Skip to content

How Can Technology Advance Inclusion and Belonging in Higher Education?

Share this on
In 2020, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, higher education institutions experienced a surge in technology usage. At the same time, the racial reckoning sparked by the murder of George Floyd increased college and university’s focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) initiatives.

There has been much discussion about higher education’s use of technology to support students during the pandemic and its role post-pandemic. However, the accelerated use of technology hasn’t come without warranted critique. This includes criticism regarding equitable access to campus technology and whether such tools are working against efforts to root out persistent inequities. As the pandemic subsides, higher education is showing no let up in its use of technology even as recent reporting show that campuses are not achieving their stated DEIB and success goals. Thus, it’s more important than ever to ask how educational technology can be leveraged to achieve higher education diversity, equity, and inclusion aspirations and goals?

There are a variety of ways technology can be a tool to advance campus DEIB and success goals. Here are three ways:

Increase Equitable Access to Campus Programs & Services

Increasingly, campuses are deploying inclusive programs and resources to ensure all students feel they belong and are positioned to succeed. From first-generation learning cohorts to affinity groups for students of color, colleges and universities are investing in programming to meet the needs of today's diverse student body. Too often, though, the targeted programs and resources needed to achieve student belonging and success exist in disconnected academic and student affairs silos. This complex maze of resources creates barriers that can have a disproportionate impact on the most marginalized students.

Technology can play an important role in cutting through the administrative barriers that limit a campus’ ability to achieve its belonging and success goals. But not technology for technology's sake. Many existing technology solutions fulfill specific and important operational needs for a given unit. However, this patchwork approach to technology solutions further silos targeted resources and programming, ultimately working against a campus’ goal of achieving inclusive excellence. An alternative to this is to leverage a single technology platform to aggregate campus-wide programs and services. This approach raises visibility, eases access, and increases engagement with existing initiatives that drive belonging and inclusive success.

Technology can play an important role in advancing DEIB and success goals when it makes the entire campus and its resources more visible and accessible.

“Campus technology can’t truly be excellent without being inclusive and inclusive excellence initiatives will be limited in their impact without technology. “

Provide Inclusive Support and Learning for Faculty & Staff

Without dedicated faculty and staff, higher education institutions would not be able to achieve their critical missions. To thrive and best support students, faculty and staff, particularly those from historically marginalized populations, need a supportive campus culture where they feel they belong and matter. Faculty and staff also need access to diversity and inclusion related resources and learning opportunities if they are expected to support the institution's goal of achieving inclusive excellence.

Often support that focuses on belonging, retention, and success is directed toward students. This is understandable as students are the reason that many are drawn to work in higher education and without students, institutions as we know them would not exist. However, campuses that do not prioritize staff and faculty belonging and DEI education put their ongoing success at risk.

To retain faculty and staff, it’s imperative that they feel they belong, matter, and are supported. Technology can be used to build community among faculty and staff from different academic departments or administrative units. This can be in the form of affinity groups, mentor programs, or sharing of relevant cultural events. Additionally, technology can streamline access to internal and external learning opportunities and resources needed for faculty and staff to grow their DEI competencies. From delivering professional development programs and granting greater visibility to the DEI initiatives on a campus, dedicated technology systems position a campus to empower faculty and staff to successfully reach its inclusive excellence goals.

Faculty and staff success are critical to student and institutional success. To achieve this success across the institution, technology can be leveraged to increase visibility and engagement with the inclusive programs and resources for faculty and staff.

Equip Chief Diversity Officers with Tools to Coordinate Campus DEI Efforts

There is no single description that encapsulates the role of a Chief Diversity Officer . CDOs can report directly to the President or Provost and are often the institutional spokesperson for DEI related matters. The focus of the role can vary from faculty diversity hiring and Title IX compliance to inclusive student programming or institutional strategic planning. In some cases, it’s all of the above. Additionally, it is becoming increasingly common for Chief Diversity Officers to coordinate campus-wide committees that consist of faculty and staff who oversee DEI initiatives for a given department or unit. Regardless of the scope of the role, a Chief Diversity Officer is a single person who relies on professionals at the department and unit level to implement the inclusive strategies and practices to achieve institutional DEI goals.

Like other campus leaders with expansive mandates, Chief Diversity Officers - and the offices they oversee - need the right technology tools to better manage and increase the impact of their work. Technology platforms, like Includifi, that have been developed with a campus’ DEI operation in mind, can be effective tools in coordinating and gaining insights in institutional or unit specific DEI initiatives. The right technology platform can also increase visibility and accessibility to the vast number of cross-divisional DEI related activities available to faculty, staff, and students.

For institutions to achieve their DEI their aspirations and goals it's imperative that Chief Diversity Officers and other diversity leadership be equipped with the right technology tools to more effectively coordinate, scale, and manage their work.

Is Technology a Friend of Foe to Campus DEIB Work?

Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives are increasing at colleges and universities. At the same time higher education is adopting technology systems to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and impact of campus operations. These two facts are not at odds with each other. In fact, campus technology can’t truly be excellent without being inclusive and inclusive excellence initiatives will be limited in their impact without technology..

Like other aspects of higher education operations, DEIB will continue to need technology to achieve institutional goals and meet the demands of today’s students, faculty, and staff.

Includifi was developed to equip higher education institutions with the digital infrastructure to better coordinate, scale, and increase the impact of campus inclusion and belonging work. Schedule a walkthrough and analysis of how Includifi can support your campus DEIB goals and aspirations.
Share this on