"all are welcome here" door mat
Photo by LeeAnn Cline on Unsplash

The Presentation

This fall, I signed up for CVC and @ONE’s Fall into Humanized Online Teaching: A Pathway to Equity series. The series consists of bi-monthly sessions on Fridays from September to November. The remaining sessions may be taken a la carte with no deadline to register. What’s more, a la carte sessions are free for as many as you’d like to attend. I love free!

At last Friday’s session, Michelle Pacansky-Brock, Faculty Mentor for the CVC and @ONE, presented Laying out the Welcome Mat with a Humanized Course Card and Homepage. She emphasized the connection of these Canvas components to humanizing online courses and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Social Justice, and Anti-Racism (DEISA) in general. “Trust starts with the first click,” she said, and visual cues of inclusion make a big impact. These cues are like micro-affirmations, small but impactful especially when prevalent.

The Research

To demonstrate the impact that these cues can have, Michelle shared a study of two course images: the one below on the left with a pie chart, and the one on the right below with the woman working on a pie chart on her laptop. The study found that in advertising a STEM MOOC, the click-through rate of women increased by 26% with the gender-inclusive image on the right versus the pie chart image on the left; the study also found that with a gender-inclusive image and an inclusivity statement on the enrollment page, enrollment by women in the STEM course increased by up to 18%.

course card examples

Michelle also shared powerful data from our CCC system:

  • two in three of the 2.1 million students in our CCC system is a person of color
  • the average online course success rate (based on 2026-17 data) is 66%
That 66% average alone leaves plenty of room for improvement, but when we see the disaggregated data by ethnicity in the graph below, the equity gap is all the more clear and the need to implement inclusive changes to course design is that much more critical.
bar graph of disaggregated 20016-17 online course success data by ethnicity

Therefore, selecting course images that are representative of the diverse students in our CCC system and that show that all students are respected, valued, and belong in your course, makes a difference. When students see themselves represented in your course images, they feel more accepted and welcomed.

The Course Card

Cues of inclusion begin with adding a course card (those squares on a Canvas user’s Dashboard) and not just any course card. A course card that considers DEISA in the selection process is a way of saying “Come on in; come as you are!” without saying anything at all. To the left is an example that Michelle showed at Friday’s session. This image shows both ethnic and LGBTQ+ inclusivity. When searching for and selecting course images, include a range of diversity: ethnic, physical, gender, spiritual, etc.

To add a course card in Canvas, follow the steps in this Canvas guide, How do I add an image to a course card in the Dashboard?. Note that the ideal image size is 262 pixels wide x 146 pixels high. An easy way to make your course card this exact size is to use Canva, an online graphic design website for the everyday person. Anyone can make a free account, but they also have a Pro (paid) plan with additional features. If you don’t find what you’re looking for with Unsplash (in Canvas) or in Canva, this blog post includes additional options for free, high-quality stock images.

The Home Page

With your course card image added, the next consideration is your course home page. Canvas defaults to the Modules view, but with a home page, you have many more opportunities to create a welcoming and inclusive space for your students, from a banner image to a welcome video to explaining the structure of your course to sharing a bit about yourself and your teaching style. Below are two home page templates in the Canvas Commons that Michelle shared at Friday’s session:

If you have trouble with these links, search “FIHOT” in the Commons and select from “Home Page Example 1” and “Home Page Example 2” by Michelle Pacansky-Brock. In the video below, Michelle walks through how to find these templates in the Commons and how to import them into your course:

In considering visual cues of inclusion on the home page, Michelle included instructions in her presentation for how to add a banner in Canvas with alt-text and make it responsive to any screen size:  

The Resources

Michelle’s presentation slides include among other information additional videos for creating a banner for your home page in Canva, embedding a video or friendly photo of yourself on your home page, and editing links on your imported home page.

If you miss any of the sessions in this Fall into Humanized Online Teaching: A Pathway to Equity series, you can still access the recordings and additional resources on their FIHOT archives page.

Do you use visual cues or other inclusion strategies in your online course? Will you change your course design in any way after reading this post? Tell us in the comments below!

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