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E-Learning and Instructional Support

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Diversity Challenge utilizes eSpace for online program

Fri Feb 19, 2021 at 12:16 PM

January 2021 brought about many new beginnings, but also a new challenge. We aren’t talking about the challenges that came from the pandemic, political unrest or economic uncertainty that we’ve also experienced in 2021. We mean the Diversity Challenge developed by the Office of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion and the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL). The Diversity Challenge is an opportunity for the Oakland University community to participate in various experiences and reflective discussions to reflect on OU’s commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion--and it’s done completely virtually. 

Christina Moore, virtual faculty developer for CETL, was involved with taking the vision of the Diversity Challenge and developing an eSpace where the campus community can engage with the challenge and also each other. 

From within the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council came the idea for the Diversity Challenge, modeled after the Michigan League for Public Policy’s 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge. Moore said the DEI Council wanted to make it something that all participants could grow from, but wouldn’t become overwhelming. 

“One of the goals was to have an in-depth learning experience, rather than just attending a talk. We wanted it to be more engaging. However, we also wanted something that was still feasible with everyone’s workloads,” said Moore. The Diversity Challenge is made up of weekly activities, challenges and an opportunity for reflection and response. 

Creative Process

Moore’s task was to develop the online space for the Diversity Challenge, an eSpace that would be used by all participants. An eSpace is an online space that works similarly to Moodle, but each eSpace has a unique purpose. eSpace houses administrative and academic resources, e-Dossiers, training, asynchronous workshops and more. 

“I’ve been amazed at how many people are involved in this. We were hoping for 100 participants, but we have more than 400 people enrolled. We wanted it to be a common experience that brings together as many people as possible. While we are focusing on faculty and staff, there are no restrictions if students want to participate,” said Moore. 

To design the eSpace, Moore relied on her knowledge of Moodle and eSpace and designed it as simply as possible. 

“It was an interesting instructional design challenge,” Moore said. “While there are a number of people on campus familiar with eSpace, from committees and things like that, they’ve probably never used it for submitting pieces of writing or participating in a discussion forum. So, my goal with the design was to keep it very consistent and super easy so users wouldn’t get lost in the process.”

The eSpace utilizes the Book resource, which contains all of the learning material for the weekly activities. An assignment tool is used for the participants to submit a reflection. 

“We don’t review the reflections specifically. If we do, we have blind grading set up so that it is anonymous. We’re not matching people’s names up with their reflections. It’s just about their own personal growth,” said Moore. 

Like teaching an online class, Moore said facilitators don’t want to make themselves the centerpoint, but still want to spark engagement. 

“My plan was that if the discussion in the forum was not having its own spontaneous activity, I would post something about the challenge and ask some pointed questions, to which people could respond. I thought it might be more of an invitation for people to come in and discuss topics, but I’ve been really surprised by the level of natural engagement,” said Moore. 

At the end of the Diversity Challenge, participants can earn a digital badge and those who have done at least eight of the 10 challenges will earn certificates of completion. 

Moore said with the success of the program, she could see the program becoming bigger and more involved in the future. 

“In the future, I see more of the learning materials and challenges coming from the community and the participants digging deeper into the topics. I could also see more action-oriented goals for the program. This Diversity Challenge program is a continual commitment to learning more,” said Moore. 

Program structure

The Diversity Challenge eSpace has 10 weeks of activities, according to Moore. Most revolve around an event. For example, the challenge for the Keeper of the Dream included watching it live or reviewing previous keynote speeches and reflecting on it. 

“While there are some synchronous activities, the Diversity Challenge is self-paced. We give guidelines on when they should complete the challenges, but they can still do it on their own time. For live events, there is either a recording of the event or an alternative option,” said Moore. 

Each week, participants receive challenges to read, watch or listen to. Then, they complete a reflection, which can be typed up, or participants can upload a picture of their hand-written reflection or an audio file of their spoken thoughts. 

More than just diversity

Moore said using eSpace for the Diversity Challenge also gives participants the opportunity to use the e-learning platform when they might not otherwise have the chance. 

“I’ve received really positive feedback on the eSpace. I think it’s particularly from staff who didn’t quite realize you could do all of that stuff with an eSpace. If they don’t use Moodle regularly, they’re not going to realize how these tools can be used,” said Moore. 

By using the eSpace, Moore said it has opened the door for others on campus to use it as well. 

“The Diversity Challenge has brought more offices and people together for a continuous online learning experience than ever before at OU,” said Moore. “Now, people are reaching out to me and asking questions about eSpace and how they can use it for something in their office or an idea they’ve had. It’s been a positive experience in that respect as well.”

OU committees, student groups, and other campus entities have created and maintained eSpaces. Since eSpace is an additional “instance” of Moodle, users can refer to all of the Moodle help documents for step-by-step instructions on how to build an eSpace.

Moore said she’s also been reminding staff that they can attend e-Learning and Instructional Support workshops and ask more questions about how to use the e-learning tools available to them. 

“I think many staff members might automatically think that eSpace is only for faculty, but everything has had to be put online. This is stuff that staff would never ordinarily put online-- from orientations to workshops. eSpace provides the staff a good outreach tool for that,” said Moore. 

For more information on eSpace, visit the e-Learning and Instructional Support website and click on Help Library