Diversifying Course Materials
Strategies for diversifying course materials at UW-Madison
Questions from a learner's perspective
Do I see myself in this course? Where? How?
- Who are the experts or important figures who are discussed in this course? Are there any patterns or omissions that might make me feel less like I belong in this field?
- As I consider the ways in which different people and communities have shaped or been impacted by this discipline, whose stories do I elevate?
- When I see examples or practice problems in this course, do I encounter scenarios or names that feel authentic to my own cultures and experiences? If people who have marginalized identities or group affiliations similar to mine are represented in course materials, how are they depicted? In a positive or negative light? As active or passive participants?
- Do I have opportunities to make connections between my life, interests, and goals and the material we are learning in this course?
Am I able to access and engage with course materials in authentic ways?
- How affordable are these course materials?
- How easy is it for me to obtain access to course materials from the first day of class?
- Are there any accessibility barriers I might encounter when trying to engage with these materials?
- Do course materials provide me with multiple means of engagement, representation, action, and expression?
Is my potential to contribute to this course and/or field celebrated and supported? Where? How?
- Does this course view my prior knowledge and past experiences as assets for my and others’ learning?
- Are there course materials that can help me fill in gaps in my prerequisite knowledge?
- Are there opportunities for me to contribute to course materials in some way?
- Are there opportunities for me to engage with the raw materials of this discipline? (Archival documents, authentic datasets or scenarios, etc.?)
Review existing course materials
- What story is the sum of your course materials telling about your field, who it matters to, and who belongs in it?
- When you look at the readings and other media included in your course, what patterns do you see? (Explore patterns of authorship, media format, focus, countries of origin, subdisciplines, genres, journals, publishers…)
Explore each resource individually.
- How much does it cost to purchase or to access this resource? What do students need to do to access it?
- In which formats can students access this material? If a student were using an accessibility device such as a screen reader, how easily could they engage with the resource?
- If it’s a physical or electronic text, can it be purchased second-hand? Does it have an access fee or individual access code that would prevent students from sharing a copy?
- How many physical and/or electronic copies does the library have? You can put a resource on reserve to expand students’ ability to share it. If our library does not have a resource, you can request a purchase.
Identify gaps and opportunities
Tap into ongoing conversations happening in your field. Many disciplinary organizations and journals are opening up opportunities for conversation and collaboration that may help guide your reflection and next steps. (As just one example, here’s a teaching resource responding to a call to action in Psychology.)
Invite your students’ input! You can incorporate qualitative questions about course readings into student surveys or build reflection opportunities into course discussions.
- An example end-of-semester synthesis activity (inspired by sidebar conversation with Laura Schmidli) putting a circle of sticky notes on the whiteboard, each with the name of a different course text/material on it, and then inviting students to form small discussion groups and draw lines between different readings as meaningful similarities and differences stand out to them (writing how/why alongside each connector). After discussing what each group contributed to the board, small groups reconvene to reflect on the following questions: "What did we read/watch/listen to this year that would you make sure to include If you were writing the syllabus for this course next year? What would you take out? What would you add?"
Help students engage with materials that are authentic to your field.
- Colleagues in the UW-Madison Libraries can help you and your student locate physical or online databases of historical materials or current datasets to work with.
- There are a number of centers on campus that may have opportunities for interaction and collaboration:
Identify resources that can help students review prerequisite content. If your course relies on prerequisite knowledge and skills, there may be open educational resources that are freely available to embed in Canvas or other online materials available through the UW libraries that can help students catch up on things they may have forgotten. Providing these resources can help communicate a supportive learning environment.
Learn more about copyright, open licenses, and fair use with the support of the Libraries.
Adapt open educational resources
When you work with Open Educational Resources (OER), you have more options for customizing or adapting course materials to address the needs of your specific course and your specific student audiences. You can add or edit content, incorporate interactive elements, or customize case studies to your context and learning outcomes.
- You can share your OER adaptation in various digital/print formats or copy/paste OER content directly into a Canvas page.
- If you’d prefer a format that can be embedded in Canvas, integrated with interactive content, or easily exported in different PDF or ebook formats, you can use UW-Madison’s Pressbooks authoring platform.
Compose new materials
Collaborate with partners! You may find it helpful to explore grants that can support you in this effort and communities of other educators interested in developing OER together.
Invite students in (with structure and support)! This could be something as simple as inviting students to share their work as exemplars for future courses. It could be something as in-depth as embracing open pedagogy practices such as composing a course text with your students.