Caveo Learning

Corporate Strategy and Learning Center

Be Conscious of Diversity and Inclusion when Developing Learning Solutions

Posted by Renie McClay on April 26, 2019

EdwinaEdwina Nunez-Gordon is Caveo’s PMO Manager and formerly Deputy Director of Instructional Design at the CUNY School of Professional Studies. Having over ten years of experience working in learning and development, the majority of her career has been spent leading teams in the development of training departments. Edwina’s biggest impact has come from fostering cultural change within organizations by driving tough conversations and implementing effective solutions for process and programs. Edwina holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Psychology and is a certified project manager.

Outside of work, Edwina spends her time with her husband, two human children, and one canine child; loves exploring new activities in the city; and as an avid obstacle course racer, she enjoys the occasional mud run.

How would learning leaders benefit from having diversity and inclusion as a consideration in developing learning solutions?

Learning professionals strive to make the delivery of a learning solution impactful to the audience. A learning solution that has an emotional impact on its learners is guaranteed to stick and be more successful as learners are more likely to recall the information. Considering the makeup of an organization in the development of a learning solution will ensure that its learners feel valued, seen, and included. Learners and employees who feel valued by their organization are more engaged and motivated in their growth with the company. Additionally, learners can apply themselves better when they feel accurately represented by content, as it makes the subject matter more relatable. Having learning programs that are diversity and inclusion (D&I) conscious helps the organization make a statement on their views and values.

Why is an assessment an important piece of the equation?

Just like a learning leader ensures that the learning solution speaks to all learning styles (visual, audio, kinesthetic), a learning leader should also look to have the solution speak to the demographic makeup of their learners. The development of a learning solution should not begin until an assessment is conducted, whether D&I is the central focus or not. If D&I is not consciously included as part of your learning assessment, it can lead to the message being poorly delivered or completely overlooked. Conducting an accurate assessment will help inform how and to what extent D&I should be addressed in the learning solution.

One of the most important aspects of conducting a comprehensive assessment for a learning initiative is to have the right people and right perspectives at the table. When brainstorming on how to make your learning solution D&I conscious, having stakeholders that are knowledgeable in D&I is key. Although leaders often consider this option only when D&I is the focus of the learning content, having a diversity committee or a learning development partner with this insight to ensure all learning content is sensitive to “different groups of people” is important. If D&I is not the focus of the learning solution, being intentional about including this topic in your needs analysis is imperative. The types of questions and who to include in your assessment interviews or observations are necessary to ensure you are obtaining a comprehensive look at the company’s demographics and cultural temperature.

What do you suggest learning leaders do with the assessment results?

My biggest suggestion is to ensure that the results derived from the assessment are taken into account when developing the content. It is vital to refer to the results as the learning content is being developed to validate the D&I objectives are being met. Additionally, it is important to explore what other long-term strategies or initiatives can be implemented as a result of the themes uncovered in the assessment. If leaders and organizations are looking for long-term D&I gains, they can make it part of the company’s strategy and culture.

What are some eLearning implications?

There are a number of implications when it come to creating culturally sensitive content for eLearning solutions. eLearning programs rely heavily on visuals and storytelling to keep audiences engaged. Ensuring the visuals, scenarios, and images are inclusive takes a keen eye and a conscious awareness.

When considering the tone of your eLearning program, I encourage you to keep the following in mind:

  • Images
    • Positive representation—Verify that people of color and women have been positively represented. Choose pictures where they are leading the conversation or meetings, or are the professionals (physicians, educators, CEO, etc.) in the image. Often POC and women are depicted as the passive bystanders and not the leaders or the central focus in the image.
    • Body image—Depict diverse body types in your images. Different sizes, shapes, skin tones, hair, etc. Not everyone looks like a catalog model!
    • Gender representation—When couples or family composition may be part of the content, be sure to include same-sex couples.
    • Stereotypes—Verify that the images included are not supporting damaging stereotypes. For example, if your image needs to display an aggressor, make sure the aggressor isn’t stereotypical! Aggressors can be both male and female and come in many different people groups.
  • Content
    • When it comes to detailing a person’s demographics in scenarios or case studies, it is easy to overlook subtle misrepresentations. Use a reviewer who has the knowledge needed to pick up on these details as the content is being developed.
  • Screen Text/Narration
    • Identify whether your eLearning solution needs to be 508 compliant (sensitive to disabilities). If 508 compliance is not required, at the very least consider having a transcript of the narrated text. This will ensure that any learner with a hearing impairment is able to receive all learning content.
    • Audio narration can be tricky. For some learners, the tone or accent of a narrator can signal a particular ethnicity or lack thereof. A good suggestion would be to determine preferences for the sound of the narrator while in the design phase on the course.

What about implications in the classroom?

In addition to the considerations mentioned for eLearning, instructor-led learning programs should include coaching for the facilitator on how to be inclusive in the classroom.

  • Coach and provide tips to help facilitators be mindful of how certain content and messaging should be delivered, especially content such as D&I that can be sensitive for some learners.
  • Provide training or resources on how facilitators can be more culturally humble. This will assist in helping to minimize the potential for a facilitator using insensitive language. Nothing can derail a meeting, training, or company’s reputation like making an insensitive comment or joke!

What do you find inspiring?

I am inspired by leaders who are aware of their surroundings; by this I mean leaders who have a strong desire to truly understand where their teams and organizations are positioned when it comes to D&I. Leaders who are open and eager to learn about D&I to ensure that everyone feels seen, are the ones who have the power to make the greatest change.

Watch our On-Demand Webinar—Program Design: L&D's Value to the Learner and  Organization

Topics: Interviews with Learning Leaders

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