Expand the section navigation mobile menu

E-Learning and Instructional Support.

Kresge Library, Room 430
100 Library Drive
Rochester , MI 48309-4479
(location map)
Office and Virtual Help: (248) 805-1625

Higher Education and Educational Equity course moves online

Fri Jul 10, 2020 at 12:22 PM

Dr. Thandi Sulé’s course really gets students talking. The Higher Education and Educational Equity course in the Master of Higher Education Leadership program begins with conversation. This fall, Sulé is taking that conversation online when she teaches Higher Education and Educational Equity online for the first time. 

Sulé said the course is all about engagement. In the classroom setting, she provides the topic, but the students lead the conversation. This fall, she hopes to take the same classroom experience into the virtual arena. 

“It’s exciting because I know that good conversations can still happen online,” said Sulé. She said she’s been preparing for the course and researching the best ways to engage students online. Sulé said her role as the facilitator changes, but she hopes she will still have the same meaningful discussions. 

“For the fall, I’m going to make the course synchronous,” said Sulé, meaning students will participate in live, online discussions during class times. “ Although race and racism were fundamental to building this country, many people find it difficult to discuss. Therefore, virtual ‘face-to-face’ discussion is important because it provides a bit more intimacy.  People engage a little bit differently because they are accountable for what they express in that moment.

Sulé said it isn’t uncommon for students, especially those who have had little racial diversity in their lives to feel apprehensive about sharing their opinions when the class starts.

“I give them about three weeks to get acclimated,” said Sulé, adding that learning is enhanced when everyone contributes. She said that for many students, the first few weeks are challenging but that’s where a lot of the learning occurs. Students recognize that their worldview does not adequately reflect the experiences of their classroom peers, particularly on issues of race, class, orientation and gender.  

This fall, Sulé expects the conversations to change slightly given the current situation with COVID-19. A lot of the educational inequalities at all levels have become more evident as learning has gone online. 

“Computer and internet access may not be equally attainable for students. Furthermore, COVID-19 might limit access to public libraries which provide computer services.  Also, some students don’t have space to learn and not be interrupted. They might live in a one- or two-bedroom apartment with multiple people, or even in a shelter. This hinders their ability to learn,” said Sulé. She added that with classes going online, students with disabilities are also at a disadvantage because many educators may not have thought about how to make their classes or resources accessible.

Sulé said at an institutional level, schools need to be cognizant of the disparities and have people in place to help the students through the challenges they face. Beyond the walls of the school or university, Sulé said that educators and administrators can advocate for supporting social services that would help bridge some of the inequalities. 

“Part of the conversation is being aware. In order to be truly invested in the public good, you have to be aware of the diverse experiences and be able to act accordingly,” said Sulé. She said the students in her Higher Education and Educational Equity course learn that this means engaging in discourse about race, educating themselves, and supporting and advocating for marginalized people

While the online course might be new, Sulé said there is plenty of research and information on the topic of educational equities that the conversation doesn’t change. She said for decades, researchers have compiled data that indicates there is discrimination in higher education. 

“Students said they are enveloped in this whiteness on campuses. Everywhere they turn the cultural norms are reflective of whiteness which inherently means that the lived experiences and values of racially marginalized are dismissed or pathologized,” said Sulé. She said having safe spaces and organizations for people of color are really important so the students feel like they can be themselves. 

Sulé  said that her higher education equity class is often the first time that students have authentic conversations about the role of race in the United States and how race operates in higher education. According to Sulé , those critical conversations are the building blocks to nurturing higher education leaders who are attuned to the diverse needs of students and equipped to make colleges truly inclusive.