What is the goal of your learning environment?

What’s with the blank stare? I get it, it’s a pretty broad question.

You can also answer this question by answering some others:

  • What do you want your learners to be able to do as a result of being in the online learning environment?
  • How would learners demonstrate what they’ve learned?

These questions all point you towards learning goals/objectives/outcomes. This is were the designer starts to align their content and assessments within the learning environment.

The tip here is to be explicit when stating your goals for the learners. This takes the guessing game out of learning and directs learners to what you’re intending for them to get out of the environment. State your goals at the beginning. State your goals often, and state your goals for each assessment. This helps the learners connect the dots throughout the learning experience.

Whose Voices are you Elevating in Online Environments?

Whose voices are you elevating in the online learning environments you design? Not sure? Let’s take a look together. I’ll wait. 😁

First, review and assess the content and sources that are being shared with your learners.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are there a variety of perspectives and experiences represented?
  • What was your criteria when selecting these resources?
  • How might your learners see themselves reflected in the content you curate?

Next, search for more diverse authors, contributors (like guest speakers), and entrepreneurial creators on the topic. This is hard sometimes. We’ve gotten so used to perpetuating the majority voices, it’s difficult to actively create a new system. Overtime, it gets easier if we all work to adjust our habits.

Co-Create Community Norms First

Unpopular opinion: Learning isn’t first.

A way to make your learners feel comfortable in the online learning space you create is by co-creating community norms for interactions before any learning occurs.

This might look like…

  • voting on community guidelines in a shared document
  • an open dialogue about what environment everyone would like to contribute knowledge towards
  • a video submission from your learners discussing their learning strengths and needs from a learning environment

The idea is to work together with the learners to decide on what the learning space will provide everyone, the expectations of the facilitator/instructor and the student, and how to keep each other accountable.

I’m curious how you co-create community norms with your learners! What’s the process that you follow?

4 Tips to Create Inclusive Learning Spaces

We all want to build online spaces that makes everyone feel like they are involved and that they belong. But… how? I’ve broken down four concepts that we can take a look at a little further.

4 Tips

  1. Build your cultural competence. This is step one, because it helps (or hinders) all other steps. When you know better, you can do better.

    Another way to dial into this a little more is to create learner profiles. This is something that can build your empathy and learn more about a specific profile of learner. Another way to push this tip to the next level is to interview past learners and ask questions like, “How did you feel when in the learning space?” or “What else could the online space offer to help you feel like […fill in the blank of the feeling you hope your space provides..]?”
  2. Encourage curiosity and humility. This is hard, because we can’t intellectualize it into one action. We can start by relearning a different mindset and to seriously consider something that might feel out of the norm. If you’re the instructor/facilitator it might look like saying, “I’m not sure why I’m doing it this way.” or “That’s a good idea; let’s try it that way.”

    This part takes work. Create a habit of active listening and being open to relooking at things you may have thought were great. It’s amazing what can happen when designers, instructors/facilitators, and learners all collaborate on co-creating a learning space!
  3. Share multiple perspectives in your content. For far too long, education and development has been reserved for the privileged. It’s important to find minoritized or underrepresented perspectives to share because it can relate to many of your learners and provide a valuable missing link to your content.

    This is also another one that takes intentionality. Searching for content that shares the perspectives that haven’t always been given a voice ensures that you’re not leaving a piece of the puzzle out of your curriculum.
  4. Role-model the behaviors you desire from your learners. If you are the creator of the space, then you must also abide by the community norms. If you’re asking learners to do XYZ, then you too should do XYZ. This helps flatten the hierarchy and start to relax the environment to set the stage for co-creation of knowledge.

    This may look like participating in discussion posts, or posting a video, and participating in the discussion throughout the week with your learners (if asynchronous).
    As a facilitator, it could mean crafting feedback for the whole group to keep the direction of the discussion moving towards your learning objectives.

What other tips have you found that helps create inclusive learning spaces? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!