Even though our mode of teaching may be radically different from what we and our students are used to, it is important to ensure that our approach to instruction remains as equitable and inclusive as possible. Below are some things to keep in mind:
By now you should know if any of your students do not have reliable access to the Internet. Please share information about obtaining free/low cost Internet:
Companies offering free / inexpensive hotspot or internet activation
Comcast COVID-19 response
Charter Free Internet offer for 2 months
AT&T COVID-19 response
Sprint COVID-19 response
T-Mobile COVID-19 response
How to set up a Personal Hotspot on your iPhone or iPad
How to set up a Personal Hotspot on an Android Phone
If students are still struggling with connectivity, work with them to find solutions for obtaining your course material and participating. Here are some ideas:
- If you are holding synchronous classes via Zoom, enable the “phone” option. Your no/low connectivity students can dial in with a landline or cell phone and still participate.
- If you are uploading asynchronous lecture videos or holding synchronous classes via Zoom, also upload a copy of the slides without video, a transcript (if available), or lecture notes.
- Consider also uploading “audio only” files, which require less bandwidth to download. When you save your videos in Zoom, one of the three files generated is an “audio only” version of your class or lecture. .
- Ask students to turn off their cameras in Zoom to use less bandwidth.
- Accept/pay attention to the questions and interactions in the text chat during Zoom session; this may be the only way some students can participate.
- Consider allowing these students to submit work in alternative ways (email, snail mail if necessary, etc.)
- Be mindful that “participation” and “attendance” are different in a remote teaching situation; have alternatives to demonstrate engagement (e.g., Blackboard discussion forum).
Please ask students to report any particular technology or equipment needs to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to considering access to technology, work to safeguard accommodations for our students with learning differences; review these recommendations and contact Matt Brown (Director of Student Accessibility Services) with questions.
Flexibility and Transparency
Beyond the technological divide, there are other reasons why students may have difficulty with deadlines or attendance in synchronous Zoom sessions: illness, illness of a family member, needing to work in order to support their family, lack of a space conducive to learning/studying, lack of technology beyond a mobile phone, and struggling with depression or anxiety, among many others. Students may struggle with remote instruction for other reasons as well. They may have difficulty keeping track of all the changes taking place in their classes, prioritizing and organizing their work, managing their time, or finding the motivation to engage in these new ways. More than ever, in a remote environment, providing clear structure / organization and transparent policies and assignments goes a long way toward helping all students succeed. Some of our students are also facing heightened racism and xenophobia; these experiences can further interrupt students’ ability to perform well.
Be aware that some students may be uncomfortable turning on their video due to issues with bandwidth, security, physical location, or implicit bias including what Taharee Jackson calls "videojudgment". Please be responsive to your students and avoid requiring them to turn on cameras for reasons of "participation." Strive to be aware of the bias inherent in your assumptions regarding your students' situation. Remember that our definitions of attendance and participation need to be flexible at this time.
In all cases, while you should maintain focus on your core learning objectives, be sure to balance challenge and support. Give grace when possible and model compassion and flexibility with due dates, attendance policies, methods of instruction, and methods of learning assessment when appropriate.
Communication and Connection
Students have expressed a desire to maintain a sense of community in these unusual times. Communicate often and consistently with your students. If you are not holding synchronous classes, consider holding regular office hours by Zoom or another method. Beyond communicating about the class, though, be sure to check in regularly with your students about how they are doing (see Wellness Center resources below for suggestions on how to do this).
Connect students to resources when needed, such as the ones below:
- Academic Success / student resources during COVID-19
- Wellness Center resources and information during COVID-19, including guidance for student support (text, PowerPoint, and video)
- Self-Care and Stress Management Drop-in Workshop Mondays at 9 am Central or Thursdays at 3 pm Central. An opportunity for all students to discuss self-care and general well-being in the midst of a pandemic. There will be space for discussion, learning and implementing new skills. Students can sign up for Monday's session by clicking here or Thursday's session by clicking here.
- Writing Center: walk-through video of how to make and attend a session Writing Center: walk-through video of how to make and attend a session
- Center for Speaking and Listening: make appointments online and see instructions for holding consultations via Zoom, here.
Give students a chance to tell their stories, to process their experiences, and to support one another. As always, pay attention to signs that students may be struggling, academically or personally; you can report a concern of any type by submitting a “report a concern” form. This form goes to the leaders of the Care Team, who may have more information about the student and their situation and will follow up as needed.
Lead by Example
Give yourself permission to have and express your own feelings and tell your own stories of coping. Model the way for your students. This is a difficult and stressful situation for all, and it is important that we all show kindness not only to others but to ourselves. A positive attitude tempered with compassion can go a long way in helping both you and your students cope with the situation.
It can also be valuable to remember that this is likely not a time when any of us will or can go above and beyond. We have not only shifted to remote learning mid-stream, but we have done so because of a global crisis. We should take care of ourselves and encourage our students to do the same. Keep things as simple as possible for everyone.
*AAC&U webinar, Safeguarding Quality, Equity, and Inclusion as Learning Moves Online
*College Made Them Feel Equal. The Virus Exposed How Unequal Their Lives Are. NYT Article by Nicholas Casey (April 4, 2020).
*Remote Teaching & Learning: Equity and Inclusivity at Macalester
*Chronicle of Higher Education excellent collection of articles: Coping with Coronavirus: How Faculty Members Can Support Students in Traumatic Times
*Trauma-Informed Pedagogy webinar with Professor Mays Imad
*How to Reconnect with Students and Strengthen Your Remote Course by Beth McMurtrie in Chronicle of Higher Ed
*What Research Tells us About Higher Education’s Temporary Shift to Remote Teaching by Nancy Chick, Jennifer Friberg, Lee Skallerup Basette
*Keep Calm and Keep Teaching in Inside Higher Ed by Jody Greene
*Equity, Inclusion, and Access While Teaching Remotely at Rice University
*8 Ways to Be More Inclusive in Your Zoom Teaching, by Kelly A. Hogan and Viji Sathy in Chronicle of Higher Ed
*Guide to Inclusive Teaching, Sewanee Center for Teaching resource
*COVID-19 and Videoclassism: Implicit Bias, Videojudgment, and Why I'm Terrified to Have You Look Over My Shoulder