With the change from face to face to online learning, there may be new learning and understanding for students and we must be aware that online learning may have challenges for some students. Learning should be universal for all so keeping in mind that differentiation and Universal design practices are a key component in online learning.
We are continuing to look for more resources to help teachers consider issues of equity and diversity in course design, and to think about online practices such as moderating discussions.
For example we all need to be aware of practices in online learning that may seem common but that may be a barrier for some students.
In a discussion, synchronous and asynchronous, not everyone will want to post an image of themselves in the conference. They may be concerned they will be judged on appearance, gender or other assumptions.
Another example where faculty can not only model inclusion but create a safe space is the way they create boundaries or guidelines around online discussion. Faculty can explicitly discuss the need for careful and thoughtful writing in a text-based conference. They can impress through words and example that students as participants need to reflect on their own text and how others might interpret it negatively.
We want to encourage thoughtful writing.
Ground rules can be part of a co-created document so that all students feel they are stakeholders. Faculty can set up explicit strategies for meaningful discussion—even about challenging topics—but with ground rules: respectful acknowledgement of other’s contributions (even if you disagree).
Students should be encourage to offer calm and clear critiques of ideas, to focus on evidence of why they are critiquing that idea. Any critique should be about the work, not the person.
In courses, there are students with a range of learning abilities and some may have language barriers, some with exceptionalities and special education needs. Students may not necessarily disclose or self-identify their needs but we must take the necessary precautions to support all learners and accommodate the needs.
There are a number of ways to support students with accessibility needs.
These are some curated resources we have found helpful. If you use one, or have comments or suggestions, consider sharing your ideas in our Blog posts.