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A new Indigenous personas initiative seeks to achieve more inclusive digital environments at Concordia

‘Diversity of experiences in the university community influence accessibility and use of technology’
October 6, 2020

Personas can act as a means of understanding various realities. This is especially relevant given that traditional concepts of objectivity tend to exclude multiple worldviews in the design of products, services and even digital experiences.

As part of Concordia’s Digital Strategy, the university partnered with Leger to run a series of public consultations with Indigenous students and faculty. The collaboration produced a report that includes personas of Indigenous students and faculty to highlight important considerations when planning inclusive digital environments.

“The public consultations with Indigenous students and faculty have provided a better understanding of the specific challenges related to Concordia’s digital environment,” says Guylaine Beaudry, vice-provost of digital strategy and university librarian.

“This information will help to shape the university’s digital priorities going forward to ensure more respectful, reciprocal, and mutually beneficial relationships with Indigenous members of our community.”

The personas are composites of four Indigenous students and five Indigenous faculty who were selected to be interviewed to reflect the diversity within Concordia’s Indigenous community. The interviews were conducted between April 27 and May 4, 2020.

6 themes

The interviews yielded six key themes in the report:

  1. The Aboriginal Student Resource Centre is a home away from home for Indigenous students. However, some do not discover it right away.
  2. Finding culturally appropriate physical space is challenging.
  3. The digital environment could facilitate administrative processes to compensate Indigenous knowledge-keepers and -suppliers.
  4. Accessibility is essential to allow Indigenous students and faculty members to work while staying close to their community.
  5. Technology tends to feel like an additional workload.
  6. There is a need for online emotional and professional support.

While not inclusive of the numerous and distinct worldviews of Indigenous peoples and their experiences, the two Indigenous personas now available in Concordia’s Digital Strategy Persona Handbook serve as guides to set priorities to build a more equitable digital future.

Manon Tremblay (BA 03), senior director of Indigenous Directions, elaborates on the importance of the Indigenous personas and greater digital inclusion at Concordia.

‘Accessibility is still a major issue’

How will the Indigenous personas serve as a tool to expand Concordia’s digital environment?

Manon Tremblay: I think it is important to remember and take into account the diversity of experiences found in the Concordia community and how these influence accessibility and use of technology.

As a Concordia alumna, you have experienced the university as both a student and staff. Have you observed positive changes within the university’s digital environment to support Indigenous students and faculty?

MT: There definitely have been positive changes. However, as mentioned by individuals who were interviewed in the development of the personas, technology can sometimes feel like an added workload.

Where students are concerned, accessibility is still a major issue, especially for those who originate from isolated or northern communities. Connectivity is often mediocre at best and access to the necessary hardware is also a challenge for students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds or live in communities where computer equipment is not readily available and the cost of living is much higher than the rest of Canada.

Have you collaborated in similar projects where Indigenous personas have been created as tools to help decision-makers focus on Indigenous community members?

MT: Prior to rejoining Concordia in December 2019, I was a federal public servant. In my position as the head of the Public Service Commission of Canada’s Aboriginal Centre of Expertise, I collaborated on an important initiative to develop personas in order to fine-tune the promotion of services offered to all Canadians in Indigenous communities.

Take a moment to learn more about
Concordia’s Digital Strategy.


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