Inclusive Teaching in Online Courses
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Inclusive Teaching in Online Courses

Inclusive teaching practices consider the diverse needs of multiple student identity groups in learning environments. Whether teaching online or in the classroom, it is essential to focus on student intellectual and social development, recognizing the cultural and cognitive differences of diverse students, and how those differences enhance learning.

Because our identities operate collectively as opposed to independently, our teaching strategies must reflect awareness and understanding of social identities so that we can create learning experiences that proactively anticipate and engage tensions that may occur in our courses.

Below are strategies to get you started on your journey toward Inclusive Teaching Online. Be sure to visit the Office of Teaching and Learning’s Inclusive Teaching Practices Canvas Portal for a deeper dive:

Welcome Students

  • Include the DU Inclusive Learning Environment statement in your course syllabus.
  • Post or share a “Welcome Message” or “Welcome Video” to help ease anxiety about taking a course online and help students become familiar with you.
  • Share your own background and experiences with students through the course introductions.
  • Please encourage students to introduce themselves in a variety of ways, including video, audio, and textually. Audio introductions can allow students to pronounce their names and their preferred pronouns.
  • Use neutral greetings such as “Dear all” and “Dear Students” in emails, announcements, and Zoom sessions.
  • Students can choose their preferred gender pronouns on Canvas, be sure not to assume someone’s gender based on their name.
  • Note that “They” is an acceptable and recognized singular pronoun (Merriam-Webster).
  • Reflect on what it means to care about your students’ intellectual growth, whole-self and wellbeing, and how you will communicate this to students.
  • Allow students to share information about how they learn best so you can facilitate an inclusive learning environment.

Strive for Inclusive Course Content

  • Use local or regional histories in course curriculum and examples.
  • Reflect on your readings, lectures, discussions, and content to identify who may be excluded.
  • You might request that students contribute to course content by sharing the works of authors and scholars they identify with and feel validated by.
  • Think of ways to incorporate various voices, experiences, and cultural backgrounds in ways that are genuine and relevant: consider curating a set of TED Talks, websites, and links to national and international organizations.
  • Have students review your content and identify included or excluded populations, stories, and histories- make it a learning moment for them.
  • Use voices other than your own through video or DU’s free cloud-based video communications service, Zoom, to share a greater variety of material.
  • Explore the principles of universal design to ensure that you are delivering course content in universally accessible ways. Examples Include: captioning videos, designing visual content layouts with universal color schemes and fonts, save pdfs as text-based formats instead of imaged based formats, captioning course graphics, providing transcripts for all recordings, etc.

Foster an Inclusive Online Learning Environment

  • Post or share a set of communication expectations on Canvas.
  • Post or share and revisit communication and discussion guidelines in your online course.
  • Disseminate a mid-quarter anonymous survey to help students provide feedback on the course and the instructor.
  • In the first week, have students draft a charter of class expectations and norms. You might start by having students answer: “What do you need to feel safe and brave in online discussions?”
  • Monitor breakout rooms and discussion posts and interactions to recognize verbal and nonverbal communication cues regarding conflict and micro-aggression.
  • Manage conflict in your courses- whether that is in person or online, and reach out to on-campus resources that can support you and/or your students in real-time.
  • Open a Q& A section or virtual office space for students to bounce ideas around without instructor intervention or evaluation.
  • Have students complete assignments that allow them to reflect and build on their knowledge, such as online portfolios.
  • Create spaces for students to use Canvas wiki pages to co-construct knowledge.
  • If appropriate, give students a variety of options to complete and assignment and still achieve the course outcomes.
  • Provide opportunities for students to investigate and report on more personalized content- interviews, personal stories, autobiographical writings.
  • Submit an SOS report when you are concerned about a student’s psychosocial and/or physical wellbeing.
  • Avoid asking students to speak on behalf of their specific identity groups; invite students to share instead.
  • Provide students with constructive feedback in a variety of ways; ideas can include audio feedback, in-person feedback, written feedback, etc.
  • Highlight areas of strength and areas of improvement with every assignment- encourage students throughout the learning process.
  • Build opportunities to check-in with students to see how their quarter is going and provide resources to help students.
  • Reach out to students who appear to be falling behind in the course or are struggling to ensure that they are connected with the appropriate campus resources.


Ambrose, Susan A. et al. (2010). How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.

Salazar, M., Norton, A., & Tuitt, F. (2009). Weaving promising practices for inclusive excellence into the higher education classroom. In L.B. Nilson and J.E. Miller (Eds.) To improve the academy. (pp. 208-226).