Easy Teaching Hacks to Support Equitable Practices with Online Instruction

These resources can help you plan for and create a more inclusive academic environment.

  • Ensure access: Evaluating equitable student access to technology tools
  • • Evaluate student access to computers, software, cameras, internet to ensure students can participate in online instruction. See Appendix 1 for sample survey to assess student needs.

    • Evaluate student access to a place to participate in online courses (e.g., minimal distractions, quiet space, etc.). See Appendix 1 for sample survey to assess student needs.

    • Review student accessibility needs; consider what diverse learning looks like for all students.

    • Identify campus resources, as appropriate, to ensure students have access to technology requirements for successful participation in online classes.

    If a student contacts you who does not have a laptop and cannot get one due to financial constraints, please send an email to this address. laptopcheckout@ucdavis.edu with the following information: student name, student ID, and student phone number. 

    • Identify options for back-up equipment and IT support if something goes wrong for students.
  • Set the tone: Planning your syllabus
  • • Think about the climate you want to create for the class.

    • Welcome students to the class.

    • Explain philosophies behind policies—pedagogies not punishment.

    • Consider sharing some information about yourself, e.g., why do you enjoy teaching this class? What is your teaching philosophy?

    • Consider flexibility in participation and attendance policies; include statements in syllabus that allow for consideration of extenuating circumstances for deadlines, exam dates, etc. (personal illness, family commitments, unexpected work hours, etc.).

    • During the pandemic, consider waiving medical documentation because it may not be available in all cases.

    • Some students may be in different time zones and/or have internet and computer access issues making real-time participation difficult or not always possible. If you put your key learning materials on Canvas (asynchronous), students can follow even if they miss your real-time class, and this will be enormously helpful to them.

    • Identify free online texts and resources and use library reserve materials when possible 

    • Provide clear course goals/learning outcomes.
  • Build trust: Establishing a supportive class environment
  • Start classes with short 2-3 min activities to reduce stress, calm anxiety, and help students to focus; some examples:

       • Breathing exercises.

       • Normalize stresses students are experiencing—name it and talk about it.

       • Share successes, fun experiences from the past few days.

       • Share your own experiences, stresses and successes.

       • Seek feedback.

       • Provide at least two mechanisms that allow feedback, one that identifies the sender, and thus allows responding directly to the needs of an individual, and one that allows anonymity. A script for both feedback mechanisms can read something like: “For this class I have provided you all with two ways to provide feedback. [Method 1] includes your identification so that I may respond to you directly if needed. [Method 2] allows for anonymous feedback because I recognize an anonymous option can be useful depending on the situation.”

       • Ask students frequently about what is going well for them, what material has been interesting or challenging for them, and devise strategies to address their concerns.

       • Check in with students midway through the quarter to see how remote learning is going for them. Ask if there are things other faculty are doing in their classes that work really well for them and that you might be able to incorporate in your class.
  • Engage with content: Supporting in-class learning
  • • Focus content to main topics; critically evaluate what are the most important concepts for mastering course goals.

    • Break material into small chunks (5-10 min each)—for both synchronous or asynchronous formats.

    • Use several quizzes, polls, iClickers, etc. to periodically check for learning and understanding—keep it fun too! Can be used with both synchronous and asynchronous formats.

    • Pre-lecture quizzes can help to identify areas that students aren’t understanding—use part of next class to discuss quiz results and clarify misconceptions.

    • Use smaller group discussions to engage students.

    • Zoom can be set up to provide for mini breakout rooms for students to discuss in small groups; Check the UC Davis KeepTeaching site for zoom resources.

    • Online discussion forums (e.g., in Canvas) can be used to engage students with content outside of class time.

    • Use written reflection exercises to assess learnings, apply knowledge, encourage connections to course materials, and allow students to express their own interests, challenges, etc.

    • Check frequently for understanding.

    • Do not assume what you meant was understood or what you understood is what was meant. Appreciate that there are different ways that situations can be interpreted.

    • Be aware and flexible with potential differences in cultural etiquette. Pause your assumptions and values; try to hear not just what the other person is saying but what is meant by what is said.

    • Be complete and explicit; provide opportunities for clarification and summary.

    • Strive to create a class culture where students feel comfortable asking and answering questions.

    • Be patient with yourself and others.

    • Consider multiple opportunities for graded work, rather than a small number of exams worth a high percentage of the course grade.

    • Consider a range of question types on exams, from multiple choice, to short answer, to matching, to drawing and flow charts. Campus resources in the Center for Educational Effectiveness can assist in developing strategies for exams that can test higher order learning, link to resources here.

    Learning takes practice. Provide multiple opportunities to allow students to demonstrate their understanding of material, with the first opportunities being lower stakes. These types of assignments are also a great opportunity for students to get familiar with the types of questions you ask on exams.

    Consider opportunities for students to work in pairs or small groups to solve problems on assignments.

    CAST (Center for Applied Special Technologies) has created a set of useful Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Guidelines which provide good information on creating meaningful learning opportunities for all learners. 

    • Refer to the UC Davis KeepTeaching site for general information on online instructional practices and Online Equity and Inclusion.
  • Create connections: Encouraging engagement outside of class time
  • • Establish online office hours, incentivize participation. If you record these office hours you can then post them on Canvas for those that were not able to make the meeting.

    • Create opportunities for online study groups; consider making this a requirement for the course. These can build study skills and help students to make connections to peers.

    • Send individual emails to students who have a C/C- or lower and encourage to come for office hours, using supportive, inclusive language. Below is a sample email:

                        “Dear AA—I care about your success in this course and invite you to meet with me in an upcoming office hour. The material covered is complex and I would like to make sure that I am presenting it in a way that is understandable to you and to discuss ways to support your study strategies.

    • If you aren’t able to come to an office hour, please email me at abcde@ucdavis.edu to set up an appointment. I look forward to talking with you.—Professor ZZ”
  • Be kind to yourself and your students
  • • Don’t expect perfection of yourself or students under situations with limited time for preparation.

    • Model a growth mindset for your students—believe in the malleability of intelligence and use strategies to grow and develop your own knowledge and skills

    • Practice patience and flexibility.
  • Resources
  • Andresen, M. A. 2009. Asynchronous discussion forums: success factors, outcomes, assessments, and limitations. Educational Technology & Society, 12(1), 249-257.

    CAST. 2020. The UDL Guidelines. Accessed online: http://udlguidelines.cast.org

    Cavanagh, S. R. How to Make your Teaching Engaging. Advice Guide. Chronicle of Higher Education. Accessed online: https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/advice-online-teaching

    Center for Educational Effectiveness. Just In Time Teaching. University of California-Davis. Accessed online: https://cee.ucdavis.edu/jitt

    Center for Educational Effectiveness. 2020. Keep Teaching: Strategies and Resources for Instructional Resilience. UC Davis. Accessed online: https://keepteaching.ucdavis.edu/online-equity-inclusion

    Chronicle of Higher Education. 2020. Moving Online: How to Keep Teaching During Coronavirus. Accessed online: https://connect.chronicle.com/rs/931-EKA-218/images/CoronaVirus_ArticlesCollection.pdf 

    Darby, F. 2020. How to Be a Better Online Teacher. Advice Guide. Chronicle of Higher Education. Accessed online: https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/advice-online-teaching

    Gannon, K. How to Create a Syllabus: Advice Guide. Chronicle of Higher Education. Accessed online: https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/advice-syllabus

    Goldrick-Rab, S. 2020. Beyond the Food Pantry: Supporting #RealCollege Students During COVID19. The Hope Center: For College, Community, and Justice.  Accessed online: https://hope4college.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/BTFP_SupportingStudentsDuringCOVID19_v2_Final.pdf

    Mongan-Rallis, H.; T. Shannon. Asynchronous Discussion Forums. University of Minnesota-Duluth. Accessed online: https://www.d.umn.edu/~hrallis/professional/presentations/cotfsp06/indiv_tools/async_disc.htm

    Mindset Scholars Network. https://mindsetscholarsnetwork.org

    Phelps-Coco, A.; K. Lin; E. Contini-Field; S. Simcha Cohen. Promoting Engagement with Canvas. Harvard University. Accessed online: https://projects.iq.harvard.edu/engage

    National Academies. 2017. Supporting Students’ College Success: The Role of Assessment of Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Competencies. Ebook available online:  https://www.nap.edu/catalog/24697

    Villalobos, M. Creating Inclusive Classrooms. UC Davis Office of Campus Community Relations. Accessed Online: https://ebeler.faculty.ucdavis.edu/creating-inclusive-classrooms-resources-for-continued-learning-compiled-by-uc-davis-office-of-campus-community-relations/