OEB17 – Re-Thinking Design for the Inclusion of Marginalized Learners

A provocational workshop

Maha Bali, Hoda Mostafa and Christian Friedrich are facilitating a two hour workshop at #OEB17 in Berlin on Thursday, Dec 7, at 2pm, Room Köpenick for those who are onsite. With Maha joining us virtually and Hoda and Christian onsite, we want to make sure to include participants beyond the onsite workshop. We thus aim to include all resources, provocations and proceedings on this site.

If you would like to join the workshop virtually, get in touch with Maha Bali on twitter or contact us using the form on the bottom of this page. You can also watch the live/recorded workshop via the embedded video near the bottom of the page.

The workshop at a glance

Original workshop description for OEB17

The three workshop segments:

Intros & Provocations (30 minutes)

Group Work: Design Thinking (60-70 minutes)

Presentation (20-30 minutes)

Some context: what we aim for with this workshop

In order to provide educational formats, many in the higher education sector and beyond look to technology to help them deliver on their promises, budgetary limitations or limited and reduced teaching staff size. It is often assumed that, by using technology as a lever or amplifier for their existing practices and for complex problems, educators and their institutions will see their learners flourish. The question is: who flourishes, who benefits from technology in education? And who struggles because of the decisions we, educators and administrators, make?

Simply by adding technology, one will not address complex problems like diversity or inclusivity in education. Blueprint solutions like electronic textbooks, MOOCs, inverted classrooms, video lectures, personalized learning or the use of an LMS/VLE will fail learners on the margins if they are not designed for them and with them. Their needs and the economical, technological, physical, psychological barriers to entering into a relationship with their community of peers, their educators, the topic at hand and their overall environment need to be at the center of any educational practice, with or without technology.

With this workshop, we aim to address these questions. We provide introductional provocations from educators and activists and we will work with workshop attendees onsite and online to design for inclusion of marginalized learners. In doing so, we hope to pool ideas and diverse points of view that inform the image of a “marginalized learner”. By providing our own resources and provocations on this site, we hope to make the ideas and concepts accessible to anyone interested.

The conference theme of OEB17 is “Learning Uncertainty” and this workshop draws on this theme from various perspectives: first, it is meant to provide different perspectives on education and currently marginalized learners. Second, we hope that this workshop and its resources help educators, who themselves feel uncertain about their pedagogical practice, to re-think their approaches and to critically and constructively question them. Third, this workshop and this site are meant as a resource to go back to for administrators, educators as well as decision-makers on all levels, for whom uncertainty is a constant companion.

Below, you will find the initial workshop description, the provocations that we use for this workshop onsite as well as a pool of interesting resources and other initiatives in this field.

Original workshop description

Coming from a position of dominance and power, many in the edtech industry follow what Richard Barbrook called the Californian Ideology. Vendors and startups in the sector offer services and products that are intended to scale, they aim to move fast and break things. Many of these services are based on ideas of control, as Audrey Watters puts it. In his short blog post titled “Caring does not scale and scaling doesn’t care” Doug Belshaw points out that the economies of scale are not necessarily ideal to impact lives in a meaningful way.

In this workshop, we (Maha Bali, Hoda Mostafa, Christian Friedrich) propose to consider how these mechanisms and this ideology impact the uncertainty of our learners, the uncertainty of learning spaces but also the uncertainty of educators, decision-makers at educational institutions. By asking “how to design for uncertainty?” and by offering provocations from various realms and sectors, we aim to unpack these multi-layered questions in order to enable our workshop participants to take more ethical, sustainable and conscious decisions in their everyday work-life.

Three workshop segments

Intro & provocations (30 mins)

Thought-leading educators, activists, academics and practitioners provide short thought experiments following one lead question:

“How would you design learning environments, exercises and even education in general if your aim was to suppress marginalized communities?”

Mary Helda Akongo

Mary Helda Akongo is one of the recipients of the Internet Society’s 25 under 25 awards, an OpenEd fellow, a Cherie Blair foundation mentee and the Operations and Programs Manager at Zimba Women; a Ugandan organization that is using technology to find innovative solutions to create sustainable futures for African women. Mary Helda believes that technology has the power to positively affect the social, political and economic development of women in Africa. Follow @MaryHelda on twitter.

Here’s a transcript of Mary’s provocation.

Sherri Spelic

Sherri is a Leadership Coach, Educator, Workshop designer and facilitator, a former competitive runner and a communication enthusiast who is excited about exploring new avenues of sharing ideas with any and all interested parties. She blogs and tweets as the Edifiedlistener.

Elana Zeide

Elana is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Seton Hall University School of Law, an Affiliate at Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology, and a visiting fellow at Yale School of Law’s Information Society Project. She studies data-driven instruction, virtual classrooms, and digital credentials in teaching and hiring. Find more about her work on her website and follow her on twitter.

Group work: Design Thinking (60-70 mins)

Participants are introduced to basic ideas and concepts of Design Thinking (Empathising/ Discovery/ Ideation/ Prototyping/ Testing). The leading question now is:

“How can we design to intentionally include marginalized communities?”


The team of facilitators will lead participants in their group work, in which they will work on building multiple personas. By building these personas they will better understand the marginalized learner and explore various “user” types (Empathise mode). Each group will work with one persona (educator persona, learner persona) and work through a Problem Identification phase (discovery), an Ideation phase (divergent and convergent thinking) and build a Prototype (either phantastical or directly implementable) that can then be later on used as means of documentation, inspiration, ideation and further iteration.

Here is a shared Google Doc for notes, comments, questions and for your work:

Presentation, discussion feedback (20-30 mins)

Participants are welcome to present their findings (testing) and to discuss their projects, concepts and ideas (we offer to record presentations and discussions on video). Given the agreement of the presenters, these findings will be recorded and documented on this webpage so as to further give room to discourse and iteration.

Want to join the workshop virtually?

This workshop is Hybrid – Christian and Hoda are onsite, Maha will be virtual. The virtual side of the workshop will be recorded and livestreamed using Google Hangouts on Air.

If you would like to join the workshop virtually, get in touch with Maha Bali on twitter or contact us using the form on the bottom of this page. You can also watch the live/recorded workshop via the embedded video below.


While preparing for the workshop, Christian Friedrich was interviewed about equity in learning design by Bonni Stachowiak on her Podcast Teaching in Higher Ed. You can listen to the episode on the website or search for the Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast, Episode 182, in your favourite podcast app.

Equity in Learning Design


Header Image by Matt Artz via unsplash.

Unless otherwise marked, this workshop design and its materials and resources are licensed under a CC-BY 4.0 International License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

If you are not sure how to reuse and remix this work get in touch with Maha, Hoda or Christian.