Inclusive Remote Classroom Practices
There are many aspects of teaching that need to be adapted for the remote learning environment, and it can be challenging to know where to start, especially when it comes to inclusive practices. However, there are many strategies that, with a few tweaks, will help to create an inclusive and equitable learning environment for all students no matter whether remote, hybrid, or in-person. In this section, we will highlight key strategies that you can implement to create an inclusive classroom environment—one that supports diverse learner needs and abilities and that takes into account the remarkably unusual environment in which students and faculty find themselves.
- Learn students’ names (including correct pronunciation) and pronouns, which you can access through your class rosters on Albert.
- Survey students’ interests and any particular challenges they might anticipate at the beginning of the course.
- Dr. Danya Glabau, Professor at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, created a survey asking about students’ online learning needs that is publicly available for other faculty to duplicate.
- Be careful not to ask students questions that would force them to disclose particular identities or statuses they hold. Instead, ask open-ended questions, such as: “Is there anything that would be helpful for me to know to help meet your learning needs?”
- Invite students to share their curiosities and aspirations so that you can help them see the value of what they are learning in your course and connect it to their educational and career goals.
Use the first couple of weeks of class to build connection and community.
- Co-create discussion guidelines with your students so that everyone is held accountable for creating and maintaining an inclusive learning environment.
- Model trans inclusive practices. One easy way to model these practices is to add your pronouns to your Zoom name and encourage your students to do the same.
- Go to your Zoom account profile
- Edit your last name to include your pronouns
- Save changes!
- Provide opportunities for students to engage in smaller group settings by using breakout rooms for discussion, collaborative assignments, and peer review. Many active learning techniques can be adapted for the virtual teaching space.
- Schedule time to talk with students 1:1 (if possible) or in smaller groups.
- Consider renaming office hours to learner hours and demystify for students how to use those hours. Invite students to bring questions they might have, use the time to get to know them better, and explain that these hours are designed to support their learning needs.
- For larger class sizes, work with your TAs so that they get to know students’ needs in discussion sections and can provide you with additional context or information that will inform your teaching approach.
Build in breaks! Whether teaching face-to-face or virtually, remember that we are all human and need breaks.
- Article after article indicates that being online all day is fatiguing for everyone, so give your students (and yourself!) a break as needed—you can ask them to raise hands if they’d like to take one, but try not to skip them since some students may be less comfortable voicing their needs.
- Offer short 1-minute breaks for a quick stretch for shorter classes, or longer 5-minute breaks for students to attend to their needs for longer classes.
Use Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Principles to ensure all materials are accessible.
- UDL principles state that there should always be more than one way to represent information, engage with information, and express comprehension of information.
- Starting with these principles ensures that students of all abilities can access all course materials and demonstrate their learning in equitable and inclusive ways.
Examples of these principles include:
- All videos should have captions.
- Information should be explained verbally as well as in a written format, and materials should be legible in terms of font size, style, and color.
- For live captioning during synchronous class meetings, google slides offers this feature when using the Chrome browser.
- For more accessibility best practices, visit:
- Research on mindset theory suggests that when faculty take a growth mindset approach with students, indicating their belief that students can improve in their courses, students are more motivated to put in extra effort and believe in their potential to succeed.
Strategies to achieve a growth mindset include:
- Acknowledge the circumstances, how students may be feeling, and the difficulty of learning during a pandemic.
- Share your own feelings about remote teaching and learning and the challenges it presents.
- Affirm your commitment to each student’s success and confidence in their ability to learn.
Examine your own assumptions and expectations about student behavior and performance.
- Consider how you are asking students to participate and behave in class. Often, outspoken students who speak up frequently are favored or given full participation points. How might you include other students in the classroom environment? There are many strategies to consider, including group work, written contributions, and structured presentations that can allow all students to fully participate.
- Students are also often expected to leave their emotions at the door, but to teach inclusively means acknowledging that students are holistic and that their social and emotional learning and development is also a crucial component of their learning process. Resist telling students to “calm down” or “be rational” and instead invite them to process how they are feeling in that moment and what support they might need in order to continue to learn.
Address conflict directly.
- Hamraie, Aimi. “Accessible Online Teaching.” Mapping Access, March 10, 2020.
- Hogan, Kelly A. and Viji Sathy. “8 Ways to Be More Inclusive in Your Zoom Teaching.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 8, 2020.
- Imad, Mays. “Trauma-Informed Pedagogy (Webinar).” Pima Community College
- “Inclusive Teaching and Learning Online.” Center for Teaching and Learning, Columbia University.
- Jungels, Amanda J. “Inclusion, Equity, and Access While Teaching Online.” Reflections on Teaching and Learning. Center for Teaching Excellence, Rice University, March 13, 2020.
- NYU Virtual Teaching Community