Culturally Responsive Strategies Implemented by “Instructional Designers-by-Assignment” (IDBA) in Higher Education Student Services

This is a continuation of my exploration of topics for my dissertation to complete the doctorate program at Florida State University in the Instructional Systems and Learning Technologies (ISLT) unit of the Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems. The program focuses on studying Learning Design and Performance Technologies, and my focus is in higher education.

For this specific proposal topic, less time was spent on reviewing the literature, and more time was spent on constructing a critical argument or reason to explore the topic I chose. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) dissertation topics, usually topics focus on a problem of practice within the field, rather than building upon theory. However, Ed.D. dissertation topics could very well be experimental and/or aid in building theories for practice; you will probably just find less of these options if you start searching for CPED dissertations.

The problem of practice I identify in this work includes Merrill’s (2007) term “Designer-by-Assignment“, which basically means whoever is closest to the information (content or technology) needing to be communicated becomes the trainer or instructional designer by default. I found that during the COVID-19 pandemic many services offered by higher education offices (like student/academic affairs departments) were challenged by their students automatically becoming new remote learners. When higher ed staff translates their services into online/remote resources for newly-made “distance” learners, equity is at stake. Of course, this has always been true, but as the article pointed out, COVID-19 just magnified the disparities of access to these resources. This was my motivation to identify the research topic in this mini-proposal.

Wealthier students may be able to take a gap year and return to college when they like, and they may have easier access to the technology and resources to stick with remote learning. “What we see from the research on low-income students and students of color, if they don’t enroll, they’re not coming back, or it’s very challenging to come back” Del Pilar says. 

The Chronicle of Higher Education

I have copied the Introduction and Problem Statement here to help bring light to this phenomenon and also see if anyone else has found themselves in the same situation and having the same concerns of equity. If you have, drop a comment below so we can learn from each other’s experiences.

Culturally Responsive Strategies Implemented by “Instructional Designers-by-Assignment” (IDBA) in Higher Education Student Services

Introduction

Today’s college students find and engage with online and in-person student services to succeed in higher education. Due to the influx of online student enrollment higher education staff struggle to support the increasing number of students. The difficulty comprises providing quality support for students after business hours, when and how diverse learners are most likely to engage with services provided by the university (Bailey & Brown, 2016; Calhoun et al., 2017). It is paramount to the success of underrepresented, first-generation, and low-income students (UFGLI) for higher education professionals to support diverse learners through culturally responsive strategies in online learning environments.

Research studies have found that historically underrepresented ethnicities engaged more in online coursework than Caucasian students, students of color worked less on courses during the daytime, first-generation college students attempted quizzes more often, and non-traditional students accessed discussion forums less often than their peers (Athens, 2018; Bosch et al., 2018). There is an observable gap between the needs of UFGLI students seeking online support services, and the practical knowledge and ability of higher education staff to design and implement an effective and inclusive online learning environment (Bailey & Brown, 2016).  Merrill (2007) identifies the impromptu instructional designer as a, “designer-by-assignment,” (DBA). Despite the lack of knowledge and experience in the application of instructional systems design, many higher education staff are assigned to design and implement online learning environments for diverse populations of students as a DBA. This concern of practice can result in UFGLI students not receiving the resources, opportunities, and connections available to aid in their success at the university. This study will explore online instructional strategies that student services staff, who are “Designers-by-Assignment,” implement to aid in the success of UFGLI students in higher education. 

Problem Statement

Higher education professionals’ mission is to help college students develop holistically, retain at the institution, and graduate on time (Cooper et al., 2016). Even with higher education online course enrollment increasing, the retention and graduation gap of diverse students stays relatively stagnant (Gómez-Rey et al., 2016; Green & Wright, 2017; Stitch & Reeves, 2017). As the online student population grows, higher education professionals should be prepared to offer adequate and inclusive services for all students, including UFGLI students (Calhoun et al., 2017). However, online instruction for student services are rarely developed, or developed with intentionality, for the diverse online student population (Stone et al., 2016). Historically, education technologies are not culturally neutral, and it is paramount to be aware of your own biases when designing and implementing inclusive online learning environments (Qayyum, 2016). 

Re-envisioning culturally responsive success strategies for an online learning environment, takes the combined knowledge and practice of instructional design theory, culturally responsive pedagogy, and student development theory. Baldwin (2019) found that instructors in higher education without formal training in instructional systems design attempt to mimic face-to-face strategies while designing online instruction. While the gap in knowledge and proper application of  instructional design exists, research has shown that higher education professional preparation programs do not intend to change curriculum to formally include instruction on supporting diverse online learners (Calhoun et al., 2017). 

This phenomenon contributes to higher education professionals becoming “Designers by Assignment” (DBA) with little-to-no formal knowledge on the subject of designing and implementing inclusive online student services. Further, research has found that online instructors have limited training in cross-cultural instructional strategies and experience difficulty in designing effective online strategies (Kumi-Yeboah, 2018). There is little evidence that showcases which culturally responsive strategies are utilized by professionals in higher education who are “Designers-by-Assignment” and why these strategies are used to support UFGLI students. This study intends to explore how higher education staff, who are DBAs, promote inclusivity for UFGLI students through culturally responsive instructional strategies in online learning environments.

References

  • Athens, W. (2018). Perceptions of the persistent: Engagement and learning community in underrepresented populations. Online Learning Journal, 22(2), 27–58. https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v22i2.1368
  • Bailey, T. L., & Brown, A. (2016). Online Student Services: Current Practices and Recommendations for Implementation. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 44(4), 450–462. https://doi.org/10.1177/0047239515616956
  • Baldwin, S. J. (2019). Assimilation in Online Course Design. American Journal of Distance Education, 33(3), 195–211. https://doi.org/10.1080/08923647.2019.1610304
  • Bosch, N., Wes Crues, R., Henricks, G. M., Perry, M., Angrave, L., Shaik, N., Bhat, S., & Anderson, C. J. (2018). Modeling key differences in underrepresented students’ interactions with an online STEM course. ACM International Conference Proceeding Series. https://doi.org/10.1145/3183654.3183681
  • Britto, M., & Rush, S. (2013). Developing and implementing comprehensive student support services for online students. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Network, 17(1), 29–42. https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v17i1.313
  • Calhoun, D., Green, L. S., & Burke, P. (2017). Online Learners and Technology: A Gap in Higher Education and Student Affairs Professional Preparation. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 18(1), 45–61.
  • Cooper, J., Mitchell, D., Eckerle, K., & Martin, K. (2016). Addressing perceived skill deficiencies in student affairs graduate preparation programs. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 53(2), 107–117. https://doi.org/10.1080/19496591.2016.1121146
  • Gómez-rey, P., Barbera, E., & Fernández-Navarro, F. (2016). The Impact of Cultural Dimensions on Online Learning: FOM Hochschule Online-Literatursuche. Educational Technology & Society, 19(4), 225–238. 
  • Green, S. L., & Wright, C. F. (2017). Retaining first generation underrepresented minority students: A struggle for higher education. Progress in Education, 46(3), 101–122.
  • Heitner, K. L., & Jennings, M. (2016). Culturally responsive teaching knowledge and practices of online faculty. Online Learning Journal, 20(4), 54–78. https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v20i4.1043
  • Kumi-Yeboah, A. (2018). Designing a Cross-Cultural Collaborative Online Learning Framework for Online Instructors. Online Learning, 22(4), 181–201. https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.24059/olj.v22i4.1520
  • Kumi-Yeboah, A., & Smith, P. (2016). Relationships between minority students online learning experiences and academic performance. Online Learning Journal, 20(4). https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v20i4.577
  • Kumi-Yeboah, A., Yuan, G., & Dogbey, J. (2017). Online collaborative learning activities: The perceptions of culturally diverse graduate students. Online Learning Journal, 21(4), 5–28. https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v21i4.1277
  • Merrill, M. D. (2007). The proper study of instructional technology. In R. A. Reiser & J. V. Dempsey (Eds.), Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology (2nd ed., pp. 336–341). Pearson Prentice Hall. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02766667
  • Morong, G., & DesBiens, D. (2016). Culturally responsive online design: learning at intercultural intersections. Intercultural Education, 27(5), 474–492. https://doi.org/10.1080/14675986.2016.1240901
  • Parrish, P., Linder-VanB, & Erschot, J. A. (2010). Challenges of Multicultural Instruction; Addressing the Challenges of Multicultural Instruction. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 11(2), 1–19.
  • Qayyum, A. (2016). Culture and Online Learning: Global Perspectives and Research, edited by Insung Jung and Charlotte Nirmalani Gunawardena. American Journal of Distance Education, 30(2), 125–127. https://doi.org/10.1080/08923647.2016.1164507
  • Salvo, S. G., Shelton, K., & Welch, B. (2019). African american males learning online: Promoting academic achievement in higher education. Online Learning Journal, 23(1), 22–36. https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v23i1.1390
  • Stich, A. E., & Reeves, T. D. (2017). Massive open online courses and underserved students in the United States. Internet and Higher Education, 32, 58–71. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2016.09.001
  • Stone, C., O’Shea, S., May, J., Delahunty, J., & Partington, Z. (2016). Opportunity through online learning: Experiences of first-in-family students in online open-entry higher education Cathy Stone, Sarah O’Shea, Josephine May, Janine Delahunty and Zoe Partington. Australian Journal of Adult Learning, 56(2), 146.
  • Woodley, X., Hernandez, C., Parra, J., & Negash, B. (2017). Celebrating Difference: Best Practices in Culturally Responsive Teaching Online. TechTrends, 61(5), 470–478. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-017-0207-z

Lit Review: Student Perceptions of Inclusive Online Instructional Activities

As you may or may not know, I’m currently enrolled in a doctorate program at Florida State University in the Instructional Systems and Learning Technologies (ISLT) unit of the Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems. My program focuses on studying Learning Design and Performance Technologies, and my focus is in higher education.

As a part of my doctoral journey, I’m reading and synthesizing quite a bit of literature on topics that I might want to pursue for my dissertation. Below is an excerpt from a mini-proposal I worked on within my first semester. This topic was of interest to me as I dove into learning about how instructional design influences learning. I read through publications about cross-cultural learning activities and culturally responsive teaching since this is my topic of interest. I found that there was less literature available focusing on the students’ perceptions of the learning activities/instruction, and when I read UMBC’s Dr. Patricia Young’s 2014 chapter titled The Presence of Culture in Learning I was hooked on narrowing in on the perception of the learner, rather than the instructor.

With Dr. Young being faculty at UMBC, you can imagine how ecstatic I was to have worked at the same institution for a brief period. I hope to meet with her one day to discuss her current research. Until then, I’ve posted my first literature review I wrote as a doc student that was crafted for a mini-proposal assignment. Enjoy, and please comment if you have thoughts or questions!

Underrepresented, First-Generation, and Low-Income Student Perceptions of Cross-Cultural Online Instructional Activities

Theoretical Framework and Instructional Design Models

Examining UFGLI student experiences will aid instructional designers and instructors to create inclusive learning environments. Researchers have recognized that a student’s culture plays a role in how they experience an online learning environment and the suggests the instructor’s role to enhance the experience for diverse students (Bhagat & Chang, 2017; Kumi-Yeboah et al., 2017; Sadykova, 2014; Yang et al., 2010). Many researchers applied Vygotsky’s (1986) sociocultural theory to understand how culture plays a role in the perception of learning. Kumi-Yeboah et al. (2017) found that diverse students preferred having their cultural backgrounds recognized in a way that contributed to knowledge construction. Yang et al.’s (2010) study suggested that instructors should model behavior in learning activities, such as discussion boards, and be aware of the cultural backgrounds of their students. 

Instructional designers should design inclusive learning environments by understanding that technologies are not culturally neutral and that there are levels of instructional design models responsive to culture (Qayyum, 2016). Göksu et al. (2017) identified the most popular models and frameworks, such as ADDIE, were found to address multiple variables and more specific models, such as the Multiple Cultures Model, that only address one specific research item, such as culture-based design elements. Henderson’s (1996) Multiple Cultures Model theorized that multiple cultures can influence a student’s experience in an online instructional environment and that there are strong and weak cultural contextualized design strategies. Thomas and Columbus (2009) explored the concept of implementing instructional design based on primary culture and academic identity and believed that culture permeated content and contexts of learning. It is paramount to be aware of your own biases when seeking to design an inclusive online environment (Qayyum, 2016). Researchers within the Instructional Systems and Design field seem to disagree on which type of models would be most beneficial for students to address cultural specifications (Qayyum, 2016). 

Bhagat and Chang (2018) found that culture contributes to how students perceive online learning. In a study by Joosten et al. (2018), results identified that course design and organization, interactivity with instructors, and course content significantly predicted student perceptions of learning for underrepresented students, or students who are first-generation, low-income, race/ethnicity, or learning disability. This study also recognized that design, organization, and assessment significantly predicted underrepresented student satisfaction (Joosten et al., 2018). The rising cross-cultural student population demands instructors and instructional designers to design curriculum and learning environments with cultural factors of learners in mind (Kumi-Yeboah, 2018). 

UGFLI Student Learning Experiences Online

The experiences of historically underrepresented students in higher education are reviewed in the following identified literature. Athens (2018) found that historically underrepresented ethnicities engaged more in online coursework than Caucasian students, but students who were underrepresented earned lower grades, which correlates with typical university statistics of withdrawal rates. Bosch et al. (2018) analyzed logged behavior data in an online introductory STEM course and found that students of color worked less on the course during the daytime, female students submitted their quizzes earlier, first-generation students quiz attempts were higher and non-traditional students accessed discussion forums less often than their peers. 

The experiences of first-generation college students, or students whose parents did not hold a bachelor’s degree, in higher education are reviewed in the following identified literature. Chen et al.’s (2018) study identified the large impact assessment had on first-generation college students’ self-efficacy in learning. Athens’ (2018) quantitative study showed that first-generation college students engaged with their online course just as much as their peers and achieved equivalent grades. However, the study also found that first-generation minority students were more engaged and achieved lower grades (Athens, 2018). 

According to Joosten et al. (2019), low-income students perceived their online instructional activities differently than other income students. Salvo et al. (2019) reported that resources, like financial assistance and handheld devices, were identified as common support systems to help students from a low-income background be successful in completing online coursework. Stich & Reeves (2017) noted that online students from a low-income background may not have full access to technology and rely on mobile devices, like smartphones to access the internet. Students that view their online learning environments via mobile device are particularly important for instructional designers to keep in mind when designing inclusive learning environments (Stotz & Lee., 2018). Alternatively, in Athens’ (2018) quantitative study, there was no connection found between income and successful course completion, which was identified as inconsistent with the literature.

Cross-Cultural Instructional and Curriculum Design

Examining UFGLI student experiences will aid instructional designers and instructors to create inclusive learning environments with cross-cultural instructional activities and curriculum design. Yang et al.’s (2010) study discussed the impact of students’ culture on their approach to learning activities, such as online discussions, and suggested that instructors should be cognizant of how a student’s cultural backgrounds may impact their work and build awareness of possible cultural biases in grading processes. Gómez-Rey et al. (2016) proposed that instructional designers should identify critical learning factors for each culture within the course and implement a wide range of learning activities, instead of repeating the same activity as to appeal to a variety of cultural backgrounds. Sadykova (2014) suggested providing a space for students to interact and share cultural knowledge to satisfy the needs of the learners, such as incorporating collaborative activities within the curriculum where students must negotiate shared understandings (Kumi-Yeboah, 2018; Sadykova, 2014). Morong and DesBiens (2016) proposed an online learning pedagogical guideline to support intercultural learning: multiple pedagogies explicitly stated and scaffolded intercultural learning outcomes, knowledge of cultural worldviews, cultural negotiation and consensus-building, diverse cultural representations, and flexible scheduling. 

Chen et al.’s (2018) study showed that the participants believed that assessment design was appropriate and understandable, which correlated to perceived learning and learning satisfaction. Multiple studies found that online faculty believe culturally responsive teaching is important, but they also lack the knowledge on how to implement it in their educational practices (Heitner & Jennings, 2016; Kumi-Yeboah & Smith, 2016). Kumi-Yeboah (2018) also found that instructors had limited training in cross-cultural instructional strategies and experienced difficulty in identifying cultural backgrounds within their students to design cross-cultural teaching strategies (Kumi-Yeboah, 2018). 

References

  • Athens, W. (2018). Perceptions of the persistent: Engagement and learning community in underrepresented populations. Online Learning Journal, 22(2), 27–58. https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v22i2.1368
  • Bhagat, K. K., & Chang, C. Y. (2018). A cross-cultural comparison on students’ perceptions towards online learning. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, 14(3), 987–995. https://doi.org/10.12973/ejmste/81151
  • Bosch, N., Wes Crues, R., Henricks, G. M., Perry, M., Angrave, L., Shaik, N., Bhat, S., & Anderson, C. J. (2018). Modeling key differences in underrepresented students’ interactions with an online STEM course. ACM International Conference Proceeding Series. https://doi.org/10.1145/3183654.3183681
  • Chen, B., Bastedo, K., & Howard, W. (2018). Exploring design elements for online STEM courses: Active learning, engagement & assessment. Online Learning Journal, 22(2), 59–75. https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v22i2.1369
  • Fermín-González, M. (2019). Research on virtual education, inclusion, and diversity: A systematic review of scientific publications (2007-2017). International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 20(5), 146–167. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v20i5.4349
  • Göksu, I., Özcan, K. V., Cakir, R., & Göktas, Y. (2017). Content analysis of research trends in instructional design models: 1999-2014. Journal of Learning Design, 10(2), 85. https://doi.org/10.5204/jld.v10i2.288
  • Gómez-Rey, P., Barbera, E., & Fernández-Navarro, F. (2016). The impact of cultural dimensions on online learning: FOM hochschule online-literatursuche. Educational Technology & Society, 19(4), 225–238.
  • Green, S. L., & Wright, C. F. (2017). Retaining first generation underrepresented minority students: A struggle for higher education. Progress in Education, 46(3), 101–122.
  • Heitner, K. L., & Jennings, M. (2016). Culturally responsive teaching knowledge and practices of online faculty. Online Learning Journal, 20(4), 54–78. https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v20i4.1043
  • Henderson, L. (1996). Instructional design of interactive multimedia: A cultural critique. Educational Technology Research and Development, 44(4), 85–104. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02299823
  • Huang, Y. (2019). Undergraduate students’ perceptions of culturally responsive teaching and their Sense of belonging and academic self-efficacy in higher education [Doctoral Dissertation, Purdue University]. 
  • Joosten, T., Cusatis, R., & Harness, L. (2019). A cross-institutional study of instructional characteristics and student outcomes: Are quality indicators of online courses able to predict student success? Online Learning, 23(4). https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v23i4.1432
  • Kumi-Yeboah, A. (2018). Designing a cross-cultural collaborative online learning framework for online instructors. Online Learning, 22(4), 181–201. https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.24059/olj.v22i4.1520
  • Kumi-Yeboah, A., & Smith, P. (2016). Relationships between minority students online learning experiences and academic performance. Online Learning Journal, 20(4). https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v20i4.577
  • Kumi-Yeboah, A., Yuan, G., & Dogbey, J. (2017). Online collaborative learning activities: The perceptions of culturally diverse graduate students. Online Learning Journal, 21(4), 5–28. https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v21i4.1277
  • Morong, G., & DesBiens, D. (2016). Culturally responsive online design: learning at intercultural intersections. Intercultural Education, 27(5), 474–492. https://doi.org/10.1080/14675986.2016.1240901
  • O’Shea, S. (2016). Avoiding the manufacture of ‘sameness’: first-in-family students, cultural capital and the higher education environment. Higher Education, 72(1), 59–78. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-015-9938-y
  • Parrish, P., Linder-VanB, & Erschot, J. A. (2010). Challenges of multicultural instruction; addressing the challenges of multicultural instruction. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 11(2), 1–19.
  • Qayyum, A. (2016). Culture and online learning: Global perspectives and research, edited by Insung Jung and Charlotte Nirmalani Gunawardena. American Journal of Distance Education, 30(2), 125–127. https://doi.org/10.1080/08923647.2016.1164507
  • Sadykova, G. (2014). Mediating knowledge through peer-to-peer interaction in a multicultural online learning environment: A case study of international students in the US. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 15(3), 24–49. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v15i3.1629
  • Salvo, S. G., Shelton, K., & Welch, B. (2019). African american males learning online: Promoting academic achievement in higher education. Online Learning Journal, 23(1), 22–36. https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v23i1.1390
  • Stich, A. E., & Reeves, T. D. (2017). Massive open online courses and underserved students in the United States. Internet and Higher Education, 32, 58–71. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2016.09.001
  • Stotz, S., & Lee, J. S. (2018). Development of an online smartphone-based elearning nutrition education program for low-income individuals. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 50(1), 90-95.e1. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2016.12.008
  • Thomas, M. K., & Columbus, M. A. (2009). African american identity and a theory for primary cultural instructional design. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 38(1), 75–92. https://doi.org/10.2190/et.38.1.h
  • Vygotsky, L. (1986). Thought and language. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  • Woodley, X., Hernandez, C., Parra, J., & Negash, B. (2017). Celebrating difference: Best practices in culturally responsive teaching online. TechTrends, 61(5), 470–478. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-017-0207-z
  • Woodley, X. M., Mucundanyi, G., & Lockard, M. (2017). Designing counter-narratives: Constructing culturally responsive curriculum online. International Journal of Online Pedagogy and Course Design, 7(1), 43–56. https://doi.org/10.4018/IJOPCD.2017010104
  • Yang, D., Olesova, L., & Richardson, J. C. (2010). Impact of cultural differences on students’ participation, communication, and learning in an online environment. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 43(2), 165–182. https://doi.org/10.2190/EC.43.2.b