Emerging Equity Concerns
As you move your teaching to a remote environment, it is important to consider equitable access to the learning environment.The ideas and ideals that you apply in your in-person teaching to make learning and assessment accessible and equitable for all students still translate to remote teaching and learning. However, new issues and complexities arise in online teaching contexts.
Some of the challenges that students may face differentially in distance learning–which may be caused or exacerbated by the Coronavirus crisis–include:
- Lack of access to quality hardware and up-to-date software
- Lack of access to reliable internet service and unlimited data plans
- Lack of access to a quiet space to learn and study
- Financial precariousness
- Homelessness or housing insecurity; hunger or food insecurity
- Caregiving burdens (children, elders, family members who contract the disease)
- Physical and mental health concerns, including anxiety or trauma, for which care may be difficult to obtain
Tips for Promoting Access, Equity, and Inclusion in your Remote Classroom
- Ask students how they are doing and if they have what they need to be successful in the course. Keep in mind that the College Information Systems Department has provided technology resources for remote access and is surveying students’ hardware and software needs and doing what they can to meet those needs. Encourage students to complete the remote learning readiness survey if they haven’t already done so.
- Offer all students flexibility in assessment methods, access, attendance, and meeting deadlines. Adjust workloads to allow for the stressful and rapidly changing situation we are all working in. Give students (and yourself) time to adapt to changes and uncertainties. It is important to remember that students may be achieving adequate mastery of the material, but may be experiencing circumstances that make your usual assessment strategies difficult or impossible. You have the flexibility to work with these students to ensure that they do not experience grading inequity as a result of being unable to do projects or tests.
- Have ONE organizing place that lists everything the class will require, the spot students will go to get a “map.” Students are receiving messages from multiple professors, all making changes, as well as the information they are receiving from the College about other aspects of student life. Having a single source where all information is collected is a definitive reference for students navigating a lot of confusion. Make sure it is clearly titled and as much as possible, try to solidify your plans before distributing so you minimize changes later. (Hicks, Brule, Dubrowski)
- One good option is a master announcement on Canvas that is carefully planned to include all requirements (both changes and things staying the same), preferably duplicated in an email.
- Ensure that your syllabus is fully updated reflecting changed requirements and schedule, and redistribute it to students as a master document they can save or print as needed.
- Make sure online materials are accessible and mobile friendly if possible:
- PDFs should be readable by screen-reader. Please see the Remote Instruction Accessibility Guide. (Champlain Library staff can help ensure that you have accessible digital texts; contact firstname.lastname@example.org.) If you have students who need accommodations for using written texts, please contact the Office of Accessibility at email@example.com immediately so they can assist with additional needs that come with remote instruction.
- Always record lectures and virtual meetings so that students can download and view them later. (Live streaming of videos requires a strong internet connection and can deplete data plans or memory on devices.)
- Use captioning available with Google Slides, Zoom, Google Meet, or YouTube. Remind students that live captioning is available for any participant to turn on in Meet, which is the preferred tool for synchronous class sessions.
- Provide narrations of presented material and captions for graphs, diagrams and images.
- Please note that the letters of accommodation that you received this semester are still active. If there are any changes to a student’s accommodations, the Office of Accessibility will contact you directly or send a new letter of accommodation.
- Consider creating a live-type Google document that you and students can collaborate on to collect notes during a live class discussion or webinar.
- Consider balance in your use of synchronous (instructors and students gather at the same time and interact in “real time”) and asynchronous (instructors prepare course materials for students in advance, and students may access the course materials at a time and duration of their choosing) instruction. The CLT has a new blog post on considering asynchronous and synchronous strategies. The flexibility of asynchronous instruction makes the learning experience more accessible to students with different levels of access to technology as well as to students who need more time to engage with the course material. Asynchronous experiences need to include intentional interactive components, such as discussion forums, to keep students engaged and motivated. Including at least some asynchronous components makes your class more equitable for students who simply cannot attend during regular class time due to sudden childcare or work commitments or limited connectivity. Please record all synchronous sessions so students can watch them later (Google Meet includes an easy tool for this).
- Our students’ experiences with this crisis and remote instruction are also tied to diversity, equity, and inclusion in other ways. “Be mindful of the ways in which a crisis can impact communities in different ways, and how students from different identity groups (race, ethnicity, age, religious affiliation, gender, sexual orientation) may have different responses to a situation. Moreover, consider that some communities may become targets of bias incidents, discrimination, and even hate crimes during times of crisis. Be prepared to address tension, heated moments, or bias incidents if they occur in your classes or on campus, and step in to shut down inflammatory or hurtful language or actions. Reflect on how your own response to the situation is impacting you, your approach to teaching, your interactions with students, and what steps you can take to best support your students.” -Rice University Center for Teaching Excellence
- Approach your students’ experiences and your own with radical empathy. Everyone is going through disruptive and anxiety-producing situations, some more than others. Your ability to empathize and help depends on taking care of yourself. “Moving to remote teaching requires balancing a lot of competing needs and expectations–a balancing act that can be stressful and require more emotional labor than usual. It’s ok not to aim for perfection during a time of uncertainty and constantly changing landscapes; allow flexibility in course planning, be transparent with students, and expect that mistakes and hiccups will happen! As you support your students, remember to seek support and assistance from your fellow instructors, department and university administrators, university support staff, as well as friends and family when you need it.” -Rice University Center for Teaching Excellence
“Above all, be kind to learners. Times of disruption are stressful and minimizing this stress and providing a sense of support can have consequences for learners far beyond the success of a particular class.” (Hicks, Brule, Dubrowski)
Aimi Hamraie, Accessible Teaching in the Time of COVID-10, Mapping Access, March 10, 2020
Cat Hicks, Dr. Emeline Brulé, Roberta Dombrowski, You Have To Put Your Class Online: Simple Things to Think About, March 2020
Melanie Ho, Three principles for safeguarding student success in the transition to remote instruction, EAB, March 16, 2020
Robin Paige, Inclusion, Equity, and Access While Teaching Remotely, Reflections on Teaching and Learning, Rice University Center for Teaching Excellence, March 13, 2020
Teaching in Times of Crisis, Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching
Lindsey Passenger Wieck, An Equitable Transition to Online Learning: Flexibility, Low Bandwidth, Cell Phones, and More, Pedagogy Playground, March 9, 2020