Equity & Inclusion

The following is excerpted and adapted from a blog at the Center for Teaching Excellence at Rice University.

Equity & Inclusion in the remote classroom

Pedagogy that prioritizes inclusion - whether the courses are online, in-person or a combination of the two - requires considerations about how we can help all students succeed. For in-person classes, inclusive approaches include (but are not limited to) creating inclusive learning spaces where students feel valued, setting clear expectations about course work and deadlines, and making the learning and assessment accessible to all students.

When in-person classes shift to virtual spaces and methods, these ideas can still be applied, but equity, inclusion, and access can look very different in remote teaching contexts - and become increasingly complicated.

Some tips for increasing equity when teaching remotely:

  • Consider the ways that students' remote learning environments and responsibilities outside of school differ. Do all of your students have access to a quiet place to study? Do they have stable internet access, or are they relying on limited data from a phone plan or doing schoolwork from a parking lot with Wi-Fi, for instance? Like many college students across the US, are some of your students struggling to make ends meet financially as a result of COVID-19? Have some of your students taken on additional family or child care responsibilities? Take these differences into account into your course design and pedagogy.

  • Anonymously ask students about their level of access to technology. Use the results of this survey to inform the technology choices for your courses.

  • Point students to campus resources that may help them access technology. Key UCSC resources include the following.

  • When possible, offer flexibility or alternatives to students when access is an issue. If you have a student who anticipates or who has demonstrated need regarding technology access, ask them what they would need in order to participate more fully in the course or submit work. Students are most aware of the constraints they face, and are often in a good position to make suggestions for workarounds.

  • Ensure materials are accessible and mobile-friendly. PDFs are generally more accessible for students with disabilities who may rely on screen-readers, and PDFs adapt to different devices and cell phones more readily than other formats.

  • Offer students resources to support their learning - for example, our resources on the SMART approach to student learning.

  • Consider whether video is necessary in all cases, given how streaming videos require strong internet connections, and how they can deplete data plans and memory on students’ (and your!) devices. Record lectures and virtual meetings so they can be downloaded and viewed by students later.

  • Provide transcripts and captions of audio and video. This benefits not only students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, but those who are participating in classes in noisy locations like cramped housing, those who don’t have headphones, and those who might have English as their second language.

        • For class discussions, have students participate in the collaborative production of notes or live-type discussion notes, in a shared Google document, or in Hypothesis.

        • Google Slides and YouTube offer automatic captioning that, while imperfect, can increase access. Zoom does not offer live-captioning, but captions are available if a Zoom session is recorded and viewed later.

        • Provide narrations of the material you’re presenting on the screen (for example, describing a diagram, chart, or photograph) for students who are blind, have difficulty reading on a computer screen, or who are otherwise unable to view the video or slides.

  • Ask students if they have concerns about accessing other campus resources, as well as any other concerns about remote teaching and learning they want to share. You can use this information to shape your class and teaching. Be prepared to connect students to resources or to offices who can help them if they disclose they are in need of support.

  • Be mindful of the ways in which a crisis can impact communities in different ways, and how students from different identity groups (race, ethnicity, age, religious affiliation, gender, sexual orientation) may have different responses to a situation. Moreover, consider that some communities may become targets of bias incidents, discrimination, and even hate crimes during times of crisis. Be prepared to address tension, heated moments, or bias incidents if they occur in your classes or on campus, and step in to shut down inflammatory or hurtful language or actions. Reflect on how your own response to the situation is impacting you, your approach to teaching, your interactions with students, and what steps you can take to best support your students.

  • Consider whether and how to discuss the cause of a disruption in class, and how you will prepare for those conversations. Misinformation spreads easily in times of crisis, and students may have misconceptions about the causes of an issue or about communities that are impacted. When possible, correct misinformation that students may be sharing.

  • Remember to practice self-care! Moving to remote teaching requires balancing a lot of competing needs and expectations--a balancing act that can be stressful and require more emotional labor than usual. It’s not necessary to aim for perfection during a time of uncertainty and constantly changing landscapes; allow flexibility in course planning, be transparent with students, and expect that mistakes and hiccups will happen! As you support your students, remember to seek support and assistance from your fellow instructors, department and university administrators, the CITL, university support staff, as well as friends and family when you need it.

Peer-Reviewed research on equity in remote instruction

Research compiled in December 2020 by Megan Alpine, Instructional Equity Coordinator for UCSC Online Education & CITL.

What can recent empirical research tell us about equity in remote instruction during COVID-19? A review of current literature

Key Findings

In addition to the proliferation of opinion articles, editorials, and teaching guides published in response to the abrupt shift to emergency remote instruction in March 2020, there is also an emerging body of literature on remote instruction during COVID-19 that is grounded in empirical research. Considered together, these sources offer several key insights about the equity implications of the shift to emergency remote instruction during COVID-19.

Analysis of the problem:

  • Scholars are largely in agreement that remote instruction exacerbates existing inequities among students due to:

    • Uneven access to reliable internet at home;

    • Disproportionate impact of the pandemic on the mental health and financial security of students of color; and

    • Disparities in students’ access to an appropriate study space and resources for remote lab activities.


  • Scholars identify several best practices for increasing equity for both students and instructors during emergency remote instruction. These include:

    • Providing students with multiple and flexible modes of engagement (i.e., not just synchronous video);

    • Using creative activities specifically designed for remote instruction to facilitate active learning;

    • Providing and promoting extra mental health and basic needs resources to students; and

    • Building community among instructors to improve mental health and reduce feelings of isolation.

Click here to view the complete annotated bibliography, with links.


Here are some excellent resources on equity and inclusion in a remote instruction context:

  • 10 Strategies for Creating Inclusive & Equitable Online Learning Environments. Stanford University. 2020. This guide offers practical advice for developing an equitable and inclusive online/remote course, including sections on setting communication expectations and ensuring equitable class participation.

  • Syllabus Review Guide. University of Southern California, Center for Urban Education. This interactive online tool takes you through modules that ask you to critically evaluate your syllabus from a student- and equity-centered perspective.

  • An Equitable Transition to Online Learning - Flexibility, Low Bandwidth, Cell Phones, And More. Lindsey Passenger Weiss, Pedagogy Playground, 2020. This short article from March 2020 provides suggestions and questions around synchronous video use to guide an equitable approach to moving a course online.

  • Five Principles for Enacting Equity by Design. Estela Mara Bensimon, Alicia C. Dowd, and Keith Witham. Association of American Colleges & Universities, 2016. This short guide, while not specific to remote instruction, provides five principles for equitable course and curriculum design that are adaptable to the remote or online context.