Remote Learning Initiatives During COVID-19 [PDF]

As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, more and more people are turning to remote learning and teaching.

All over the world, school and university teachers are working fast and hard to set up remote learning as a feasible response to the COVID-19 crisis. While always fundamental to inclusive teaching, meeting the needs and reflecting the experiences of diverse students takes on heightened importance during such uncertainty.

In these unprecedented times, students’ ability to engage in remote learning may be variously impacted by inequity and marginalization. Many thousands of students have family members who are sick, working under challenging circumstances, or under severe financial stress. College and university students may be forced to juggle caregiving responsibilities while struggling with the devastation of the virus. To add to an already stressful situation, they or their family members may also be working in the medical field or in other essential occupations.

As you develop your remote learning initiatives, it’s important that assignments remain flexible and account for students’ emotional and physical response to mass illness and unprecedented changes in daily life. The following checklist can help you weave equity considerations into your remote assignments during the COVID-19 crisis.

When deciding which COVID-19-related initiatives to implement:

  • Are you taking full account of technical and other accessibility issues in your community, especially for those in essential or high-demand occupations, as well as learners from diverse backgrounds and identities?
  • Do the initiatives address the emotional and mental health aspects of living through the crisis, including challenges unique to pandemics?
  • Are you including the voices of community leaders who hold diverse occupations and identities?
  • To what extent do you share lived experiences with the marginalized group in question, or with those in high-demand occupations? To what extent do your own experiences differ?
  • How might your perspective imbue bias into the initiative/s you are considering?

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When messaging your community:

  • Are you addressing community members from diverse backgrounds and occupations deemed essential and therefore uniquely challenged by circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 crisis?
  • Are your topics of concern to community members from diverse backgrounds and with diverse occupations?
  • Are you considering your own perspectives when selecting your message content? Are you including information and ideas of diverse thought leaders in your message?
  • To what extent do you share lived experiences with those in stressful, in-demand occupations or from the marginalized group in question?
  • How might your experiences imbue bias into your message, or exclude members of your community?

When reviewing remote learning assignments:

  • Do the parameters of the assignment account for the flexibility and accessibility that some members of your community may require, particularly if they’re working on assignments while also working in essential, high-demand occupations, or serving as caretakers?
  • Does the assignment reference the work of people from diverse backgrounds and occupations challenged by the pandemic? Does it call for reflection and responses to challenges faced by people in healthcare or other occupations overtaxed by the pandemic, and/or of diverse identity groups and backgrounds?​
  • Will the themes of the assignment resonate with underrepresented or specially affected populations and aspects of the COVID-19 crisis they may be experiencing?
  • Does any of the information in the assignment pertain to populations other than the majority group or those in uniquely affected occupations?
  • Does the assignment include voices that challenge/counter narratives that are not covered in mainstream news outlets or by government officials, or that may be exclusive to majority groups?


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These questions were developed by the DiversityEdu team and are adapted from Westaby, K. A., Williams, T. M., Robinson, N. N., & Connors, E. (2019). Being responsive: The first assessment of culturally responsive evaluation in Wisconsin: Findings from the 2017 survey. Milwaukee, WI: ¡Milwaukee Evaluation!, Inc.

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Author
Larissa Pienkowski
Senior Editor

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