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Exclusive: CEDIA senior VP on diversity in education

Samantha Ventura, senior VP education and training at CEDIA talks about its importance

CEDIA supports the education of our members and everyone in our industry by offering learning opportunities in a variety of ways: In-person, via virtual events, online in the CEDIA Academy, podcasts, white papers, blogs, articles, just to name a few. Because our methods of delivery vary, it can often be difficult to incorporate and check for best practices in the content we are providing, and the ways in which it is delivered. Our commitment to our learners is threefold. The education provided should always be relevant, in should be engaging, and it should meet the needs of every learner in attendance. The first two are fairly self-explanatory, but what does the third really mean?

To meet the needs of all learners can be a daunting task. The CEDIA Education team believes that it is our job to recognise where the learners are in their knowledge of a certain topic, before we begin. That’s where it can get tricky. This does not just mean where they are in terms of region, but also where they are in terms of knowledge gaps, their time in the industry, then we drill down further, looking at demographics, and determine a plan for how we can incorporate and infuse as many best practices for ‘reaching’ our audience as possible, for all learning opportunities we provide. The creation of the content then starts from there.

For the online courses in the CEDIA Academy, engaging and impacting our learners in a positive way means we need to keep a close eye on not just what we say, but how we say it. Promoting growth and reflection for our learners means we need to design our courses to be experiential, while also being reflective of the diverse make up of our members and our industry. Inclusivity as a term is not limited to time spent together physically, it also means being open to everyone, and that does include the online space of learning. Pictures, the use of storytelling, videos, specific regional terminology, among many other things, can support or break the trust we strive to make with our learners, ensuring we are doing our best to provide education that encompasses the many backgrounds of everyone in our industry.

This commitment to creating diverse and inclusive learning experiences supports more than just the individual as a well -prepared learner in our industry. It further strengthens employee engagement, a sense of belonging in the industry for themselves and each other and promotes discussion and continued relevancy for individuals and businesses working with a variety of clients, on both the commercial and residential sides of the industry. In short, providing diverse education and learning experiences are the starting point for better success for everyone.

When providing education to the industry, there are ways to be more inclusive with what you offer.

  • Think about the interpretation of content, in addition to the method of delivery. Work to mitigate misunderstandings before pen hits paper, for the entire design of the class, experience, or even when releasing a blog, article, or white paper.
  • Bring in people to help develop content when it is not in the teams’ area of expertise. This includes if diversity and inclusion are not areas you are strongly versed in, ask for support regarding best practices in curriculum/content design.
  • Ask for feedback prior and after any learning opportunity is launched, delivered, or experienced. Use feedback to determine ways to better offerings, especially through the lens of representation, diversity, and inclusion.
  • Research cultural differences and nuances and if needed, look to others as models for better ways to meet the needs of more people. Reinventing the wheel is often unnecessary when others are already something right.
  • Commit to doing better. Buy-in from the team in creating content and providing experiences that are inclusive and diverse, with representation being one of many factors but not the only factor, requires teams to have professional development to know how to expand their knowledge base of this very important subject. This needs to be a commitment shared by all within an organisation, big or small.

Employing universal design principles, acknowledging and understanding cultural differences, and incorporating different teaching and online content design strategies, are only the tip of the iceberg for organisations working to bring more diversity and better inclusivity into any of the learning opportunities they are providing. Find articles, attend webinars, connect with leaders who are experts in this area, affirm that this is something that is a non-negotiable for you and your teams. As an industry let’s celebrate and support all who bring unique talent, perspective, background, and experiences to this space – we will all be better for it.