It is essential that all students can see themselves represented in experiential learning opportunities and feel encouraged to participate. Truly inclusive promotional and outreach efforts involve crafting messaging that reflects the diversity of your intended student audience. By being intentional with your outreach, students will feel more connected with your opportunity, potentially leading to improved uptake and participation.
It is important to advertise opportunities through a variety of means to reach all eligible students. Learning about opportunities from faculty members can be particularly effective. Similarly, promoting EL opportunities with support from individuals who might share an aspect of a student’s identity — including student peers and organizational partners — may increase students’ interest and level of comfort in engaging in the opportunity.
- Provide numerous forums for students to learn about the opportunities — online and in person, through faculty or staff members, peer ambassadors, departmental newsletters, listservs, course calendars, student clubs, etc. However, when reaching out to groups — such as student clubs that might serve specific equity-deserving student populations — be mindful that they may already be receiving many requests for promotion.
- When hosting appointments or events for students to learn more about the EL opportunity, ensure that the delivery method and location are accessible and offer varying times to participate so students with scheduling constraints or conflicts can attend. Incorporate principles of universal design when developing sessions, and collect accessibility and accommodation requests in advance, such as through the event registration form or appointment booking system. If students are required to prepare materials in advance, make this clear to students in your communications with them prior to the event or appointment, and send meeting reminders as well as a reasonable window for cancellation without penalty.
- Consider hosting a panel of students who were previously engaged in EL and can speak to their experiences. If students feel comfortable, they can speak about aspects of their identity in relation to their experience at various stages in the EL opportunity.
- If you are hoping to recruit and retain students that are part of specific equity-deserving groups, consider consulting with staff, faculty and students from those communities, and invite them to share their perspectives.
The ideas portrayed through your promotional content and media can directly impact how students feel about your EL opportunity. Be thoughtful when creating promotional content and accompanying visuals to ensure that you do not unintentionally discourage students from engaging.
- Review the accessibility of your promotional and communication materials. Some institutional tools, such as Microsoft 365 and Quercus, have built-in accessibility checkers that you can leverage. For questions and support concerning accessibility, you can reach out to the University of Toronto Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Office.
- Include a statement about accessibility and the willingness to accommodate in all promotional materials, as well as an equity, diversity, inclusion and access (EDIA) commitment statement in your promotional materials and at promotional events.
- The use and meaning of terminology and phrases continue to evolve. Review and stay up to date with EDIA-related terminology, phrases and terms to foster an inclusive environment for students. For example, you may want to familiarize yourself with current gender-inclusive language. Be mindful before using popularized terms and avoid slang terms. While some terms may be trendy, it is important to be aware of the relevant context and appropriate usage of the language you choose to avoid any unintended negative and/or discriminatory impacts.
- When creating promotional materials, try to represent a diversity of identities, and use a variety of ways to communicate information in an Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act-compliant manner. Like language usage, be mindful when using popularized media (e.g., images, memes, gifs, etc.), as it may not provide relevant context, might be taken out of context and/or could suggest connotations that you may not be aware of.
Some students may be hesitant to engage in experiential learning due to uncertainty about what the opportunity entails, while others may have different motivations and expectations for participating in EL. For example, some students may be motivated to pursue a career path, others may be motivated by a sense of civic duty and engagement, whereas others may simply be curious to try new things and build their skills and knowledge. Consider how you might curate your informational content and materials to appeal to different student motivations; this can help you demonstrate to students how your opportunity aligns with their needs and will support the achievement of their goals.
- Reflect on the learning outcomes for the opportunity and consider whether these outcomes align with students’ motivations. As students may need to be selective in what they choose to participate in, learning outcomes that effectively communicate the value of the experience may be helpful for students to determine whether engaging in this opportunity meets their personal, academic and career goals.
- Outline explicitly for students the roles, responsibilities and commitment required to engage in the EL opportunity. For partnered opportunities, ask your industry or community partner(s) to provide a short statement of their expectations, goals and needs. Where possible, consider offering an introductory session (e.g., intake appointment, information session, etc.) that offers students a chance to discuss expectations, and clarify any concerns they might have.
- Be transparent, use plain language and provide as much detail as possible about the opportunity so students are better positioned to make an informed decision about participating. Some details you may want to provide include, but are not limited to:
- Essential requirements
- Expected participation hours
- Location and transportation options
- Nature of environment (e.g., Is it fast-paced? Is there a high level of noise? Will the student have access to a private space?)
- Nature of the role (e.g., Are there physical demands?)
- Types of support available from your unit/division, the University and/or the organization partner to support participation (e.g., financial support, transit passes, etc.)
- For remote opportunities, identify key expectations, such as whether students are required to have their own private space, laptop or high-speed internet connection, and what types of supports might be available to support students who may experience challenges in meeting these expectations (e.g., providing students with a high-speed internet stick).