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Inclusive education through forums - starter threads

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Edited by Anita Pilgrim, Thursday, 16 Jun 2022, 10:20

One way I developed to signal to students that the Open University strives to be an inclusive institution welcoming diversity, is through posting material on our forums. I do this at the very beginning of the module, so that all of our students hear this message right from the start. Most of my own students start in October, however a significant number start their learning in February - luckily both months are history months celebrating diversity. 

For the October students, I post about Black History Month. Our own OpenLearn website has a hub about Black History Month - OpenLearn - Open University. I know the students will be interested in material authored by the tutors and Module Team members, so I link direct to my own articles. For the undergraduate social science students I've got W.E.B. Du Bois – A Man for All Times - OpenLearn - Open University, with its discussion about ways to present statistical data. For the postgraduate students on our Masters in Inclusive Education, I link to Including diversity in race, ethnicity and culture in your teaching - OpenLearn - Open University

Screenshot of a forum thread entitled Black History Month at the OU.

For the February students, I post about LGBTQ+ history month, linking to the LGBTQ Hub - OpenLearn - Open University. When I can find time (!), I write about 'intersectional' identities (Crenshaw, 1989). I wrote an article about Reading Between the Lines: uncovering racism and homophobia in British history - OpenLearn - Open University, which looks at faint traces of a Black, Asian and minority ethnic lesbian history in Britain. By promoting that article I hope students of more diverse backgrounds and identities can feel we too belong in the OU. 

Screenshot of forum thread entitled LGBT+ History month.

Students, especially when they are just starting out their online distance learning journey, are notoriously reluctant to expose themselves by posting on the module forums. However there is often a comment thanking me for the recognition of their identity offered by the forum thread, and sometimes a student takes the opportunity to chat about something they are doing themselves in celebration. 


References

Crenshaw, K. (1989) ‘Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum, 139, 139–167.’, University of Chicago Legal Forum 


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