Diversity in Virtual Classrooms

With more of our courses going online, I find myself struggling with creating programs and student experiences that have value across cultures, language, technology and curriculum.  From our week 1 reading, what stood out most in this area was the Howard (2003) reading. Of particular interest is the shifting perspective of the teaching population and the idea around better representing the cultural aspects of the classroom populations that the teachers teach in (p.195). This brought to mind many of the virtual programs that I manage with individuals who are across the world.

I currently run a certificate program for professional Supply Chain students who are dispersed around the world with individuals in countries like China, Egypt, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan. When working with these students, our professors have to find a balance within the virtual classroom that can work with such a diverse audience yet still maintain the educational standards of the program. This becomes an interesting balance for them but also for our staff as we work to assist the students with navigating through the courses and ensuring they have the tools needed for success.

One of the pieces that really stuck out to me is how much we may overlay our own ideas of the persons culture over their actions and let the stereotypes we know about the culture interfere with the students creating their own identity (Howard, 2003, p. 200). In some cases with my students, I assume the learning styles that I am used to and that our system of education will all work for them. I need to remind myself and the professors that the context that these individuals may be coming from could be quite different from what we are accustomed to. Getting a better sense of who these students are, how they learn and approach education will help us better serve these populations.

Garcia and Ortiz (2013) also forced me to pause and think through some of my actions and approaches to the virtual programs. Similar to above, the idea that intersectionality “makes possible the examination of the simultaneous interactions among race, class, gender, and (dis)ability for any individual child, family and community, as well as the interplay between these individual or group characteristics and organizational responses to them” stood out as an interesting dynamic that I had not looked at in this way (Garcia & Ortiz, 2013, p. 34).

What most stood out was this idea that there are so many interactions that go into not only who we are but how we perceive others and how our actions both take place and may be received. Within this, I was able to further draw parallels back to the work I do within higher education but also able to look across the W. P. Carey School of Business and think about how important this is in how we set up our courses, our processes for moving students through the system and the other interactions that play into graduate business student success.

I realize that I often get lost in my daily operations and interactions and forget to look more holistically at the actions and interactions within the day to day. Thinking through the research really put into perspective how we, as educational leaders, need to take a step back from time to time to see the full picture and how I can be more cognizant of my perceptions and how I present myself and my work to others.

Garcia, S.B. & Ortiz, A.A. (2013). Intersectionality as a framework for transformative research
in special education. Multiple Voices for Ethnically Diverse Exceptional Learners, 13(2),

Howard, T.C. (2003). Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients for critical teacher reflection,
42(3), 195- 202.

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Joel Dupuis

Program Development Manager at W. P. Carey School of Business Executive Education with 10 years experience in higher education. Originally from Canada but have lived in the US for the last five years.

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