The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an overwhelming number of school shutdowns globally. Over 1.2 billion children are out of the classroom and the enrolment of mature students in online courses has spiked. With more students of all ages opting for online education, school boards, universities and other learning institutions need to bolster their e-learning offerings and accommodations in the face of rising demand.
Out of necessity, educators and institutions have needed to engage in Emergency Remote Teaching as a result of COVID-19. However, the sudden transition to online learning left very little room for course instructors and institutions to design and enact inclusive pedagogical practices.
There are concrete steps we now know may be taken to improve, enhance and ensure equity in online courses, including:
These are all factors that will contribute to a better learning environment for all.
Moving forward, course design should be approached with equity in mind. Designing courses to be inclusive, from content to assessment strategies, enhances student success and encourages equitable outcomes.
Asynchronous learning management will have to continue to improve as well in order to better accommodate all learners. Aside from prioritizing the quality of synchronous learning resources, finding ways to close the digital divide also needs to be made a focus.
Many students from lower-income households lack access to the internet or effective, reliable devices at home and more students are relying on computers in local libraries and community centres to connect.
As we’re transitioning from the end of an uncertain fall term to winter, online learning must be further optimized in the interest of all members of the learning community. It’s not too late to better prepare for the months ahead.
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