Diversity and Inclusion in Content Writing  

Diversity and inclusion is not only a hot topic for businesses, but also for creators of learning material. Course writers and designers are becoming increasingly more attentive when developing their curricula, content and design, as well as the accessibility of their courses; something which is particularly important at a time when there are more learners online than ever before.

Aside from the need to represent all people in our increasingly globalized world, it is our responsibility as content producers to make sure our own students feel included and valued. Research suggests that erasure of a person’s identity can be psychologically damaging, and this means we are obliged to create content that includes all people regardless of their identity or background. Furthermore, we also need to avoid linguistic stunting, which occurs if learners withdraw from the learning environment due to a lack of representation, or the learning environment fails to provide the support that they need. If students do not see themselves in the narratives presented in the content, they are unlikely to learn as successfully. Presenting new language in a situation the student can relate to has the potential to strengthen the student’s understanding and help them retain the newly acquired language.

So, what steps can we take as course writers to be more inclusive? A good starting point is understanding your own students. Where are they from? What are their backgrounds? How do they identify themselves? You could also set up workshops with fellow writers, designers or teachers and share ideas. We should accept that we might not have a first-hand insight into marginalized groups or have lived experiences as a marginalized person, but that we can learn to listen. As course creators, we can benefit hugely by acknowledging our own limitations and valuing the experience of colleagues.

When writing content, the key to being inclusive is not to highlight specific groups of people and their characteristics, but to integrate them into the language itself. By doing this, we increase the frequency of marginalized group narratives and prevent discussions or questions centred around specific group characteristics. There are many ways we can accomplish this in our language learning content. When writing reading texts or audio scripts, take more consideration into the creation of characters; if you’re writing role plays in a variety of locations, remember to avoid focusing on only a handful of countries; if you’re writing about a new and innovative product, why not make it a product which helps people with disabilities? The opportunities open to us are extensive, we just need to make sure we use them.

As mentioned, it’s also important to consider the accessibility of your content. Make sure you’ve included alt text (short written descriptions) with your images, subtitles in your videos and transcripts for your audio tracks. Pay attention to the design, too. What size font are you using? What about the colours? Does an activity really need to use anagrams, or can it be presented in a more accessible way?

Of course, it is not possible to identify and address all the crucial details of how to develop an inclusive course in this short text. The aim of this article is to get you thinking about these topics when creating your own material, and to highlight how they can help shape a positive learning experience. At a time when online learning is booming, think about what you can do and what you can bring to your material based on your own experiences.