5 Diversity eLearning Best Practices


Best Practices in eLearning

Numerous organizations today are moving their Diversity and Inclusion training programs online in order to more efficiently reach all of their staff.  I’ll admit it; I was slow to get on the eLearning bandwagon. Having grown up in this field as a classroom trainer, I used to say that good Diversity training could only be done face-to-face. Like many of our clients, I was reluctant to move to the online platform, but believed I had no other choice in order to offer more efficient training options.

Now, after delivering programs in the online space for a number of years, I can say I’m a convert. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a believer in the power of the face-to-face interaction, but I also understand the many things we can do in the online format that aren’t possible in the classroom. As we make that shift to the online format for Diversity, there are several factors to keep in mind to ensure the training is effective.


Start with the end in mind: Diversity eLearning needs to be designed around the purpose. Think of the purpose positioned on a continuum somewhere between just relaying information on the one end, to building skills and creating behavior change on the other. The closer your purpose is to just relaying information—say, communicating your D&I strategy or informing about respectful workplace policy—the less interactive the design needs to be. Conversely, if the purpose of your course is skills building and behavior change—such as building cultural competence—the more interactive your course needs to be with branching options, scenarios requiring decision-making and feedback on those decisions.


Tie to business objectives: Learners tend to approach Diversity eLearning more dismissively than other eLearning topics—at best, disregarding the value and at worst, resistant to take in any information. The least effective approach for this resistance is the cookie-cutter messages or canned videos about how wonderful Diversity is. They’ve already seen and heard those messages and don’t buy it.  What resistant learners need is to hear how Diversity specifically impacts them and their organization. They need to hear how D&I work is going to help their organization reach their strategic goals, and they need to hear that from their own CEO, not an actor.


Develop both mindset and skillset: To actually make a difference, Diversity eLearning needs to go beyond the business case and focus on building awareness and competency. Learners need to first see their own differences, perspectives and filters in order to better understand and fully see the differences of others. At that point, they need new skills to more effectively respond to the differences that they are now more aware of. Building these competencies is essential for individual behavioral change and organizational culture change.


Allow for real-experience interaction—both personal and work: If competency building is our goal with eLearning, then our courses need to incorporate exercises that allow the learner to interact with their real-life experiences. It’s also important to use examples and scenarios from their actual industry, work and workplace. Here are a few eLearning tools that solicit real experiences and facilitate interaction appropriate for Diversity eLearning:

·         Drag and drop responses to complete a scenario or approach

·         Fill-in text boxes where learners can free-script their experience or perspective

·         Scenarios encouraging learner’s to interact from someone else’s perspective

·         Sorting or prioritizing activities to identify their preferences and cultural “default mode”

·         Read, watch, reflect process with reflection questions guiding their awareness building

·         Branching scenarios that allow the learner to follow a scenario with their specific response or perspective


Provide opportunities to connect: Competency-based Diversity eLearning is more transformative than transactional. As such, learners benefit from opportunities to reflect, connect with others and hear other perspectives. Monitored, online discussion groups are a great way to make those connections outside of the course and leverage the content. Discussion topics can start with the content of the course and continue with real-time situations in the workplace, reactions to current events, even book clubs.