11 Addressing equity in an online course

With this chapter, you’ll be able to identify and address the ways in which the pandemic is affecting many students and possibly yourself.

Consider how the pandemic affects students

When designing a course for remote instruction, flexibility is important. In this pandemic situation, students have not CHOSEN to take a remote course. They are being required to take courses remotely and may not even have taken an online course before. Even if they had made that choice, a pandemic is not the ideal circumstance in which to begin that experience.

Students will not have equitable access to essential tools and materials for an online course. For example, students may: (i) not have a printer, (ii) have poor or no wifi, (iii) not have a calm place to work, (iv) not have a suitable device, (v) health (their own or family members’), or (vi) may be working in a different time zone, be working for a family business, or have other responsibilities that take time away from their studies.

It is easy to imagine myriad ways in student identity could line up with challenges they will experience as remote learners. Remember also that intersectionality makes potential challenges more complex and hard to fully address in advance.

We suggest simply addressing this issue at the outset of the course, and acknowledging the circumstances in which we all find ourselves (students, professors, TAs). We share the goal of trying to include everyone, regardless of their circumstances. Including everyone with reasonably similar effectiveness will simply require a bit of extra care and patience. This does not imply discarding academic standards, but does imply applying them thoughtfully in an individual way wherever practical.

Students may not have access to these elements during the pandemic.

To address potential issues, you can ask students what tools they have available to they, for example, by copying this questionnaire (adapt as desired). Using asynchronous options is one way to allow for greater flexibility in the course. There are also lower bandwidth alternatives to common tools that you may wish to explore.

Student can be referred to uOttawa’s Student Academic Support Services, and Accommodation Services (formerly “Access Services”) in particular. Educators should add an accommodation statement to their syllabi.

Remember how the pandemic affects you

Students are not the only ones who have or will experience serious challenges. Professors and TAs are subject to all of the same constraints. Pressures could even be greater under some circumstances.

Be kind to yourself and forgiving of colleagues. We suggest giving yourself extra time to get things done if you find yourself managing many obligations. If colleagues appear to breeze through some of the challenges that take you longer, maybe they do not have children, or their children are grown, or… just, be kind.

To go deeper

Up next

Where to find help and advice. We know that this large change in course structure is demanding. The following chapter explains where to find additional support and resources.

Please feel free to contact us at any time with questions, suggestions, and concerns. In particular, we check this form each semester and will continue to update this guide as the situation evolves.


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