Yellow background with illustration of a diverse group of students learning in a classroom setting.

Diversifying course content through an EDI perspective

Authors: Patrick Kelly and Dr. Fouzia Usman, PhD

Integrating equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) into your course design can create powerful opportunities but also generate many questions. By reflecting on key EDI principles such as your own positionality and the dominant voices in the classroom, diversifying course content is one place to start. This resource outlines strategies for diversifying course content that can be used during the early stages of course design or after the course begins.

As an educator, you hold a position of power in your teaching environment.

Guiding questions

  • Do you have a wide representation in your course material?
  • How affordable/accessible are the course materials?
  • How do you portray to your students that your course is a safe space?

What is EDI?


The creation of opportunities for historically underrepresented populations to have equal access to resources.


Individual differences and group or social differences that include, but are not limited to, race, gender, ability, sexual orientation, religion, and ethnicity.


The active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity by welcoming diverse perspectives and valuing everyone.

To learn more, please see the EDI Glossary from the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. 

Why does EDI in higher education matter?

Increases students academic self-confidence, social agency and critical thinking abilities

(Liard, 2005)

Builds student confidence in engaging with diverse others

(Parveen, 2021)

Impacts course design including content and assessment

(Haigh, 2020)

Encourages self-reflection and to recognize that multiple perspectives exist

(Brock et al, 2020)

What is course content?

Course content is course material that connects course learning outcomes to student assessments. It consists of what students are learning and enables them to participate in course activities and demonstrate their learning. Not all course content is knowledge, but could also include skills, concepts, and experiences.

There are many sources and forms of course content. Traditional content comes from sources such as textbooks, academic articles, and the instructor in the form of lectures, articles, text, graphics and videos. Other sources of content include:

  • Guest presenters
  • In-class or online student discussions
  • Student presentations
  • Open educational resources
  • Community engagement
  • Student experiences, culture and background
  • Diverse ways of knowing and doing
  • Selecting course content from diverse sources, authors, backgrounds, perspectives
  • Promoting multiple ways of knowing
  • Students engage in quality interactions with diverse perspectives
  • Using learner-centred language and teaching practices
  • Providing options and choices for assessment (such as topics for assignments or connections to personal experiences)
  • Provide students with choices, such as topics on an assignment or how to demonstrate their learning
  • Integrate opportunities for students to voice their understanding and experiences
  • Use a variety of activities throughout the course providing opportunities for students to experience the content in different ways
  • Encourage collaboration and diverse perspectives
  • Talk about EDI with your students
  • Use a variety of sources and help students make personal connections to see themselves within the content
  • Learn and use student names regularly to show value, trust and care

One place to start is by reflecting on your positionality. Positionality is to identify how we place ourselves in society in relation to others. Your positionality can influence how you perceive and understand course content, knowledge and perspectives.

As you reflect upon your positionality related to your teaching, consider:

  • Whose learning do I cater to in my class?
  • Whose voices dominate in my class?
  • How can I mitigate my own biases?

The next steps involve reviewing your course outline from an EDI perspective. In the process of doing so, think about the following:

  • How does my positionality shape course content?
  • Whose knowledge am I honouring through the course?
  • How and why do I choose and showcase class resources, materials, and activities for my course?

The intersection of course design and EDI

Course design focuses on fostering meaningful student learning experiences through the alignment of course learning outcomes, student assessment, and the activities students engage with. Course content has an essential role in connecting these anchors of the course and the principles of EDI can further these connections.

EDI principles and course design strategies

Adapted from Cora Learning (2020). Equity-Minded and Culturally-Affirming Teaching and Learning Practices in Virtual Learning Communities


Reach out to your students often and engage purposefully and positively.

  • Create a student-centered, inclusive course outline
  • Have regular and accessible office hours
  • Provide meaningful feedback to promote student learning


Authentic relationships between students and faculty are critical for student success.

  • Be available and approachable during and outside of class
  • Be supportive of student needs
  • Foster a caring, safe and trustful learning environment

Culturally relevant and affirming

A culturally-affirming learning experience entails educators’ ability to connect course content to students’ lived experiences and cultural contexts.

  • Establish relevance to students’ learning using real-world examples, connections to student experiences and ways of knowing and doing
  • Provide opportunities for student voices and sharing
  • Provide choice on how students demonstrate their learning (such as a visual or oral representation instead of writing)

Community focused

It is vital to build a sense of community in learning environments, so that students feel connected, engaged and supported

  • Collaboratively create class norms
  • Foster a safe learning environment that is judgement free
  • Connect in-class activities to course learning outcomes

Race conscious with intersectional lens

Being mindful of the multiple, intersecting identities that students hold

  • Remove barriers to access, expression and technology
  • Be aware of your assumptions
  • Check-in with students to ensure everyone can access and engage with course information
  • Consider student abilities (such as writing ability)
  • Ask for student feedback (use D2L surveys)

Related content

Advancing EDI in Online Teaching and Learning Environments

Learn more »

Innovative Approaches to Course Design

Learn more »


Brock, C., Sanchez, N., & Sharpe, D.L. (2020). Pen as a bridge: instructor perspectives on incorporating diversity and inclusion in writing-intensive courses. Teaching in Higher Education, 8(25), 992–1009.

Cora Learning (2020). Employing equity-minded & culturally-affirming teaching practices in virtual learning communities. Retrieved March 10, 2022, from 

Elkhoury, E. & Usman, F. (2021). Designing for every student: Practical advice for instructional designers on applying social justice in learning design. The Journal of Applied Instructional Design, 10(4). `

Nelson Laird, T.F. (2005). College students’ experiences with diversity and their effects on academic self-confidence, social agency, and disposition toward critical thinking. Research in Higher Education, 4(46), 365–387.

Haigh, M. (2020). Curriculum design for diversity: Layering assessment and teaching for learners with different worldviews. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 44(4), 487-511, DOI: 10.1080/03098265.2020.1803224

Parveen, S. (2021). Exploring and developing strategies for integration in a classroom setting within higher education. Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, 23(3), 124-136.