Online learning has been around for quite a while, but the COVID-19 pandemic has forced hundreds of thousands of educational institutions to shut their doors and adopt eLearning models within a short amount of time. There’s no question that this transition has been challenging for many schools. It has been especially difficult for students.
According to UNESCO, this sudden shift has affected 1.38 billion children across the globe. While some students are thriving in this new normal, a great many are faced with barriers that have increased the learning and achievement gap among them. Simply put, a lot of students experienced and are still experiencing serious challenges to online learning. Most of them are feeling left out. It is the responsibility of educators and institutions to close that gap between those that thrive and those that don’t.
Consider the following ways that your organization can promote inclusiveness through online classes.
Just like in face-to-face classrooms, it’s important for teachers to promote a sense of community during online classes. The environment should help students cherish their uniqueness while feeling like they still belong. This creates positive learning experiences for students who are already feeling lonely due to the lockdowns enforced during this pandemic. This is especially true for students with disabilities.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), approximately 7.3 million students in the U.S. between the ages 3 and 21 have a disability. The transition to online learning has not been easy for any of them. They’re not the only ones though. African American and Hispanic students are also facing barriers to online learning as access to computers and the Internet are often limited for these groups of students and is another reason why it’s imperative that teachers and schools create programs that allow for diversity in the classroom.
No two students are the same. Each one is unique with their own experiences, beliefs, and capabilities. Teachers and schools need to be mindful of this during class and in the materials/programs that they create. They need to understand that everyone’s capacity to manage remote learning is different, and the pandemic can be impacting them in a variety of ways.
By understanding who the students are, educators can practice inclusive teaching strategies and create an inclusive online classroom. For example, knowing the background and culture of the students will enable the teacher to integrate culturally relevant materials. Understanding the different capabilities and limitations of the students can help teachers find alternative teaching methods and make learning more fun.
To be able to foster a sense of inclusion in the online classroom, it’s important that we let go of stereotypes and biases, and be sensitive to cultural differences. One small example of this is learning your students’ names and learning to pronounce them properly. Another is expressing interest in their stories and relating them to the lessons being discussed.
Integrating diversity in lesson planning can be done in a number of ways. For example, students have different learning styles. Some are more visual while others are able to grasp information better when it is spoken orally.
There are also students who learn through movement. With that in mind, teachers should create different mediums for presenting information and engaging their students. Teachers can use art, computer software, and even theater in addition to traditional lectures and text in order to provide students with the opportunity to learn the best way they can.
The rapid transition from traditional classes to online learning can be difficult for some students. Some may lack a stable access to the Internet. Others may have difficulty accessing the learning materials. There will be students who are unfamiliar with the technology or lack the technical skills to adapt to this new mode of learning. Any of these situations can make a student feel discouraged and/or isolated.
To identify struggling students, teachers can set clear expectations, provide detailed instructions, and perform regular check-ups. Encourage engagement and community building through thought-provoking discussions and sharing stories among themselves to prevent students from feeling isolated.
Teaching an online class is not easy. Learning through eLearning can be difficult as well. As we’ve mentioned, students can have different learning styles and capabilities. It is important that schools combine various teaching methods and integrate them into the curriculum to suit the different needs of the students.
In order to succeed in providing exceptional lessons, it’s essential to understand the importance of web accessibility in virtual learning.
It’s not just the teaching methods that need to be adjusted, all online learning materials should also be adapted to meet the needs of the students. All students, including those with disabilities and low literacy levels, need to be able to easily read and understand the learning materials.
To ensure that everyone is provided with accessible pdf documents, they must undergo PDF remediation. This is a process that starts with the evaluation of all documents according to the standards of accessibility. Correcting accessibility issues may include adding a table of contents, alternative text for images, headings, and other structure tags.
There’s no way to tell when face-to-face classes will resume permanently. Even if it does, the future of education will inevitably continue to include online learning. Ensuring that anyone can avail and benefit from eLearning is the right thing to do.
If you like the content, we would appreciate your support by buying us a coffee. Thank you so much for your visit and support.