose. If you use Discussions, students can also use the Kaltura “Express Capture” tool to embed a short video, which helps with relationship building, especially for students who may not take time to meet each other outside a virtual classroom.

Create a learning community by including all students

You will likely need to help foster an inclusive learning community. Without guidance, students will often choose friends or peers like themselves for creating informal and formal learning communities (Rosser, 1998). There are several tools available to help you create more inclusive learning communities by providing opportunities for students to communicate with you and each other. Just using these tools will not ensure inclusion, however. You will still need to provide structure to learning activities—establishing heterogeneous groups; determining group roles that rotate among members; structuring assignments to require interaction and inclusion of diverse perspectives; actively inviting, validating, and using all students’ voices; etc.

  1. Help students crowd source their notes and have them collectively create study guides. Consider using GoogleDocs (integrated into Canvas) to enable students to create these resources (Williams, 2011). You can structure these activities by having heterogeneous pairs of students rotate through taking the first round of notes, while classmates review and refine them.
  2. Build a community where students rely on each other for answers to class-related questions. Piazza is an online problem-solving platform that allows students to post questions (including anonymously), answer questions posted by others, see instructor notes about answers, and see which answers have been endorsed by instructors. Students can also post images, videos, and/or equations using the built-in LaTeX editor, and edit computer code collaboratively. It's a great way for students to recognize the value and contributions of classmates with whom they may not have ordinarily worked.
  3. Collect immediate feedback from students. With TopHat, students can use their own devices (phones, laptops, tablets) to respond to questions, and instructors can display the results for the class. This can make for richer discussions that represent everyone’s thoughts and experiences. TopHat can also be used in remote teaching situations.
  4. Have students share their thoughts using text, audio, or video comments. With VoiceThread, students can comment on a variety of file types, including images, videos, slides, and documents. VoiceThread's multi-media aspect not only allows students to literally hear each other's voices, but it can also allow students to share examples from their own cultures, broadening the class's base of experience.
  5. Collect ongoing feedback from students. Using anonymous Canvas Quizzes or Qualtrics, you can find out which aspects of the course are enhancing student learning, and what suggestions for improvement students have. Learn more about gathering and using student feedback.
  6. Consider holding online office hours. You can encourage students to contact you with questions and concerns using Zoom.

Help students create groups for formal and informal learning

Regular interaction can go a long way to helping students reach across cultural differences and learn to value those with different identities and backgrounds. Structuring these interactions to promote inclusion of all students is more vital than ever during remote teaching, and we must utilize instructional technologies in ways that intentionally promote a sense of belonging for everyone in our classes.

  1. If you use group projects, letting groups self-form can leave some students on the margins. Consider tools that let you organize heterogeneous groups around strengths and interests—you can use surveys in Canvas or Qualtrics to ask about important characteristics, while more comprehensive teamwork programs like CATME (licensed in 2020-21 for all IUB instructors) include team-selecting tools. Note that while diversity on teams is important, try to form teams in ways that avoid isolating individual women or minoritized students (Ingram & Parker, 2002; Michaelsen & Sweet, 2008).
  2. Use the Canvas groups function to provide an online space in which students can collaborate. While students might pick other tools to use, keeping their group work in Canvas (and/or connected Google Docs) lets you keep track of their progress, as well as give them group assignments, like milestone deliverables along the way.
  3. Encourage students to use Zoom to create virtual study groups. Consider helping them learn to structure those meetings, maybe by having you or your teaching assistants host a few review sessions yourself first. Hosting the first few meetings may also make the groups more inclusive of all class members than might happen in self-formed study groups. These live study meetings can supplement other approaches like crowd-sourced notes or study guides in Google Docs, or class Q&As occurring in Piazza. Remind students about Zoom security practices to keep their meetings and study groups safe and secure.

Ensure accessibility

In order to be inclusive, your course technologies and materials must be accessible to students with disabilities. Often the tools and approaches that make materials accessible end up being useful to all students—e.g., captioned videos are useful for second-language learners, and using accessible PDFs (vs scanned images of articles) allows for text searching.

  1. Make sure all PDFs are accessible; that means not simply scanning in book pages or articles, and making sure you "save as PDF" from Word or PowerPoint versus “printing to PDF.”
  2. Be careful about using software or tools not officially supported by IU. Part of IU’s conditions for approving learning technologies is their accessibility by students with disabilities. You should always be wary of using non-IU-approved tools in your teaching, but especially if you have students with disabilities who may not be able to access those third-party tools. See the list of approved External Tools Available in Canvas, and contact the Assistive Technology and Accessibility Centers (ATAC) with any questions about accessibility for students.
  3. Use styles in Word in order to mark subheadings and other formatting to provide organizational cues for screen reader software.
  4. Make sure your Canvas site is accessible by running a UDOIT scan on your Canvas course (Universal Design Online content Inspection Tool). Also see the Knowledge Base for more information on making Canvas courses accessible.
  5. Check on your captions in Kaltura. The software automatically creates captions, including from recorded Zoom meetings, but this automated approach can be less accurate when dealing with accents, unclear audio, and disciplinary jargon. You can scan through and edit your captions in Kaltura as neededespecially if you are going to use the video in subsequent semestersand you can request higher quality captions for students with disabilities. Don’t forget about quick ad hoc recordings in your Canvas course, including videos students upload.

Be aware of inequities in technology access

Not all students will have access to the same technologies, particularly when learning remotely. Our current COVID situation means that students cannot access on-campus resources as they may have before, and most cannot choose class delivery approaches as they could have in previous years, so we need to be more sensitive to technology roadblocks. Make sure you understand your students’ levels of technology access, recognize it might change over the course of the semester, and make sure students are not at a disadvantage in the class due to their ability to afford or access technologies. 

  1. Survey your students early in the semester to find out about technology access, as well as other complicating factorsspotty internet access, inability to have a quiet place for live meetings, etc. Learn more about surveying approaches and see example survey questions.
  2. Plan flexibility into your courses to accommodate technology challengese.g., make sure live sessions are recorded and there are alternate activities and attendance/participation options available to those who get kicked offline during class, or who have to connect by phone on any given day.
  3. Let your students use Zoom backgrounds to mask their rooms, as some students may feel uncomfortable with classmates seeing their homes. If you do this, let them know what is an acceptable background image, and realize that some older computers may not be able to use Zoom backgrounds.
  4. Make sure students know about virtualized software available through IUanyWare, which can give them access to specialized software they cannot afford on their own computer—the Adobe suite, SPSS, ArcGIS, Mathematica, MATLAB, programming tools, and more. If you need specialized software in your course, make the IUanyWare version your default so all students have equal access.
  5. If you have students who need help getting technology access, direct them to the Dean of Students office; the campus may have funds available to help students who may need extra help, like if a computer breaks mid-semester. Students may also be able to request a 4G hotspot for internet access. 

To learn more about the various tools mentioned in this post, and explore others that are not, visit the Technology Tool Finder.

Please contact us with any questions related to your teaching. We are happy to schedule a meeting with you.


Resources and References

Freeman, S., Eddy, S. L., McDonough, M., Smith, M. K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M. P. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(23), 8410-8415.

Ingram, S., & Parker, A. (2002). Gender and modes of collaboration in an engineering classroom: A profile of two women on student teams. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 16(1), 33-68.

Maruyama, G., Moreno, J. F., Gudeman, R. H., & Marin, P. (2000). Does diversity make a difference? Three research studies on diversity in college classrooms. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED444409

Michaelsen, L. K., & Sweet, M. (2008, Winter). The essential elements of team-based learning. In L. K. Michaelsen, M. Sweet, & D. X. Parmelee (Eds.), Team-based Learning: Small Group Learning’s Next Big Step (pp. 7-27). New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No. 116. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Rosser, S.V. (1998). Group Work in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics: Consequences of Ignoring Gender and Race, College Teaching, 46:3, 82-88, DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/87567559809596243

Wehler, M. (2018). Five Ways to Build Community in Online Classrooms. Faculty Focus.  Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/five-ways-to-build-community-in-online-classrooms/

Williams, G. (2011). Use GoogleDocs for Crowd-Sourced Notes. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/use-googledocs-for-crowd-sourced-notes/31644

 

This page was based on a prior CITL blog post on Technologies for Creating Inclusive Classes.