We have many first-generation students and students from minoritized groups on our
campus. Here are a few tips and considerations for keeping equity practice in mind:
Help relieve the stress associated with technology
Students will need some time to learn how to navigate the online environment. Consider
building in some formative activities that enable the students to make mistakes without
impacting their grades. Some possibilities include the opportunity to connect with
a group via zoom before an assignment is due, an offer to zoom with students who are
concerned about how the process works or whether their internet connection is sufficient,
or perhaps a short quiz to allow students to work through any issues before completing
a midterm exam.
Focus on asynchronous teaching
It’s tempting to require students to meet synchronously as we know that students enrolled
in our courses are all available during our usual class time, but the fact is that
they may have other things they need to attend to during an emergency such as personal
or family illness.
Another concern for some students will be the reliability and speed of their internet
connection and access to technology (webcams, for example).
Some students might not have regular access to computers (especially if siblings or
parents are also at home), so consider the possibility that students will be accessing
the course materials on their phones, which brings up the additional issue of limited
Consider introducing new content in short snippets, with videos or readings that can
be viewed in just a few minutes, and returned to later.
Promote a positive online community. As educators, we know that it’s essential to
provide students with a safe place to interact with their peers and with us—and this
need amplifies in an online environment.
Provide students with netiquette (short for internet etiquette) guidelines for how
to interact online
UNC Netiquette Guidelines
Add an anti-discrimination policy along with the netiquette guidelines to emphasize
the need for the online learning community to be inclusive and respectful.
Sample Anti-Discrimination Policies
Offer flexibility on assignments and exams
Expect that your students will be overwhelmed by everything that is happening. They
may have new responsibilities caring for others. They may work in retail and service
jobs that might require longer hours, or some may be experiencing financial stress
or food insecurity if retailers and restaurants cut their hours or close. Be flexible
about due dates and perhaps offer students a choice of assignments.
While this might not be possible in every class, consider turning exams into learning
experiences, rather than assessments. Whatever you do, realize that you will be unable
to control the environment in which your students take exams if you are giving them
online. Perhaps embrace the idea that students will be using other resources (and
possibly collaborating) by shortening the test and asking them more in-depth questions
that might require them to do some outside reading or thinking. Consider offering
them multiple opportunities to take an assessment (so if they lose their internet
connection, you won’t spend time trying to reset their exam.)
Acknowledge, with your students, that these are stressful and uncertain times
Let students know that you are willing to do to help them through the rest of this
semester, and what they can expect from you in terms of frequency of contact, assistance
with assignments, etc. and how to get help.