April Faculty Community Conversation: Incorporating DEI Into Your Course Content

There are many benefits to incorporating DEI into our course designs. Creating an inclusive environment allows us to connect and reach a wide range of students. Incorporating DEI motivates students and supports a positive educational experience with multiple perspectives and backgrounds. In April’s Community Conversation, Lesley faculty Maureen Creegan Quinquis and Aya Karpinska joined Kay Martinez, Director of DEI Training, Education, & Development, to share strategies, reflections, and their ongoing journey to make more intentional and informed choices with their course content and activities.

Maureen began our conversation by sharing her course, “Equity, Access, and Inclusion through Arts Based Inquiry” for K12 classroom teachers. In the first class assignment, she shares a single photo of herself and asks students to list assumptions about her gender, ethnicity, personality, physical abilities, etc. One cohort assumed she was Italian after the first meeting because she gestures a lot with her hands. Their answers then lead to a discussion and activities around misconceptions we make based solely on visual information and how assumptions are created. “Are they an inside job or culturally created?”

Some of Maureen’s students also use Mursion, a virtual reality tool that allows student teachers opportunities to practice classroom scenarios including how to deal with bullying and microaggressions. Students using the tool encounter a diverse group of middle school student avatars in realistic situations that don’t have a script. Students can practice specific scenarios and learn to confront biases in a low-stakes environment before stepping into a real classroom.

Aya has taken an iterative approach to teaching her History of Interface course and providing a more diverse view of technology. Many technology interfaces and programming languages have been created by white, western men and most of them in English. This creates a bias and an impact on how technology is created and used. Since many of the texts shared in her course are also by white European/Western men, Aya has been going back and asking herself why she selected this source. Is there another text that could be used instead to bring a different perspective? Are there other modalities of learning that can be used such as a graphic novel about Ada Lovelace, the originator of the algorithm.

Aya’s course has a module on the history of textiles asking the question “How do we define technology?” In it she looks at sewing, the spinning jenny, and knitting. Some programmers say that knitting is a turing complete process and that the definition of knitting is similar to the definition of a computer. She shares the role of the seamstresses who created the space suits for the astronauts who went to the moon highlighting the untold stories of the women, people of color, and the disabled individuals behind the scenes.

Kay discussed the shift from DEI, diversity, equity, and inclusion, to EDIJ, equity, diversity, inclusion, and justice, leading with equity and adding justice to the conversation. It’s an important change that reflects the values and our framework as an institution. To illustrate the difference between equality and equity, Kay shared this bicycle image, in the top half everyone has a bike, but it’s not designed for each person’s needs. In the bottom half of the image, each person has a bike that has been adjusted to the needs of the individual.

The top row shows four people with the same bike. It is is only suitable for one person. The bottom row shows four people with a bike that suits each person.

Kay then asked the question “How does the curriculum reflect the students in your classes?” As a queer, trans person of color, Kay never saw themselves in the courses they took or in their higher education experience at large. Students look at Kay as a “unicorn” where they didn’t know people like them existed in higher ed.

Kay suggested creating a shared community agreement with your class. Begin by saying that this is a share learning space. It is not top down, but a circle. I will learn from you, my students, as you learn from me. Use the one mic rule, one speaker at a time, to mitigate disruptions and provide support for those who get interrupted. Acknowledge the relationship between intention and impact. This means assuming positive intentions, but you must still address the impact that the statements had on the class. Use the word “ouch” as a way for students to indicate that that statement hurt and “oops” to say that it wasn’t intentional.

Our panelists all agree that while this is important work, it’s not always easy. As Aya stated, be “forgiving of my ignorance” and be iterative with your course design. You won’t get everything right all the time but providing a more diverse and multifaceted perspective in your course will be hugely beneficial to all of us.


The EDIJ Training site has lots of training materials and information including Kay’s presentation for this conversation.

Check out the Lesley Library’s Lib guides. There are multiple guides for DEI, but Including Underrepresented Perspectives in Your Course may be a good place to start.

Ensure your resources are fully accessible to all your students. Ally is integrated into all your myLesley courses and review your uploaded documents for potential issues and provide guidance on how to fix them. Learn more about Blackboard Ally and review the Accessibility Checklist.


Check For, and Fix! Broken Links in Your Course

What can you do to prevent students clicking on links for required readings in your course and discovering that materials they are responsible for are missing? Links in new courses break for various reasons. It could be that the course copy process itself has somehow broken some links, though this is rare. It’s more common (and understandable) that pages linked to in your course have either been taken down or simply changed location on a revised site.

It’s good practice to proactively go through your course right after it’s been copied over and click on each link to make sure that they all work. Even if your course has a lot of links, the simple act of clicking on all of the links should not take too long. The part of the process that may take longer, depending on what you find, is fixing each link that doesn’t lead where it’s intended to.

The next step is to find the addresses for the materials you want to use when you rebuild the links. Start with searching the site for the information you’re looking for; most ed sites will have a search function. If you find that the information you want to pass along is either revised enough to no longer be useful or missing from the site altogether, you may need to find an alternative if the information is vital for your students. (Hint: you might use Lesley’s Ask a Librarian service for assistance with this.)

Once you have the new link in hand, saved to a word document or opened in a separate tab in your browser, you’ll need to build a new link, and then delete the old one. I recommend deleting the old link after building the new one, because it’s easier to see where the new link should go and should make it easier to identify and make any revisions in the language in your text in order to accommodate the change.

Here’s how to create the new link using Blackboard’s text editor, adapted for this post from our knowledge base article at support.lesley.edu:

Adding Links

When pasting links to websites such as YouTube and Vimeo, the videos are automatically embedded for inline playback. Simply paste the link in the content editor and Blackboard will automatically embed the video.image of the Blackboard content editor with an image added.

Other links, such as those to other websites, may display a preview of that page.image of the Blackboard content editor with preview of a linked page.

To ensure the links you create are accessible, your language should convey clear and accurate information about the link’s destination. For example, instead of adding a link to the text “Click here”, include the full title of the destination page, such as “Microsoft Office Support Resources.”

To create a link, click on the Insert/Edit Link button in the content editor (it’s the one in the second row that looks like two links in a chain.) You will be prompted to enter the URL (you may copy and paste the link from your browser or the word document mentioned above), the text to display (the descriptive word or phrase you want to use as your link), and select “Open link in… New window.”image of the Blackboard insert/edit link window.This last bit is important; Blackboard/MyLesley works better if you set the link to open in a new window. Clicking a link that is not created in this way will send you to an intermediate page warning you that you are about to leave your course site, which can be confusing. Using a new window will also help your students navigate back and forth between the content you are linking to and the course itself with a single click on a browser tab.

For more information about other aspects of working with the new text editor, view Using the myLesley Text/Content Editor on our support site.