Providing Access and Equity in Online Learning Environments

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:

  • Students must be able to connect with their instructors and classmates on a more personal level so that they feel they are part of a community.
  • There must be a bi-directional exchange of information so that students have the opportunity to connect new learning to what they already know in meaningful ways with support.
  • There must be clear instruction related to expectations, participation, how to navigate the course, what good work looks like, etc.
  • Students need early and frequent detailed feedback.  However, without having a student/teacher relationship in place where the student feels safe and has placed trust in the instructor, feedback may be viewed as criticism rather than guidance for improvement.  When students feel attacked or criticized, cognition is affected and the “lizard brain” takes over which puts them into fight or flight mode seeking safer ground. In an online class this may mean that they login less frequently, disengage, or withdraw.

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:

  • Learn about the learning process.  If you aren’t already an expert in learning, become one.  As educators it is important that we understand how learning takes place so that we can better facilitate the learning and growth of our students.  There are some really good YouTube videos that give an overview of learning if you haven’t received any formal training.  Dr. Lara Boyd gave a great Tedx talk about neuroplasticity which provides insights into learning at a cellular level.  Todd Jakrajsek gave a good Tedx talk about improving learning.  The Padlet below lists lots of great resources that teach about the learning process.  Another great resource for understanding culture and learning is Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain:  Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students by Zaretta Hammond.
  • The brain of the average college student can focus for a maximum of 20 minutes (and this is really a stretch).  That means that if you record an hour long lecture and post it in your course shell, most of your students will have tuned out less than a quarter of the way through.  However, you can break up your online lessons in ways that will allow students to refocus the brain as explained below:
    *this is a screenshot from one of my online lessons about psychosocial factors and student success 

*Screenshot from UNIV 101L3 course.

  • Provide a brief introduction to the new concept that takes no longer than 5 minutes to read.
  • Include a short video related to the concept or topic that is no longer than 10 – 15 minutes. There are lots of platforms you can use to create these videos. Peggy Liggit in the Faculty Development Center and Garrett Whitehead in Distance Learning have been amazingly supportive in this area. I also found some really simple video recording tools that I like. Screencast-o-matic is free for educators and is incredibly easy to use. This is the tool I use for most of the videos I record for the Holman Success Center.
  • Add a short activity that gives students the opportunity to work with the new concept. While the threaded discussion feature in Canvas isn’t necessarily the most engaging platform, it will serve this purpose. That being said, there are other, more engaging tools you can utilize to get students to connect with one another in a two-way exchange of ideas. I sometimes use Padlet for this purpose. Padlet is another tool that is free for educators. I embed Padlets in each module of my Canvas course shell to provide easy access to additional resources relevant to the module topic. I’ve shared one below about teaching and learning. I’ve also used this tool on the first day of class for students to introduce themselves and find things they have in common. It’s much more engaging than just a threaded discussion as the students can actually post their picture which allows everyone to put a face to the name. They can also easily respond to each other and “like” posts. If you would like to see how I do this, hit me up and I am happy to walk you through the day 1 activity and show you what the finished Padlet looks like.
  • Wrap up by providing students the opportunity to reflect on their new learning which may or may not include some sort of short, low-stakes assessment. Guided reflection gives students the opportunity to make sense out of what they have just learned and think about how it connects to what they already know. If you want your students to move beyond basic memorization, you can’t skip this step–it’s crucial in the learning process. It’s easy to assume that our students already do this, but they don’t. If you want them to reflect you need to explain to them why you are asking them to reflect and then provide them with prompts to guide their reflections. At the beginning of every class I teach, I include a mini-module about critical thinking, metacognition, Bloom’s Taxonomy, and growth mindset. Once I started doing this, I saw an immediate improvement in student work.
*Screenshot from my mini-module about critical thinking, metacognition, and growth mindset.
  • Ensure that the activities you include in your online class are engaging–providing students the opportunity to connect with the material and each other in unique ways.  Most LMS systems are set up to allow students to participate in online discussions.  Often, these discussions are less than engaging.  Consider utilizing different tools that are truly more engaging for students:  Padlet is one tool that I wrote about in previous posts, blogs, podcasts, and videos are all great tools for engaging students in online environments.   VoiceThread is another great tool for this, but it is not free for educators. The cost is minimal ($100 for the year), and you may find it is worth the investment. Chapter 8 of Paths to learning:  Teaching for engagement in college by B.F. Tobolowsky lists several other digital tools that drive virtual engagement.
  • Consider an assessment the first day of class that will provide you insight into which students are familiar and comfortable with your LMS and which ones aren’t. How helpful would it be to now which of your students has successfully completed an online class in the past? Wouldn’t you like to know what your students like and dislike about online learning?
  • Create an “orientation” for your online course with detailed instructions so that students understand expectations and know how to navigate your course. I believe Camtasia is a great candidate for orientation videos. I have used Screencast-O-Matic for my orientation videos and have found that it works well for this purpose as I can record myself navigating through Canvas.
  • Be transparent.  Be as detailed as possible with your assignments removing all ambiguity.  Students can’t meet your expectations if they don’t know what those expectations are. Provide examples of good work so that students understand what you are expecting them to turn in.
  • Provide as much structure as possible to help your students be successful in your class without requiring them to log in at specific times for specific lengths of time.  Instead consider having students identify days and times during the week when they will engage with the course material. I usually explain that students will need to spend at least 3 hours per week engaging with the course material online (for a flipped class). I provide recommendations regarding when they should engage with the material. “There is an online discussion this week so you will need to complete the first part of module 3 by Tuesday so that you can submit your initial post to the discussion board. Complete the rest of the module by Friday so that you can then respond to your classmates in the discussion”.
  • Group assignments designed to deepen learning that require the two-way sharing of ideas only work when the individuals involved already know one another.  So, creating community from the first day of class is really important if you intend to have students work collaboratively throughout the semester. Breaking students into groups at the beginning of the semester for discussions and collaborative work gives them the opportunity to get to know their group members on a more personal level.

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.

Made with Padlet


  1. My partner and I stumbled over here by a different web address and thought I might as well check things out. I like what I see so i am just following you. Look forward to exploring your web page for a second time.| Phyllys Tyson Puff

  2. Very nice cake. I used raisins as the optional dried fruit. Used spelt and all purpose flours and reduced sugar a little. Great texture and flavour; will definitely make again. Sherri Garold Thagard

  3. I like the helpful info you provide to your articles.

    I’ll bookmark your blog and check once more right here regularly.
    I am reasonably certain I’ll learn many new stuff
    proper here! Good luck for the next!

  4. I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme.

    Did you make this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it
    for you? Plz answer back as I’m looking to design my own blog and would like to know where u got this from.
    many thanks

    Here is my page – best CBD for dogs

  5. Having read this I thought it was really enlightening. I appreciate you
    finding the time and effort to put this informative article together.
    I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount of time both reading and leaving comments.
    But so what, it was still worth it!

  6. You actually make it appear so easy with your presentation however I to find this matter to be really something that I think I would by no means understand.
    It sort of feels too complicated and extremely broad for me.
    I am looking ahead on your next publish, I’ll try to get the cling of it!

  7. I blog quite often and I genuinely thank you for your information. This article has really peaked
    my interest. I will take a note of your blog and keep checking for
    new information about once a week. I subscribed to your RSS feed as well.

  8. With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright violation? My website has
    a lot of unique content I’ve either created myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it is popping it up
    all over the internet without my authorization. Do you know any techniques
    to help prevent content from being ripped off? I’d
    genuinely appreciate it.

  9. Hello there I am so glad I found your web site, I really found you
    by error, while I was searching on Bing for something else, Nonetheless I am here now and would just
    like to say kudos for a incredible post and a all round enjoyable
    blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to go
    through it all at the minute but I have saved it and
    also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read more, Please do keep up the fantastic job.

  10. I loved as much as you’ll receive carried out right here.
    The sketch is tasteful, your authored material stylish.

    nonetheless, you command get bought an edginess over that you wish be
    delivering the following. unwell unquestionably come more formerly again as exactly the same nearly very often inside case you shield this hike.

  11. This video is presenting does vital flow work but also try to cover the following subject:—Wellness-Website/Vital-flow-reviews-102135748499657/

    -vital flow for prostate

    -vitalflow prostate really works

    -vitalflow prostate support reviews

    One thing I noticed when I was researching info on does vital flow work
    was the absence of appropriate details.

    Does vital flow work nevertheless is an subject that I
    know something about. This video therefore should be relevant and of interest to you.


    Follow our video clips about does vital flow work as well as other comparable topics on

    An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a co-worker who had been doing a little homework
    on this. And he actually bought me lunch simply because I discovered it for him…
    lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending some time to talk about
    this issue here on your web site.

  12. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this
    excellent blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed
    to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will talk about this
    website with my Facebook group. Talk soon!

  13. Incredible points. Solid arguments. Keep up the great effort.

    Amazing a lot of helpful material!

    This is nicely put! !

    Kudos. Helpful information!
    How long do I have to use this product before I see
    Remember, it’s critical to give Lean Belly 3X an honest chance to work by taking it as recommended for at
    least 60 days. Like all Beyond 40 products, Lean Belly
    3X is made with the highest quality ingredients, but no product will work miracles overnight.

    Feel free to visit my weblog; Lean belly 3x supplement side effects

  14. Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this website before but after going through some of the articles I realized it’s new to me.
    Nonetheless, I’m certainly pleased I stumbled upon it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking
    back frequently!

    Also visit my page; CBD gummies for pain

  15. I am really enjoying the theme/design of your weblog.
    Do you ever run into any web browser compatibility problems?
    A handful of my blog audience have complained about my site not operating correctly in Explorer
    but looks great in Chrome. Do you have any advice to help fix this problem?

    Feel free to visit my site best CBD gummies

  16. I definitely wanted to develop a small word so as to thank you for these unique items you are giving here. My rather long internet lookup has at the end been recognized with wonderful details to talk about with my friends and classmates. I ‘d believe that we readers actually are rather blessed to exist in a decent site with so many outstanding people with interesting concepts. I feel somewhat blessed to have discovered your weblog and look forward to really more fabulous minutes reading here. Thanks a lot once again for a lot of things.

  17. to learn about psychic soulmate sketch reviews,

    This video is presenting psychic soulmate sketch reviews
    valuable information but also try to cover the following subject:
    -psychic soulmate sketch and description
    -soulmate sketch reading
    -psychic soulmate sketch reviews

    Youtube is the very best website to go when searching for videos
    about psychic soulmate sketch reviews.
    Psychic soulmate sketch reviews is undoubtedly something that
    intrigues you and a lot of people so I made this video
    If you would like to learn even more concerning psychic soulmate sketch and description I suggest you to
    look into our various other video clips :
    Now that you have actually watched my YT video regarding psychic soulmate sketch reviews has it helped?

    Please ‘like’ the vid to assist other people looking for psychic soulmate
    sketch and description or soulmate sketch reading 🙂

    It’s nearly impossible to find educated people for this subject, however,
    you sound like you know what you’re talking about!


  18. I was very pleased to uncover this web site. I want to to
    thank you for ones time for this particularly
    wonderful read!! I definitely liked every part of it and i also have you book marked to look at new information in your

  19. I just could not depart your website before suggesting that I really enjoyed the
    standard information an individual supply on your visitors?
    Is going to be again ceaselessly in order to investigate cross-check new posts

    Here is my web page :: buy delta 8 thc

  20. Greate post. Keep writing such kind of information on your site.
    Im really impressed by your blog.
    Hi there, You have done a great job. I will certainly digg it and for
    my part recommend to my friends. I am sure they will be
    benefited from this website.

    Also visit my web page … delta 8

  21. I’ve been exploring for a little for any high-quality
    articles or weblog posts on this kind of house . Exploring in Yahoo I eventually stumbled upon this site.
    Studying this info So i’m happy to convey that I’ve an incredibly good uncanny feeling I found
    out just what I needed. I so much unquestionably will make sure to don?t fail to remember this website
    and provides it a look regularly.

    my web site best delta 8 thc

  22. Wonderful website you have here but I was curious if you knew of any message boards that cover the same topics discussed in this article?
    I’d really like to be a part of online community where I can get opinions from other experienced individuals
    that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations,
    please let me know. Thanks a lot!

    Stop by my page; cbd gummies

  23. Hello, i think that i saw you visited my blog so
    i came to “return the favor”.I’m trying to find things to enhance my site!I suppose its ok to use
    a few of your ideas!!

    Here is my web blog … cbd gummies

  24. Hello there, You have done an incredible job. I’ll certainly
    digg it and personally suggest to my friends. I’m sure they will
    be benefited from this site.

    Here is my site buy cbd

  25. Simply wish to say your article is as astounding. The clearness
    in your post is simply spectacular and i could assume
    you’re an expert on this subject. Well with your permission allow me to grab your
    RSS feed to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please
    keep up the enjoyable work.

    Take a look at my web-site :: cbd products

  26. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied
    on the video to make your point. You obviously know what youre talking about, why waste your intelligence on just posting videos
    to your weblog when you could be giving us something enlightening to read?

  27. Hi there, just became aware of your blog through Google,
    and found that it’s really informative. I’m gonna watch out for brussels.
    I will appreciate if you continue this in future. Lots of people will be benefited from your writing.

  28. Hey there! I know this is kind of off-topic however I had to ask.
    Does running a well-established website like yours require
    a lot of work? I’m completely new to operating a blog however I do write
    in my diary everyday. I’d like to start a blog so I will be
    able to share my own experience and views online. Please let me know if you
    have any recommendations or tips for brand new aspiring blog owners.

  29. Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew of any widgets I could add
    to my blog that automatically tweet my newest twitter updates.
    I’ve been looking for a plug-in like this for quite some time and was hoping maybe you would have some experience with something like this.
    Please let me know if you run into anything.
    I truly enjoy reading your blog and I look forward to your new updates.

    My web page delta 8 area 52

  30. Fantastic blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?

    I’m hoping to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress or
    go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m completely confused ..
    Any recommendations? Many thanks!

  31. I like the helpful information you provide in your articles.
    I will bookmark your blog and test once
    more here frequently. I am reasonably sure I’ll be informed many new stuff right right here!
    Best of luck for the following!

  32. Woah! I’m really loving the template/theme of this website.
    It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s very
    difficult to get that “perfect balance” between user friendliness and
    visual appeal. I must say you’ve done a fantastic job
    with this. Also, the blog loads extremely fast for me
    on Opera. Outstanding Blog!

    Also visit my web site :: best delta 8

  33. Greetings! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a team of
    volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the
    same niche. Your blog provided us useful information to work on. You have done a marvellous job!

    P.S. If you have a minute, would love your feedback on my new website
    re-design. You can find it by searching for «royal
    cbd» — no sweat if you can’t.

    Keep up the good work!

    Also visit my webpage – buy instagram followers

  34. Superb site you have here but I was wanting to know if you knew of any discussion boards that cover the same topics
    talked about here? I’d really like to be a part of group
    where I can get feedback from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest.
    If you have any recommendations, please let me know.

    P.S. If you have a minute, would love your feedback on my new website
    re-design. You can find it by searching for «royal cbd» — no sweat if you can’t.

    Keep up the good work!

    Here is my web page – buy instagram followers

  35. That is a really good tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere.
    Brief but very precise information… Thanks for sharing this one.
    A must read article!

    P.S. If you have a minute, would love your feedback
    on my new website
    re-design. You can find it by searching for «royal cbd» — no sweat if you can’t.

    Keep up the good work!

    my webpage buy instagram followers

  36. I do not know whether it’s just me or if everybody else encountering issues with your site.
    It appears as if some of the written text within your content are running off the screen. Can somebody else
    please comment and let me know if this is happening to them as well?

    This might be a problem with my web browser because I’ve had this happen previously.

    P.S. If you have a minute, would love your feedback on my new website
    re-design. You can find it by searching for «royal cbd» — no sweat if you can’t.

    Keep up the good work!

    Look into my web-site … buy instagram followers

  37. You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I
    find this topic to be really something that I
    think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and very broad for me.
    I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try
    to get the hang of it!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *