Not surprisingly, most higher education articles published since March 2020 are reminiscent of the unprecedented distance teaching and online learning that year—and for good reason. The world is changing rapidly, and students and teachers have adopted new tools and methods to switch to online teaching in a virtual way (sometimes even overnight). As the teaching community enters the “new normal”, the task of teachers is to navigate the challenging work of a new teaching model while maintaining standards of excellence and commitment to inclusiveness.
Inclusive teaching is the basic element of our teaching center at Columbia University. Last year we worked with thousands of teachers to prepare online or hybrid courses. We put inclusiveness, diversity, fairness and belonging at the center of all our plans And resources. We want to emphasize these “Online teaching“Open resources-such as”Inclusive online teaching“-It can help teachers transform inclusive teaching practices into online settings.
In this work, we work with our partners Students as teaching partners Cohort, a group of undergraduates who work with us and the Columbia teaching community as student advisors. The resources they create can not only use educational development research, but also Student experience Online learning. In May 2020, we are in the “The Concept of Death in Teaching and Learning“Podcast and asked them about their experience in switching to online learning.
Although the conversation did not explicitly involve inclusive teaching, their thinking continued to return to the theme of inclusive teaching. We have listed some of the students’ responses below to help clarify the three enduring practices that we hope teachers and students can carry forward in future teaching and learning: helping students solve the problem of digital inequality; building an inclusiveness among learners Community; and design course elements for accessibility.
Help students solve digital inequality
In the foreseeable future, students’ access to on-campus resources such as computer labs and the Internet may continue to be restricted, so many learners will rely on personal devices and home Internet access. As teachers prepare to continue online and mixed or social distancing teaching, some questions to consider may include: Do students have personal computers to use?Are those devices The necessary educational technology tools and platforms to be able to run the classroom? Finally, can students use a reliable Internet connection to remotely attend lectures or complete homework online? Although there are definitely institutional interventions to solve the problem of student digital inequality, we also recommend interventions at the curriculum level.
Communicate with students early and often.
Once you are able to survey the students enrolled in your course, please check with your learners about their concerns, needs and preferences for online learning. Their answers can provide information for your future methods, and getting information from them will help you pay attention to the student’s personal situation and learning disabilities.
One of our student advisors, Mae Butler, shared the importance and significance when teachers “actively identify obstacles that students face in online learning”.
“This includes awareness of sociocultural barriers (such as those related to race, gender, ability, life experience, identity) and material barriers (such as Internet access, access to quiet spaces, use of equipment, etc.),” Butler said. “By practicing awareness of these barriers, professors can take action to reduce them and/or meet the needs of students who are disadvantaged by certain aspects of online courses.”
Integrate meaningfully into educational technology.
Since students will mainly rely on personal devices, please carefully consider adding new platforms and tools. In addition to carrying the technical load, each new tool also carries a cognitive load.
When talking about the use of technology in distance learning, student advisors Haya Ghandour and Jennifer Lee pointed out that the most critical determinant of successful use of technology is the ability of teachers to use it consciously.
“If something is not done intentionally, I think it does make students realize that this is not the best delivery method,” Gandur said.
Lee added that LMS software packages commonly used in higher education seem to be sold based on the functionality they provide rather than “what students in the classroom actually need.”
Build an inclusive curriculum community
Building a community among learners is a basic inclusive teaching practice because it helps establish and support a classroom atmosphere that fosters a sense of belonging for all students. Intentionally building a community with learners is particularly important in online or blended courses, as these practices help to reduce the sense of isolation that students may experience due to the physical distance nature of online learning. Building an inclusive community meaningfully brings students together, cultivates respect, and celebrates the diversity of learners in the room.
We recently released a dedicated to “Community building in online or hybrid (HyFlex) courses,” a series of community building strategies consistent with the curriculum model. However, in general, providing students with opportunities to communicate with each other, jointly building community guidelines for online participation, and soliciting feedback from students on the online environment all help to create An atmosphere that supports all learners.
Provide opportunities for students to communicate with each other.
Setting aside time for students to use the LMS discussion space or for group discussions in the Zoom group discussion room can help students build closer connections and build a sense of community. Encourage conversations about online learning experiences and share learning strategies that are useful to students. In online discussions, whether it is synchronous or asynchronous, the student’s name and pronouns are used.
To help support these formal and informal student-student interactions, please consider creating community agreements or guidelines for online interactions. This can be done in a shared Google document where students can articulate online etiquette, norms, and expectations, and take the shared responsibility for establishing and maintaining an inclusive and supportive online classroom environment.
Butler emphasized the importance of the community in the learning process.
“The thing I really face this semester is that I have to renegotiate what the community looks like,” Butler said, “because for me, social ties and community-based learning experiences are a motivation. I found that in this case, technology, Especially the distance learning technology, it really hurts this.”
Solicit feedback from students on the online atmosphere.
Teachers can use Google Forms to solicit feedback anonymously, or use the voting function (for closed questions) to broadcast live in Zoom. If you decide to collect feedback from students, be sure to check it out and report it to students. Sharing student feedback is an excellent opportunity to maintain transparency with learners. This process makes students feel listened to-because it is obvious that you have listened and carefully considered their opinions on the atmosphere of the course.
Ghandour emphasized the importance of doing this work collaboratively and respectfully.
“[Inclusive teaching is] Ensure that the different identities brought into the shared space-whether physical or virtual-are respected, processed, integrated, and celebrated,” Gandur said. “It focuses on promoting the space needed for learning, making it a multidimensional, Intentional and critical. Inclusive teaching allows students to feel seen and heard, and allows them to think more critically about their interactions with each other and with teachers. “
All students, not just those with specific accommodation requirements, can benefit from the accessible content and the opportunity to participate in course materials that lay the foundation for their success.
It is important to provide students with the flexibility or alternatives to access materials online, such as sharing PDFs instead of videos that require more bandwidth. We provide a resource,”Teaching barrier-free,” Readers can explore a more detailed discussion of accessibility practices. The following recommendations outline inclusive practices that promote accessibility in online or blended learning environments.
Provide synchronous and asynchronous elements.
To ensure that all students, regardless of time zone, have the opportunity to interact with course materials, peers, and teachers, be sure to diversify your participation methods. Record lectures and Zoom meetings that can be viewed at any time. Be sure to include the transcript and title. For example, YouTube provides automatic subtitles, or turn on automatic subtitles in Panopto. Subtitles can be edited to ensure accuracy and are available to learners. Check out our resources”Asynchronous learning across time zones“For more suggestions.
When asked about inclusive teaching, Lee directly talked about access and accessibility. He said: “When we all work in different time zones and have different resources and expectations in our daily lives, there are choices (in What time of the day we will watch lectures or recordings, what assignments we can complete, and show the various assignments we learn, etc.) To be inclusive, so that we can continue to learn and achieve success throughout the semester. Inclusive teaching is important because It enables all of us to be successful this semester, utilize the different resources and concerns we have, and provide us with multiple opportunities to demonstrate learning.”
‘Trust your students’
The discussion here is by no means exhaustive. We recognize that teachers and students may have their own practices to promote inclusiveness, diversity, fairness, and a sense of belonging. We encourage readers to share their experiences and good practices in the teacher community of their institution.
We want to leave you a final reflection.
“Believe in your students, and believe in yourself as a mentor, and be critical of everything you do,” Gandur said. “In the final analysis, this is a partnership. I think we all want to learn here, otherwise we will not be in these spaces. I think if this is recognized more, we will all live better as a society.”
Understanding who our students are, recognizing what they bring to virtual or physical classrooms, deliberately putting fairness and accessibility in the first place, and building trust are all principles of inclusive pedagogy. It can be clearly seen from the feedback of our student partners that these steps are the way forward for higher education teaching and learning.