Against All Odds? Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Asynchronous Online Courses

Lessons Learned from the Student Experience Project


  • Sandra Watts University of North Carolina Charlotte


Online Learning


UNC Charlotte is one of six access- oriented universities engaged in the Student Experience Project, a three year research project that produced the PERTS ASCEND survey instrument. This survey is administered by faculty to their classes at the beginning, middle, and end of the semester and solicits information on the seven learning conditions that have been linked to student retention and success in higher education: belonging certainty, trust and fairness, identity safety, institutional growth mindset, self-efficacy, social belonging, and social connectedness. The purpose of the survey is to support all students, and in particular those in historically underrepresented populations.

Conventional wisdom holds that these students benefit the most from face to face classes. In addition, much has been written about the loss of social connectedness and social belonging in online classes and especially in  asynchronous courses. However, as the data in this presentation shows, there is strong evidence that a well-constructed and conducted online, asynchronous instructional context in fact fosters the growth of all seven learning conditions for learners who identify as women, as having high financial stress, and as belonging to historically excluded racial and ethnic groups.