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November 21, 2022

Future of Higher Education

Designing Equitable Learning Experiences Together

a vareity of colored pencils

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in The Evolllution.

by Joann Kozyrev
WGU Vice President, Design and Development

Furthering the work of diversity, equity and inclusion is a national imperative, but no institution can solve the pervasive challenges involved on their own. Instead, institutions should collaborate, share what they’ve learned and challenge one another to do better.

In that spirit, Western Governors University (WGU) just made its recently launched DE&I Assessment and Learning Framework available to other institutions under a CC BY-NC-SA Creative Commons license [i]. In sharing this tool, WGU hopes to make learning and assessment products—in and out of its own ecosystem—more accessible and equitable.

In higher education, we see that while significant progress has been made to meet the needs of America’s diversity of learners, but we still have a lot of work to do. Despite years of reforms and promising innovations designed to make learning more accessible and equitable, attainment gaps persist. Consider this data: At public colleges in the U.S., white students graduate at a rate two and half times that of their Black peers; at four-year institutions, white, non-Hispanic students are 12% likelier to graduate than Hispanic students. Just 41% of college students with a disability ultimately graduate compared to 59% of students not disclosing a disability; and low-income students, as indicated by receipt of a Pell Grant, have an 18% lower graduation rate than non-Pell grantees.

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With disparities like these in mind, one of the key results we strive for at WGU is to close access and attainment gaps for underestimated and underserved groups. This work involves reimagining virtually every component of our business model, from recruitment, enrollment and financial aid to the technology, coursework and learning experiences we offer. We know, for instance, that many courses and learning materials have historically failed to fully represent the experiences and identities of college students. For example, just 11% of top business school case studies feature a female protagonist. In reviewing our own course content, we have uncovered and corrected stereotype perpetuation, cases in which we missed opportunities to use inclusive language, and charged language and ideas presented in historical documents and literature without contemporary contextualization.

 

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