Webinar Recap: Cultivating Inclusive Communities

Higher EdDEI

Institutions of higher education are looking to foster safe and supportive cultures where their students thrive and succeed both on campus and in their careers that follow. Faculty and staff play an important role in building campus connectedness, and cultivating an inclusive, welcoming, accessible environment free from discrimination or harassment. Equipping them with the knowledge and skills to create a safe, supportive, respectful, and welcoming culture is directly related to overall student wellness and success.

We currently have a product, At-Risk Mental Health for Faculty and Staff, that universities are using to improve faculty and staff behaviors and conversations around supporting students. There is a demand to adapt our learning model and simulation technology to upskill in areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We worked with subject matter experts to develop Cultivating Inclusive Communities, an online learning experience set to launch by the end of the year that is designed to help faculty and staff gain awareness, knowledge, skills, and self-confidence to engage across differences with integrity and empathy, effectively fostering an inclusive campus community that embraces diversity.

Recently, we hosted a webinar to announce the upcoming simulation (launching December, 2021) and give an inside look at the thought that went behind this unique DEI learning experience. Keep reading for an overview of the webinar, or watch the full recording here.

Meet the Presenters

Darren Jones, Kognito’s Manager of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships hosted this online discussion. He was joined by our Head of Product, Kim Weiland, Senior Instructional Design Specialist Megan Clesca, and two subject matter experts who helped develop the content in Cultivating Inclusive Communities: Dr. TaJuan Wilson, Associate Vice President of Inclusive Excellence and Chief Diversity Officer at Georgia Southern University, and Dr. Jenn Wells, Director of Equity and Inclusion at Marlborough School.

About the Cultivating Inclusive Communities simulation

In Cultivating Inclusive Communities, learners meet their virtual coaches who provide didactic content, help guide the learning experience, and give feedback. Through role-play conversations with virtual humans, learners can explore different communication approaches, consider different perspectives, and gain insights to help them navigate and facilitate courageous conversations in their daily lives.

The three coaches show a level of vulnerability, sharing their unique perspectives.

The content is divided into four episodes:

  1. Creating safe and supportive environments
  2. Examining diverse perspectives
  3. Navigating courageous conversations
  4. Next steps

In the scenario pictured above, Kacey, a student, used language to describe undocumented students during a student government meeting that upset some members of the SGA. The learner explores using open-ended questions, reflections, and an ask-tell-ask strategy to discuss the situation with Kacey.

Key learning objectives:

  • Evaluate diverse perspectives, navigating ambiguity and complexity
  • Effectively build relationships across differences
  • Recognize and critically reflect on personal beliefs, attitudes, and biases
  • Demonstrate effective communication skills that create brave spaces
  • Act as an advocate for the rights of others and self
  • Recognize your role in fostering a caring and inclusive school climate

One of the goals of the Kognito experience is to support institutions’ DEI initiatives and in contributing to a sense of belonging on an individual level. It is the collection of individual conversations that ignite a culture shift, and Cultivating Inclusive Communities aims to give faculty and staff confidence in facilitating these conversations.

“It continues our work in fostering this idea that diversity, equity and inclusion is everyone’s responsibility on our campus — not just the folks who hold diversity or equity or inclusion or multicultural affairs in their titles,” Dr. Wilson said. “I think these learning objectives really support our ability to move beyond that traditional model of DEI and really move towards a model that supports everyone driving while also fostering shared language around these concepts as well.”

Why simulation is a powerful tool in DEI initiatives

Conversations around DEI can be controversial or feel really challenging to approach. Simulation is an especially powerful technology for DEI education because it’s a safe learning environment that allows you to experiment with different approaches without doing any actual harm.

“What I love about this simulation is it allows you to kind of lean into that uncomfortable space or even have those difficult conversations without potentially causing harm to an actual student,” Dr. Wells said. “I love this idea of simulating those conversations without necessarily having to learn at the expense of the student.”

Through the power of simulation, faculty and staff can change their behavior before actually causing harm to any students, as Dr. Wells points out. Research shows that with experiential practice, increased emotional engagement and reflective thinking leads to stronger self-efficacy and behavior change.

Along with avoiding harm to real students, there are many other advantages to virtual humans as a learning tool. Users feel less judged, and are less afraid to make mistakes. This online environment is ideal for tackling sensitive topics around DEI, because it gives learners a safe space to learn, experiment, and grow.

Watch the webinar recording

The full conversation was enlightening and provides a more in-depth look at the how and why of Cultivating Inclusive Communities. Watch it on-demand now, or bookmark it to listen to during your next commute.