Teaching Remotely for Accessibility, Equity, and Inclusion
Supporting instructional continuity requires us not only to move our course materials online, but also to consider how we can make our learning experiences accessible to all. While fostering inclusive teaching online is grounded in the same principles as in a face-to-face context, it may also highlight considerations related to digital access, identities, culture, and location. Below are several ways faculty can better serve all students in the remote learning environment.
Consider students’ access to technology
Away from campus, students will have varying levels of access to a reliable Internet connection, or the physical devices (i.e., laptop) or software required for your course.
- Anonymously survey students about their access to technology (see examples of surveys from Dr. Danya Glabau of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering and Dr. Lance Gravlee of the University of Florida’s Department of Anthropology). While you may not be able to accommodate all needs, use students’ responses to shape the decisions you make. Ask students to let you know if they are unable to fulfill course requirements due to access issues and strategize together about alternative assessments, etc.
- Share resources, such as information about how to:
- turn a phone into a WiFi hotspot
- access eTextbooks for free for the rest of spring semester
- troubleshoot connectivity issues
- use BU’s Libraries’ various online services and resources
Develop accessible course materials
- BU’s Disability & Access Services offers guidance and support for making online materials accessible. Some accommodations may help multiple groups of students: captioned videos, for instance, may also be useful for multilingual students, for whom English is not their first language.
- Be aware that students may need to request new or different accommodations for remote learning.
- More information about accessibility is available from the Remote Teaching Coordinator associated with your school.
Foster an inclusive learning environment
- Be flexible. Offer multiple ways for students to participate and demonstrate their learning. Brown University’s Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning offers ideas for translating discussion and a variety of assignments for online formats.
- Clarify how the expectations and norms for your course will be adapted for remote learning. For instance, how will you measure attendance and participation when your course is conducted asynchronously? (Students watching videos at different times might be required to share responses by a predetermined time on the class’s discussion board, etc.)
- Synchronous or asynchronous?
- Synchronous class sessions allow for interaction in real time, but may not be possible for all students, who may be connecting from different time zones, attending to family commitments or not have a quiet space to connect from at the time of the video conference, etc.
- Determine the format that will allow you to serve the most students. This CTL Guide may help you think about strategies for transitioning from your original plans for face-to-face instruction to synchronous or asynchronous formats.
- Columbia University’s School of Social Work has prepared a guide on “Trauma-Informed Teaching and Learning Online” with practical suggestions for how to support and engage students.
- Students may need to revise their study strategies to succeed in the remote learning environment. Ziad Munson, Associate Professor of Sociology at Lehigh University, offers “5 Tips for Your Newly Online Coursework.”
- BU has developed a special set of grading policies for the spring 2020 semester. Remind students that they will not need to decide whether to take their courses for credit or no credit until after they have received their letter grades and had a chance to consult their advisors.
- BU’s IS&T offers tips for securing Zoom meetings from uninvited participants.
Prioritize self-care and well-being of all
We are all impacted in these unprecedented and uncertain times. Recognize that students are affected in ways visible and invisible, and be compassionate, generous, and flexible. As Brandon Bayne, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, explains, “nobody signed up for this”: our first priority is to support one another.
- Check in with your students regularly, and connect them to available resources.
- BU Student Health Services offers tips for staying healthy.
- BU Behavioral Medicine is available to provide support to individuals one-on-one as well as in group settings.
- Make time for breaks and encourage your students to do the same. The BU community has free access to Headspace, a research-based meditation and mindfulness app. The app is available for faculty and staff, and for students.
- The Faculty & Staff Assistance Office (FSAO) is offering free and confidential consultations and convening support groups for faculty and staff.
- BU Employee Wellness is also offering information sessions and support groups.
- Peralta Community College’s Online Equity Rubric for Research-based Course Design
- University of Washington’s DIsabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology: 20 Tips for Teaching an Accessible Online Course
- Kelly A. Hogan and Viji Sathy, “8 Ways to Be More Inclusive in Your Zoom Teaching“, Chronicle of Higher Education
Acknowledgments: This guide draws heavily from the following resources:
- Columbia University’s Center for Teaching and Learning: Inclusive Teaching and Learning Online
- Rice University’s Center for Teaching Excellence: Inclusion, Equity and Access While Teaching Remotely
- San Diego State University’s Center for Inclusive Excellence: Maintaining Equity and Inclusion in Virtual Learning Environments
- Tufts University’s Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching: Fostering and Inclusion in Remote Teaching