Industry Spotlight

Valuable insights from UPCEA's trusted corporate partners.

Four practices to advance equity in online student support

Taking a holistic approach to updating DEI practices

When you provide a coaching program to online learners across the country, the populations you support are extremely diverse. Different backgrounds. Different cultures. Different ages, socio-economic situations, and life experiences. That’s why, as student supporters in online communities, it’s critical to implement equitable support techniques that serve the needs of all types of students.


As an organization that works with students and student support staff on a daily basis, we at InsideTrack are continuously challenging ourselves to think about support from an equitable perspective. In 2020, we partnered with consultant Asia Wong, Director of Counseling and Health Services at Loyola University New Orleans, to strengthen our equity practices in coaching. We worked with coaches to discover how their stories and backgrounds might impact the way they relate to students — and how students relate to them. From this work, we incorporated four key practices into our work to help coaches improve their ability to provide meaningful, tailored coaching. We encourage you to think about how the following practices apply to your role as a student supporter, and how incorporating them may impact the way your students feel supported.


Individualism means meeting each learner where they’re at. Understanding a student’s specific situation and systemic barriers they may be facing is crucial to making a connection. 


Self- and situational awareness asks coaches to reflect on their own context. What does your background mean when working with students? What power dynamics exist in your coaching relationship? Are there biases you need to address? Welcoming and understanding differences between coaches and learners allows for a true support relationship without barriers.


Adaptability is inherent with the individualized work we do. Coaches are trained to hone their abilities in order to take different approaches to different types of students — learning to flex their communication and listening skills, essential when working with a broad range of students. 


Cultural competence and humility is a balancing act. Cultural competence involves a commitment to continue to learn about cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives that are different from your own. Cultural humility requires us to avoid assumptions, hold an open mind, and acknowledge that each individual’s journey is unique. When balanced, these practices help coaches demonstrate  “appropriate curiosity” through a combination of research and asking questions. And you can ask better questions if you understand the context of where the student is coming from. 


Authored by Megan Breiseth, Senior Director, Learning & Development at InsideTrack. Since 2001, InsideTrack has supported more than 2.6 million learners through our direct coaching. In addition, we have positively impacted millions more through our training, capacity building and strategic guidance with colleges, universities, employer workforce programs and other organizations. As a nonprofit, we drive social impact through the transformative power of coaching. Visit to learn more.

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