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2020 Fall Teaching Resources from the Remote 2.0 Committee: Equity for Remote Students

Curated resources for faculty reviewed by members of the Remote 2.0 subcommittee.

Overview

A little planning up front will level the field for students learning remotely who may find themselves with technological limitations, in international locations, or in difficult home environments.

In addition, one should be aware that online learning materials can be problematic for students with hearing and vision disabilities.

  • Video recordings may need closed captioning.
  • Audio recordings may need written transcriptions.
  • PowerPoint presentations might need to be usable by a screen reader or avoid certain color schemes.

Richard Barber will notify you if any of your students will need materials formatted in such ways.

In general, though, try to follow these guidelines.

  • Provide recordings of live classes and video conferences or else offer alternate activities and instruction: remote students may not be in a position to attend "live" or they may have inadequate internet access at the moment, rendering the class inaudible.
  • For online activity, favor the asynchronous over the synchronous: an audio or video recording demands less bandwidth than a video conference.
  • Place only digital materials on reserve in the library: even your on-campus students will appreciate the easier access.
  • Be mindful of apps and equipment you require students to use: these may be a costly surprise for those studying remotely.

An attention to equity issues actually benefits all students, not just those away from campus.

Equality and Equity

 

Issues with Required Synchronous Attendance

You require remote students to attend your in-person classes through synchronous videoconferencing.

  • What are the equity problems?
    • Students learning remotely may be in another time zone. Your 1 p.m. starts at 1 a.m. in Shanghai; your 9 a.m. class starts at 6 a.m. in Los Angeles.
    • Students learning remotely may not have robust internet service available in their geographical regions, in their price range, or during bad weather.
    • Students may be competing for bandwidth and computers with other members of the household working or learning remotely.
      • Under inadequate bandwidth, especially if cameras are to be left on, a video conference with the in-person class may often look like a series of frozen screens and sound like a bunch of blurts.
  • What to do instead?
    • Go asynchronous. Record (video or audio) the class meeting (whole or part) and upload it to your course site for students to view or listen to later. The Meeting Owls and webcams, along with videoconferencing apps like Teams and Zoom, will help you make these recordings.
    • Let students join the video conference via telephone (be sure that any visuals or links are preloaded to your course site). This still may not be enough for a clear audible experience. 
    • Flip the classroom by recording (video or audio) a lecture or presentation before class for everyone to view online; use class time for other activities. Students presenting reports in class can also make recordings for the class to view online.
    • Make attendance in a video conference discussion optional, providing a comparable activity such as posting to a discussion board, to account for the contact time.

To ensure equity, you will want to record (audio/video) any synchronous activities for later listening or viewing if the specific content will show up on an exam or quiz later in the semester. Bandwidth will not be a problem with a recording. Otherwise, you may be putting those studying remotely at a disadvantage.

Issues with Required Synchronous Participation

You require active participation in a synchronous video conference.

  • What is the equity problem?
    • Time-zone issues, inadequate internet access or availability, competition for computer resources
  • What to do instead?
    • Let remote students join those in the classroom via telephone. This still may not be enough for a clear audible experience. 
    • Let remote students join those in the classroom with cameras off; let them participate via the chat box (this still may not be enough for a clear audible experience).
    • Offer the option of a comparable online activity as a replacement (for discussion, for example, consider the option of a post to a discussion board to account for the contact time; for group work, take the assignment asynchronous).
    • Make the required participation in the video conference optional.

Issues with Recordings

You do not want to record a lecture or discussion in a classroom or in a video conference (and there are many good reasons for that).

  • What is the equity problem?
    • Remote students are denied access to the learning activity.
    • Low bandwidth may render the video conference inaudible.
  • What to do instead?
    • Let remote students join the class via Skype or video conference via telephone (be sure that any visuals or links are preloaded to your course site). This still may not be enough for an audible experience.
    • Go asynchronous. Make attendance optional for those learning remotely and provide a comparable activity.

If a portion of a class meeting or video conference is not "required" or will not be tested on, recording is not necessary, merely desirable. However, if you are unwilling to record the majority of your class, you might want to rethink offering this class under the current conditions.

Issues with Reserve Materials

You want all students to consult physical books, print learning materials (like old exams), equipment, or DVDs on reserve in the library.

  • What are the equity problems?
    • These items are not accessible by a student away from campus.
    • Access to the library building may be limited in the fall and all materials will be quarantined for 72 hours between uses.
  • What to do instead?
    • Consult with your department's liaison librarian for help determining if online access can be provided for your book, article, or film. Library staff will be able to scan book chapters and articles from library-owned materials, as copyright allows, that can be posted to your Sakai course shell.  
      • If you have questions about copyright permissions and/or fair use, please contact Beth Miller (bmiller@washjeff.edu).
    • Provide links to alternate materials in the public domain or tagged with a Creative Commons license. See the tab "Finding Existing Content Online" for suggestions on where to look for these types of materials.
    • For films, see if the material or something similar is available on Academic Videos Online, YouTube, www.archive.org, https://filmfreeway.com/festivals, Amazon Prime, Netflix, or other streaming services. Your department library liaison can be of help here.

Note: if you are asking students to pay for a film (as you would a textbook), be transparent about the required cost on your syllabus; many students may, of course, already have subscriptions some of these accounts.

Issues with Hardware or Software

You want students to use a particular piece of software that the College has provided on its computers, but it requires a license for personal use off campus.

  • What is the equity problem?
    • Remote students may have to pay a fee to use something on-campus students can use for free.
  • What to do instead?
    • Investigate if there are open-access, freeware, or low-cost alternatives to a pricey product. Consult with helpdesk@washjeff.edu.
    • Design your syllabus schedule so that remote students can use a 30-day free-trial version to complete an assignment.

Note: if you end up requiring students use a specific app, be transparent about the required cost on your syllabus.

Resources

"Inclusion, Equity, and Access While Teaching Remotely," useful teaching tips from Rice University

Inclusive practices teaching took kit, right-to-the-point videos from ACUE

Universal Design for multimodal course syllabuses, checklist to coinsider from UDL