Integration of Engaging Social Justice Assignments into Online Courses

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Educating students about social justice is critical in allowing students to recognize injustice and to advocate for themselves and others. Social justice can be related to every discipline, and engaging assignments may spark interest and inspire action in students. Recent literature focuses on the implementation of social justice themes and curriculum in many face-to-face service-learning courses but is lacking in undergraduate online courses offered at public institutions. Some professors who teach online limit assignments to papers and discussion boards, which are not the most captivating assignments to work on or grade. Through a cross-discipline faculty learning community, innovative assignments were created that can be used across different pedagogies, courses, departments, and course levels. The assignments were crafted with a high level of student participation and creativity in mind. Examples of successfully administered assignments include: volunteering at a social justice organization and speaking about what the community would be like without the organization, captioning assigned photographs to reveal possible implicit biases, reviewing song lyrics to determine social justice issues present in the music and compare to other artists and genres, creation of short videos where students research current social justice community issues, and composing a compelling letter to a local or state politician about a social justice issue and including an original idea for a solution. Tips and techniques for the creation of the assignments will be included from an online instructional designer. Assignments were designed for all modalities; however, specific suggestions will be provided on how these assignments can be applied to an online or blended learning environment. Through the lens of culturally relevant pedagogy, this article will seek to provide a conceptual framework that can increase the use of social justice curriculum in online courses while providing applicable assignments for faculty and instructors to utilize throughout future research.