Gaining a diversity edge.

Author:Reis, Matthew
Position:Diversity University's edge advantage program

The Edge Advantage, 3 hrs., 2004, Diversity University (513-551-1123,, $79.97 per student. Leader guide.

The Edge Advantage program is a web-based diversity program that actually makes the online training experience useful and engaging.

It comprises four modules that take about three hours to complete, start to finish. The program delivery is unusual: it involves a diverse team of eight "employees," and the person taking the training is supposed to be part of the team. An online facilitator named Michelle guides the participant through the program and helps the "virtual team" identify workplace issues and try to resolve them.

The program incorporates a lot of pre- and post-quizzes and polls to determine what perceptions program participants have about their own work team in their organization. The goal is not only to educate participants about diversity issues in general but to make them aware of their own perceptions in the workplace as well. The interactive program, which uses Flash and QuickTime players, is very easy to use and navigate. It also allows participants to bookmark where they stop the program if the need to take it in multiple sessions.

The first module, The Knowledge Edge, focuses on understanding the changing demographics in the U.S., why they are important, factors that create stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination, and the primary dimensions of diversity. There are numerous exercises and tests of the participant's understanding along the way that make this both an interactive and interesting program to participate in.

The second module, The Awareness Edge, introduces some realistic controversy on the virtual team. Michael, a white male, suggests that the team not focus on differences, but rather just concentrate on similarities as a way to bring people together. Valerie, a black woman, counters that this creates a "no win" situation and actually puts the burden back on the person who is in the minority to advocate that diverse characteristics be recognized and valued.

The next section, called "Ask Yourself," is effective at getting people to start looking inward and seeing how comfortable or uncomfortable they are interacting with people who are diverse. The questions start out a little easier with scenarios such as serving a person with disabilities in a restaurant setting and then progressing to much more difficult situations such as being a nurse in a pediatric hospital ward who is...

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