We made it through our Covid 19 winter semester relatively unscathed in the Holman Success Center. I believe this is due in large part to the fact that many of the strategies we have adopted as best practices for ensuring access and equity for all students in face-to-face classrooms, tutoring sessions, and other support services are also best practices to support engaged learning online. While this winter semester presented new challenges for many who have never taught online before, for me it presented an opportunity to fine tune strategies I utilize in my “flipped classroom”. In this post I want to provide an overview of the factors we must consider to provide equity in virtual learning and then I will share some of my favorite tools and best practices that I believe have deepened learning for my students.
First, let’s examine the role that culture plays in learning. It is important to recognize that individuals are raised in different cultures and communities with different ways of knowing and being and this really matters when it comes to learning. I think it is important to recognize that online learning is more intuitive for students who have been raised in individualistic cultures where they are accustomed to working on their own. This is because a main pillar of traditional western European culture (where much of the current US culture has its roots) focuses on independent work and achievement. Conversely, a growing number of students are more frequently raised in collectivist cultures that favor group work, community, and a shared sense of responsibility. In these cultures, success for one represents success for the whole. What this means in terms of learning is that students from collectivist cultures tend to learn best in collaborative, face-to-face environments where they can pick up on visual and verbal cues and where the learning process is shared. For students from collectivist cultures to reach their full potential in online learning environments, certain conditions must be considered:
This begs the question, what can faculty do to ensure access and equity in their online classrooms?
Before addressing this question, I want to give a big shout out to all of the instructors who took their classrooms online with little opportunity to prepare and transition. On our campus, faculty who had never themselves entered an online class found themselves teaching online-many without training or guidance. To that I say “congratulations, you did it!”
As we prepare for a fall semester that will likely involve online teaching and learning for all faculty and college students to some degree, I want to share some guidance on how educators can improve access and equity in their online classes. The following list addresses some of the “basics” followed by a list of resources:
The bottom line is that individuals invested in ensuring an amazing learning experience for all of their students will find ways to make sure that happens. If this winter was the first time you have taught online you now have a foundation to build upon for fall. If fall will be the first time you have ever taught online, you have plenty of time to tap into the excellent resources available to hep you build an amazing and engaging experience for your students this fall.
I’ve created this Padlet as a resource on the science of teaching and learning.