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5 Ways to Address Inequities in Higher Education

The Online Learning Consortium has identified key actions colleges and universities can take to ensure they are providing quality learning experiences for all students. The recommendations are based on a year of insights gathered from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) across the United States, as well as the findings of a 2020 HBCU Action Nation Town Hall co-hosted by the United States Distance Learning Association, the Online Learning Consortium, National Coalition of 100 Black Women and Tennessee State University.

OLC found that improvements are needed in three primary areas: student support, funding and operations. Across those categories, it made the following recommendations for institutions:

1) Continue to lead and inspire educators to seek diversity, equity and inclusion. The inequities faced by underrepresented students have compounded during the pandemic: "Amid the environment of COVID-19 and social justice protests, students face new and enhanced challenges around physical and mental health, financial ability to attend, and equitable access to technology," OLC pointed out.

2) Collaborate in formulating legislation and funding to sustain HBCUs. More lobbying is needed to support the rich heritage, core values and contributions of these institutions, OLC said.

3) Expand and build partnerships with business and organizations to help integrate and implement diversity. Support and mentorship for the talent pool of underrepresented students is key.

4) Monitor and understand students' needs in the shifting environment. Provide more support and flexibility for students who may not be able to attend class. Consider new ways to serve students, OLC suggested, including online options and more health initiatives embedded into curriculum.

5) Innovate around the student experience. Institutions should build off changes necessitated by the pandemic, OLC said, in order to better serve students in the long term.

On May 28, 2021 at 11 a.m. ET, OLC will host a free webinar on addressing equity and student success in online learning. For more information, visit the OLC site.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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