Care and Cultural Responsiveness of Online College Courses: Preliminary Criteria and Best Practices

Care and Cultural Responsiveness of Online College Courses: Preliminary Criteria and Best Practices

Keri L. Heitner (Walden University, USA), Kenneth C. Sherman (Grand Canyon University, USA) and Miranda E. Jennings (Ashford University, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7802-4.ch016
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The chapter is a review and critique of the appropriateness of current approaches and a sample of current criteria used to evaluate the quality of online courses at the postsecondary level and care and cultural responsiveness. Based on the review, the authors suggest modifications of existing criteria and additional criteria appropriate to assessing and evaluating care and cultural responsiveness of online courses. The chapter concludes with suggestions for best practices for applying these preliminary criteria and suggestions for further research.
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According to a report prepared for the National Center for Education Statistics, growing numbers of students from all racial and ethnic groups are graduating from high school and enrolling in higher education (Musu-Gillette et al., 2017). Bachelor’s degree attainment for Hispanic students in 2013-2014 was more than twice the number from 10 years earlier; the number of degrees awarded to Black and Asian/Pacific Islander students grew by 46% and 43%, respectively, in the same 10-year period, compared to 19% for White students. However, disparities persist by race and ethnicity for educational performance and degree attainment (Musu-Gillette et al., 2017). In 2014, the overall 6-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time undergraduates who enrolled as first-year students at a 4-year institution was 60%, compared to 71% for Asian students, 54% for Hispanic students, and 41% for Black and American Indian/Alaska Native students (Musu-Gillette et al., 2017). Students of color are more likely to face the intersectionality of gender. While the majority of all undergraduates were female, the gender disparity was lowest or Asian students (52%) and greatest for Black (62% female) and American Indian/Alaska Native students (60% female) (Musu-Gillette et al., 2017).

The growing diversity of postsecondary students means more students from diverse cultural backgrounds are enrolling in distance learning. In 2016, more than 31% of students took at least one distance learning course; almost 15% of students were enrolled exclusively in distance learning courses, and almost 17% were taking a combination of ground and distance courses (Seaman, Allen, & Seaman, 2018). According to fall 2015 enrollment figures, more than a quarter of post-baccalaureate students were enrolled exclusively in distance education courses, which is more than twice the proportion of undergraduate students (National Center for Education Statistics, 2018). In 2017, more than 1 million students were pursuing graduate-level degrees online (Seaman et al., 2018). Online programs, particularly at the graduate level, typically attract non-traditional students – adults who are pursuing a post-baccalaureate degree while working full-time and/or who have enrolled in a degree program after a meaningful break in educational pursuits, such as raising a family, launching a career, or serving in the military, while continuing to fulfill traditional adult responsibilities. The student body enrolled in online graduate programs are typically also much more racially and ethnically diverse than traditional programs, particularly at for-for profit colleges and universities, where students of color comprise the majority (Baylor, 2016).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Culturally Responsive Instruction: An approach to teaching that incorporates diverse students’ prior experiences, frames of reference, and cultural knowledge.

Culturally Responsive Education: An approach to education that involves caring, teaching practices, and pedagogy designed to meet the needs of students from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Culture: A unique set of realities based on shared knowledge, beliefs, customs, experiences, and behaviors.

Diverse Student: A student from a family or community that differs from the majority culture in terms of race, ethnicity, culture, language, religious affiliation, socioeconomic status, and/or military affiliation.

Distance or Online Education: A type of education that involves using technology as the platform for instructional delivery and to interaction with and between students who are physically separated from the instructor.

Cultural Competence: An understanding and appreciation of cultural differences used to inform and augment instructional practices, including course design and evaluation.

Culturally Responsive Assessment: An approach to evaluate learning through test items, tasks, and criteria that connect to diverse students’ perspectives and experiences.

Culturally Responsive Care: An approach combining concern, compassion, commitment, responsibility, and action to foster diverse students’ wellbeing and academic success.

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