If there is one thing that we’ve learned over the past year, it’s the importance of designing learning experiences for students that appreciates diversity, supports equity, builds community, and creates a sense of inclusion for all. The increase in demand for online learning has meant an increase in environments that have not always been conducive to or developed for students with diverse backgrounds and cultures. Cultural factors play a role in what learners share, participate in, and how they construct knowledge, so course design must reflect the needs of diverse student groups.

Since 2008, ASU adopted Quality Matters (QM) as a research-based, faculty-centered set of design standards to strive to implement in online courses. The wealth of research and support available through QM has helped us collaborate with faculty to improve and enhance thousands of courses.

Recently, we began exploring the Peralta Online Equity and Inclusion standards developed by the Peralta Community College system in an effort to help those teaching or designing online courses “make online course experiences more equitable for all students.” Making online courses equitable means the outcomes of our teaching will be the same for all learners, regardless of the differences they bring to the online learning environment. 

The Online Equity rubric includes both design considerations as well as course facilitation recommendations that support students, increase the visibility of the instructor’s commitment to inclusion, address common forms of bias, and help students make personal connections as they progress through their courses.

We began studying the elements of the rubric and comparing with our design standards we had previously adopted, which leveraged the QM “essential” or most important design standards. After months of discussions, collaborations with those inside and outside the university and feedback from various ASU Online Program Leads, we revised our design standards to integrate the Peralta Rubric and began sharing it as the ASU Online Design Standards.

We strive to promote these standards in all our new course developments as well as consider them as we review courses and make recommendations for improvement through ongoing course enhancement.

In addition to modifying the standards, we’ve also more clearly communicated the annotations which provide further insight into both meeting the standards as a baseline as well as recommendations for exemplary design, which allows for choice and acknowledges the varying levels of implementation across programs and courses.

ASU Online faculty are encouraged to review the ASU Online design standards, collaborate with their Instructional Designer, and consider them when designing, developing, or teaching online courses.

We’ve also enhanced our Best Practices for Teaching Online, to more strongly encourage equity and Inclusion practices that build community as well. 

With ASU’s mission of excellence in teaching and learning, and an ongoing commitment to inclusion, we hope these design standards will impact students by making courses more inclusive and equitable for all.

Co-authored with Meredith Savvides and DeAnna Soth. Editors include Justin Harding and Renee Pillbeam