The University of West Florida (UWF) recently created an online course that provides high school students and adults with tools to tackle inclusivity and diversity issues within the workplace and community.
The UWF Innovation Institute worked alongside chief diversity officer and vice president of academic engagement at UWF, Dr. Kim LeDuff, to create the Cross-Cultural Competency course, which focuses on the concepts of awareness, acceptance and respect. It is a free, non-credit online class that on typically takes participants 12-15 hours to complete, according to the course’s website.
“It is beneficial for anyone who wants to improve their ability to speak and engage across difference,” said LeDuff.
The course was created after LeDuff first developed a cross-cultural competency certificate program that was offered through the human resources department at UWF. LeDuff recruited faculty and staff to develop courses that would count toward a 12-hour certificate program. To LeDuff’s surprise, 90 people completed the program on UWF’s campus within its first year.
Due to the program’s popularity and repeated requests for opening the program to a broader audience, the program was transformed into an online course.
“If you look at the nightly news right now, you see that there is lots of cross-cultural conflict, whether it’s issues of politics, immigration, race relations and the thing is, those are actually teachable moments,” said LeDuff. “People don’t realize that when our cultures collide, very often that’s the time when we can learn about ourselves and learn about other people.”
According to a description provided by UWF, the course “takes a conversational approach to sometimes sensitive subjects and aims to help those who participate understand and respect one another as well as function in diverse environments encountered in the workplace, the classroom or in social settings.”
The course includes five module,s taught by UWF faculty and staff members, that focus on topics ranging from religious diversity to gender and sexuality.
Participants are given the opportunity to complete the course at their own pace, since there is no specific end date. The course is set up where users can watch a series of videos on the specific modules and participate in online discussions.
As part of the conversational approach, the course developed online panels that include community members who discuss their personal stories surrounding diversity in relation to the course’s five main topics.
The course “is just a great opportunity for the university to do leadership,” said the director of student involvement at UWF, Dr. Ben Stubbs, who also teaches the religious diversity module. “Also, something that is really important for us locally, nationally and globally is to think about the world from other perspectives and to think about how people’s experiences are both similar to and are different from our own. Hopefully, the course nudges people in that direction and gives them some of the tools to engage others from that perspective.”
Since its launch in May, 250 people have registered from around the world. Though there is no data yet, LeDuff has received verbal confirmation that the course has been beneficial for participants.
“Based on the results of the face-to-face version here on campus, we know that employees take the discussions back to their offices and classrooms and have reported that it has been helpful,” said LeDuff. “It gives them new perspective when they face challenges with others. One of the things they realize is that sometimes difficult situations can lead to teachable moments and improve circumstances.”
Sarah Wood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org