Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Creating a Global Learning Community Online

Learning to think scientifically can help us create global community.

Lizbeth Jacobs, used with permission.
Source: Lizbeth Jacobs, used with permission.

We’re all in this together. What a time this is for all of us.

At the Zoom meeting for our weekly Harvard "Psychology of Diversity" course, the diversity team and I spent time grappling with our new reality and how best to move forward with our course this coming summer, and with our online science of diversity educational research project. A few things are clear to us.

Each summer, Harvard and other universities across the U.S. welcome a diverse community of learners, representing a broad range of political, racial, religious, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds and genders and sexualities.

Since colleges and universities have cancelled in-person classes, now more than ever, my team and I need to use our many years of experience teaching and researching diversity online to help engage and connect our Harvard summer school global student community.

The coronavirus outbreak has caused global fear, anxiety, and uncertainty.

As the number of coronavirus cases rises, anxiety over the potentially deadly disease has partly been blamed on something other than health issues.

The virus originated in Wuhan, China. Since the first cases were reported there late last year, Asians across the world have been the target of a sudden rise of physical and verbal attacks. Many Chinese students, and people of Asian descent perceived to be Chinese, are being avoided and blamed for spreading the virus.

And in the U.S., the widespread worry about the coronavirus pandemic has a political hue, according to a recent nationwide poll. Republicans report being less worried a family member would get the virus, compared to Democrats who expressed higher alarm.

In our Harvard Summer Psychology of Diversity online learning space, we’ve always provided a safe Zoom online learning space by helping students in our psychology of diversity courses engage in conversations on polarizing topics by teaching scientific thinking as opposed to reacting emotionally.

Facilitated conversations on diversity and inclusion often have an agenda. As a result, conversations on diversity often end up being arguments.

By contrast, our psychology of diversity courses and educational materials are designed to facilitate conversations on polarizing issues, using the scientific method. There is no hidden agenda!

We are experiencing a pandemic, a virus that does not discriminate and infects all equally. During this period, we want to offer students meaningful conversations on diversity issues while fostering a culture of mutual respect during these uncertain times.

Our students in the past have reported that the diversity assembled in our online class (age, religion, sexual orientation, geographical location, profession, age, and so forth) and the diversity of the teaching staff have given them the opportunity to have conversations on diversity that they would have never had the opportunity to have in a regular classroom.

To learn more about the Psychology of Diversity course, click here. Find more information about the new book The Science of Diversity and instructor online resources here.

Copyright © 2020 Mona Sue Weissmark. All rights reserved.


Weissmark, M. (May/June 2020). The Science of Diversity. Oxford University Press, USA.

Weissmark,M. (2004). Justice Matters: Legacies of the Holocaust & World War II. Oxford University Press, USA.

Weissmark, M. & Giacomo, D. (1998). Doing Psychotherapy Effectively. University of Chicago Press, USA.

More from Mona S. Weissmark Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today
More from Mona S. Weissmark Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today