The Digital Divide: Equity and Access in Emergency Online Learning
#CdnELTchat Summary for April 7, 2020
By Bonnie Nicholas
Teachers across Canada and around the world have been asked to pivot at short notice to online classes as the COVID-19 pandemic has changed teaching and learning for the foreseeable future. John Allan (mrpottz) recently hosted a couple of well-received Tutela webinars on on Coping with COVID-19 using online instruction and generously offered to follow up by guest moderating a #CdnELTchat on The Digital Divide: Equity and access in emergency online learning.
All of us who have moved to emergency online teaching and learning know that not all students have the tools and resources to continue their learning online now that schools and other service-providing organizations have closed their physical spaces. This chat was an opportunity to begin the conversation around these important issues of equity and access. We’ve collected the tweets from the chat using Wakelet.
There were some common themes that emerged from the evening’s conversation:
- We know that not all students have devices or reliable internet, and may be working in small shared spaces.
- We need to be aware that students did not ask to be in an online class, and that there may be children in the room while parents are trying to learn.
- Many students are accessing online course materials on the small screens of their smartphones; teachers need to be aware of this and check what course materials look like on a phone.
- There is a need to advocate for equitable access to learning tools and resources, and to find alternate learning paths for students who are unable to participate in synchronous online classes.
- Transitions classes could help students make the leap from face-to-face to online classes.
- At this point, self-care and meeting the emotional needs of students are more important considerations than curriculum.
- We all need to lower our expectations as we work through this crisis.
And some positive outcomes:
- Teachers are working hard to improve their digital skills to be able to meet students’ needs in this new fully-online environment.
- Service-providing organisations have stepped up to support learners and teachers.
These are the questions that guided our discussion.
Q1: What percentage of your learners do not have access to appropriate internet and hardware? Is it affecting your instruction?
Q2: What ways are you and your institution remedying this disparity?
Q3: How can we ensure that our courses materials are accessible to all students?
Q4: What distance learning strategies, activities, resources are you using to include and engage students with limited access to the internet?
Q5: Are you altering your assessments to accommodate students without WiFi or devices? How are you doing this?
#CdnELTchat is a collaborative effort that we hope will lead to more reflective practice for all of us. Questions are collected in advance of each chat on Padlet, and then 5 or 6 are chosen for the hour-long chat. The Padlet, Questions and Topics for #CdnELTchat, is always open for comments. If you have any ideas for topics or have comments about #CdnELTchat, please send @StanzaSL, @BonnieJNicholas, @Jennifermchow, or @ELTAugusta a tweet. Please connect with the team if you are are interested in guest moderating a future #CdnELTchat.
And in these challenging times, take care of yourself and your loved ones. Let’s stay connected with each other and support one another. Feel free to reach out and check in anytime with your colleagues in #CdnELTchat.
Bonnie Nicholas (@BonnieJNicholas) is an enthusiastic participant in the bi-monthly #CdnELTchat as well as a member of the #CdnELTchat team along with Svetlana Lupasco (@StanzaSL), Jennifer Chow (@jennifermchow), and Augusta Avram (@ELTAugusta). Bonnie teaches LINC at NorQuest College in Edmonton.