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Accommodations and Accessibility
Zoom Considerations & Digital Accessibility
Inclusive Pedagogy Online
Suggestions for Inclusive Pedagogy Online
Low-Tech Hacks for Online Teaching
Antiracist Classroom Practices
Trauma in the Classroom
6 Trauma-Informed Core Principles
Trauma-Informed Techniques & Responses
Gender Inclusivity in the Classroom
Have an Accessibility Request?
If you are a Barnard community member and have an accessibility request for a digital event, please submit our Accessibility Request Form.
PDF Remediation (for use by screen readers & text to speech software)
If you are a Barnard community member and have a PDF remediation request, please submit our PDF Remediation Request Form along with a copy of the digital file you would like to remediate for use by a screen reader or text-to-speech software.
Captioning (for media course content)
If you are a Barnard faculty member and have a post production captioning request for your online course(s), please submit our Post Production Captioning Request Form along with a copy of the media file you would like captioned.
Please contact CARDS (email@example.com) if you have questions about a student’s specific accommodation plan and how to implement it.
Suggestions for Inclusive Pedagogy Online
Our suggestions focus on inclusive pedagogy as it specifically pertains to online teaching and learning, understanding that inclusive pedagogy encompasses a much wider range and offer ideas about how to anticipate and approach the diverse ways in which inclusive pedagogy may be practiced in online teaching and learning environments. They start from the premise that inclusive pedagogy, whether online, HyFlex or in person, is characterized by ‘the development of a rich learning community characterized by learning opportunities that are sufficiently made available for everyone, so that all learners are able to participate in classroom life’ (Florian & Linklater, 2009). Creating an environment in which all learners experience equal participation depends upon a number of factors, including but not limited to: sensitive attention to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and socioeconomic background, open dialogue and debate about important and difficult issues and a sustained working together amongst students, professors and teaching assistants to create a sense of intellectual and emotional belonging in the classroom.
Be mindful of time zones and website compatibility
Consider recommending students change their time zones in Canvas to avoid any confusion with synchronous class meetings and due dates. Also Include your course meeting time and important due dates and times in multiple time zones on your syllabus. Be mindful of websites and platforms that may be inaccessible for your students depending on their geographical location (YouTube, for example, does not work in China, Iran, Syria or Turkmenistan and some content is limited depending on geographical region). Downloading content that is restricted in some geographical areas and posting content that way can avoid problems that may arise using links only.
Center inclusive content and approaches
Inclusive content online is very similar to building an inclusive classroom that is face to face, but there are some differences. The online environment could provide a generative context for considering online representations in the context of a range of diversity and difference and for examining how media literacy (and the lack thereof) relate to the interpretations of those representations. The online environment also has the potential to be conducive to a more collaborative atmosphere of sharing resources, ideas and materials than in a traditional face-to-face classroom.
Address connectivity issues in your course policies
Creating a classroom community agreement about online connectivity could help everyone to understand what students will do if s/he/they encounter connectivity problems during a class session and what the professor’s backup plans are should s/he/they encounter problems during online teaching. Access Barnard and IMATS are vital supports for students, faculty and staff with connectivity and hardware access issues.
Clarify Zoom etiquette and policies
Including a section on Zoom etiquette can help to clarify expectations about synchronous class meetings. How the “raise hand” function should be used (if at all), how and when to “mute” and how to signal agreement (are you encouraging students to use the “thumbs up” or “applaud” functions?) and what types of Zoom backgrounds students, faculty and teaching assistants use will be helpful for building the online classroom community. Also consider your policies about camera usage in synchronous sessions. Are you requiring all students to have their cameras turned on during all sessions? Are there allowances made for students who either do not feel comfortable turning their cameras on or do not have the bandwidth to keep their cameras on? Is your classroom community comfortable with having everyone use a uniform Zoom background used? Consider that all students, faculty and teaching assistants may not feel comfortable with being on camera and/or showing their immediate surroundings on camera.
Survey connectivity, hardware, preferences and experiences
Getting a clear sense of your students’ access to reliable internet, a tablet, laptop or desktop and a quiet place to join your class online could be very helpful for assessing what adjustments might be necessary for individual students. This could take the form of a Teaching Online Planning Questionnaire that students fill out before the course begins and that is followed up with individual conversations with the professor and/or teaching assistant. The questionnaire can address the students’ needs, preferences and prior experiences with online learning. This or any other questionnaire and conversation should acknowledge and be sensitive to students’ privacy as you discuss their individual circumstances. These privacy issues can relate to students’ socioeconomic status but also to their pronoun preferences; some may prefer, for example, to share their pronouns with the class members but others may not feel comfortable doing so.
Acknowledge and remain conscious of Zoom’s capacity as both a communicative tool and the privacy and surveillance issues it raises
The issues of privacy and surveillance go far beyond zoom-bombing to the serious encryption issues that have been detailed in a recent University of Toronto report that details the platform’s encryption weaknesses. While it is uncertain at this time whether the College will move to another platform, it may be helpful to bring these issues up early on in and throughout the semester what your classroom community will be able to do to mitigate them so that everyone feels comfortable.
Ensure course material accessibility
Include materials that cover a range of bandwidth, taking care that the materials are evenly distributed between high and low bandwidth or choose to weight your course with medium and low bandwidth content such as slides and article pdfs. The diagram below, created by Daniel Stanford, shows the range of mediums that one may include to balance between high bandwidth activities (synchronous Zoom classes) and low bandwidth (pdfs and texts shared on a Canvas discussion board). Stanford also distinguishes between “high immediacy” (expectations of a quick or instantaneous response) and “low immediacy” activities (expectation of a response in a specified time, but not immediately). Considering your course from the perspective of both bandwidth and immediacy may be helpful in determining which activities truly require, for example, a synchronous Zoom session (high bandwidth, high immediacy) and which would be better realized via a prerecorded video (high bandwidth, low immediacy).
Incorporating lower bandwidth materials and activities could help students who have internet access issues and thinking about your course in terms of bandwidth and immediacy may be useful in determining which activities truly require a synchronous online meeting, rather than viewing a synchronous Zoom sessions as the default means of having the classroom community come together.
For both synchronous and asynchronous meetings, providing transcripts of audio and video will ensure accessibility, as will making sure that slide material is sufficiently narrated so that students with visual disabilities or who cannot view the slides easily for any other reason. Be sure that content is mobile friendly for students who may need to access materials on their mobile phones and for students who need to use screen readers. Consult the Center for Accessibility & Disability Services (CARDS) for support making your course content fully available to all members of your classroom community.
Be open about your own vulnerabilities
Share your own capacities, fears and experiences with navigating the “basics” needed to run a course online – and not limited to technology. Such sharing can also help with the sense of community and solidarity within that community of everyone involved in it – professors, students, teaching assistants and all of the individuals and centers that support them.
Solicit regular feedback about online and all other forms of inclusivity in your classroom
Checking in with the class as a whole on a regular basis about how the course is going from the standpoint of their accessibility to the synchronous sessions and asynchronous materials and components can be important for making any necessary adjustments that need to be made. Regular check-ins also reassure the students that their holistic accessibility to the course is a priority. Checking in about other types of accessibility in the course, i.e. as related to course content is as vital as checking in about access related to tech and wifi issues.
Stay considerate of individual and global circumstances
The context in which we are all living, teaching and learning is fraught with peril, uncertainty and potential: we are in the midst of a global pandemic, increasing economic precarity and socio-political upheaval. Global, local, institutional and personal circumstances are changing rapidly. Regularly acknowledging, respecting and being receptive to the different and shifting ways in which this context manifests itself for every member of the classroom community (including the professor) is an act of care itself.
Low-Tech Hacks for Online Teaching
Online teaching and learning is replete with challenges and potential for both students and instructors, including how to navigate low-bandwidth environments and how to use technology deliberately, selectively and effectively for pedagogical creativity. How to find low-cost solutions to navigating all aspects of the online environment can be by turns frustrating and inspiring (USC Professor Emily Nix’s DIY lightboard for her economics courses is one example of an inventive hack; teacher Carmen Castrejón’s low-cost document camera is another) as can be how to incorporate technology into your classroom so that it enhances but does not overwhelm.
We offer some suggestions below for navigating low-bandwidth environments and ideas for low-tech approaches to the online classroom.
Keep your own computer running as fast as possible
A few fairly simple steps will help to keep connectivity and will avoid frustration when uploading and downloading materials and while conducting live Zoom class sessions. Delete large programs and files and make sure virus protection software is running properly. Check for updates and allow them to run and consider installing a program that regularly scans your system and removes unwanted and unused files. Close all unneeded windows during video conferencing
In the Online Classroom
Find the potential in low-tech and low-bandwidth programs
Using Google docs for peer workshopping and communal editing can both be incorporated into learning goals and help to cultivate classroom community. A Google doc could also function much like hypothes.is when used to annotate a text that is available outside of PDF format. Canvas discussion groups that start conversations, engage debate and share resources can become the catalyst for invigorating live discussions.
Consider what technology is really essential for your course and approach
Consider your course and its assignments from a holistic pedagogical perspective to determine if and when high-tech and high-bandwidth programs and activities are truly contributing to learning outcomes. The diagram linked in this article about low and high-bandwidth teaching may help in making that determination.
Provide Multiple Low-Bandwidth Access Points
Audio transcripts from Zoom (note: these are not perfectly transcribed and may need editing), lecture outlines, summaries and PDFs of powerpoint presentations and even scans of handwritten lecture notes are all ways that students can access class materials outside of live Zoom sessions. Powerpoint allows voice recording so that audio can accompany slides without needing to seek out another program like VoiceThread.
Take advantage of Open Educational Resources (OERs)
Using Open Educational Resources can be helpful to supplement your course. Resources such as MITOpenCourseware, the Community of Online Research Assignments and many of the others listed here could be valuable additions of textual and visual materials that are already readily available and need not be created from scratch or sourced and then downloaded or scanned. Here is a helpful beginning list of OERs put together by Emory University.
Communication and Continual Feedback
Use a diverse array of mediums and online communication platforms to accommodate all students
Offering office hours over the phone can be helpful for students with lower bandwidth. WhatsApp is helpful for international students as it offers free international calls and texts and is more comprehensively available internationally than Skype. Consider giving feedback via audio, too, as it loads much faster than video and can be accessed more easily for students who do not have access to high speed internet on their phones or computers.
Come online regularly and at key moments
Posting class announcements, links to online events related to your course and course updates is important for maintaining clear communication with students. One on one meetings and online exchanges with students can also become more deliberate and effective with regular communication to the class as a whole.
Remember the value of asynchronous communication and regular check-ins
Feedback is especially essential for students during distance learning, particularly in our current precarious and ambiguous circumstances. Timely replies to emails, regular updates about course materials and generally being attentive to students’ needs for communication and clarification goes very far to reassure students and help to cultivate classroom community. A simple “popcorn” style check-in at the beginning of each class session, asking students for regular feedback on the course throughout the semester (via exit tickets or another method) and sensitively acknowledging the extraordinary circumstances during which we are all teaching, learning and living may ultimately be just as (or even much more) valuable than incorporating multiple complex educational technologies into course design.
Antiracism is less a state that can be definitively achieved than an active project, practice, and value that remains attuned to identifying and deconstructing the ways racism shapes systems, policies, perceptions, and norms. How, then, can one develop, sustain, and nurture a self-consciously antiracist classroom? Any answers to this question will depend on the subject you teach and the variety of ways you as an instructor are positioned within a society structured by forms of racial dominance that are interconnected with other systems of inequality and exploitation. In light of this, this page does not provide a “checklist” that can guarantee that you have made an antiracist classroom. Instead, we have decided to recommend some initial steps that you can take in order to consistently and deliberately enact antiracism within your teaching and course planning.
Campus Resources and Initiatives
In recent years, faculty have formed a number of different learning communities and affinity groups committed to examining race, racism, and antiracism. Over the course of AY 2020-2021, the Center for Engaged Pedagogy will be hosting an Institute on Antiracism that is directed toward faculty. Several faculty in First-Year Experience have formed an ongoing Antiracist Reading Group. Barnard, Columbia, and Teacher’s College are organizing a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative that will facilitate faculty discussions on books about race and racism. If you are interested in forming an affinity group on related topics or joining one that is already underway, contact the Center for Engaged Pedagogy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Antiracist Classroom Practices
Reflect on the ways race matters
“Don’t ignore race!” This common piece of advice usefully reminds us that an antiracist classroom can neither avoid the topic of race nor transcend the effects of racism by focusing exclusively on shared experiences or supposedly universal ideals. But what does refusing to ignore race look like in practice?
An initial step toward answering this question can be taken by asking yourself how race matters in the classroom and the subject areas you are teaching. Does the topic of race only emerge when covering the writings, lives, or experiences of people of color? Who is expected to speak on race in classroom discussions and what sorts of expectations govern the ways that knowledge is shared and used? In the texts that you’ve assigned, whose ideas and experiences are presumed to be a universal standard that everyone should encounter and whose are considered particular or supplementary to the core objectives of your class? Are there particular skills or bases of knowledge that you reflexively consider the “ideal” student to already be able to wield?
While you may want to reflect on some of these questions before you enter the classroom, you may also consider posing them to your students and using the discussion to collaboratively develop a set of community guidelines and shared practices for an antiracist classroom.
Develop an antiracist agenda
The topic of race cannot be ignored or “moved beyond” in a deliberately antiracist classroom. This is because race and racism are social relations that undergird a broad range of experiences, forms of knowledge, and normative expectations, and are thus there whether one likes it or not. If race and racism are foundational to current social reality, then one requires an intentional agenda in order to contribute to the project of developing antiracist social realities.
Asao B. Inoue describes an antiracist agenda in the following way:
A helpful antiracist agenda offers an understanding or explanation of race, racism, and the particular racial formations that develop in and around the classroom and program in question. It defines and explains the particular realms of experience that both individuals and groups find themselves involved in at that site or classroom. … It explains the particular brands of whiteness … that occur in the classroom and in assessments. It acknowledges the need and power in telling stories and offering narratives about antiracist struggle…. … Finally, antiracist agendas should, perhaps through discussions with students, reveal the difference … between feeling safe and feeling comfortable (Performing Antiracist Pedagogy, xvii-xviii, 2017).
One way of developing and foregrounding such an agenda in your classrooms is to research how structures of racial inequality shape your course’s subject matter, the methods and areas of research you’ll be covering that semester, your experiences in the broader field of study you’re engaging, and even the institution and geographical area where your course is offered. Questions of race and racism, in such an approach, are not ancillary to the main topics of your course but absolutely central to it. As a teacher, you are uniquely positioned to model and support multiple forms of critical interrogation that account for the structural but transformable role that racism plays in the norms, expectations, and valued experiences that underwrite what you’re teaching.
Moreover, as Inoue observes, there is a crucial difference between feeling safe and feeling comfortable. In addition to reflecting on what constitutes that difference and how you can facilitate discussions and exercises that are both safe and uncomfortable, you may invite students to articulate and sit with the difference between these feelings. Consider hosting discussions and developing assignments that encourage students to reflect critically on the formative role that race and racism have played in the development of your field and areas of specialization.
Practice and model self-awareness
The resources and protections a person has regular access to might not seem obvious to that person until they are confronted with someone else who is tacitly or explicitly barred from accessing the same things. Being self-reflective and self-reflexive about the resources and protections you have (or may be perceived as having) access to before that encounter can be an important step in sustaining an antiracist classroom. You may ask yourself questions like these (or introduce them as a topic of reflection and discussion with your students when developing community guidelines): What kinds of resources can you reasonably expect to access or be denied by dint of your social positioning in the world? How might these affordances or denials shape your interactions in and outside of the classroom? What kinds of narratives do you tell yourself about your students and/or colleagues, what might be some of the assumptions informing those narratives, and how might you challenge them as you prepare and teach?
Experiment with a progressive stack
A progressive stack is a technique for managing discussions that is regularly used within activist spaces. It works in the following way. One person facilitates the discussion by keeping a list (or a “stack”) of people who wish to speak. To add a person to the “stack,” the facilitator will acknowledge a person whose hand is raised and add their name to the queue, at which point that person may lower their hand in order to avoid distracting from the discussion. However, a person who identifies themselves as part of a marginalized group or who has not yet spoken is immediately added to the top of the stack. The facilitator’s role is to support a structured and dynamic class discussion that also foregrounds the voices and ideas of marginalized groups and others who have not yet had an opportunity to contribute to the conversation. Being transparent about why you are using a progressive stack as a strategy of managing discussions can also be a way of working with and alongside students to reflect on how power dynamics shape classroom interactions and what being accountable in the face of those dynamics might entail.
Include a broad range of sources and experiences in your class
Regardless of the subject you teach, an antiracist classroom is one that takes seriously the legacies of racism and the scholarly and creative contributions of those people who have been the targets of systems of racial oppression. Consider doing an audit of your own classes and areas of expertise in order to determine how you can make your syllabus reflect a broader range of perspectives and experiences. Whose narratives and experiences does your syllabus tend to foreground? What kinds of sources do you tend to draw from in order to introduce students to an area of study and its norms of research, argumentation, and presentation?
In the process of doing this audit, it may be helpful to think about whether there is a way to expand the types of knowledge production and validation included in your course. Beyond what you may teach yourself, it may be rewarding to invite guests who approach antiracism from different angles (as academics, artists, activists, journalists, others whose work is directly relevant to your course) to broaden your course’s perspective and to integrate a variety of perspectives, narratives, and counter-narratives.
Acknowledge racial trauma
Lillian Comas-Díaz, Gordon Nagayama Hall, and Helen A. Neville define racial trama as a form of race-based stress experienced by Black people, indigenous people, and people of color in response to threatening events and real or perceived experiences of racial discrimination (“Racial Trauma: Theory, Research, and Healing,” 2019). The need to understand and account for racial trauma is particularly acute right now. Images of racist violence circulate with incredible speed in these social media saturated times. People will respond to these images in unpredictable, unconscious ways. Yet whatever their effects, they are almost certainly compounded by the highly pressurized atmosphere of 2020: a looming election in which the current president and many of his allies seek reelection through appeals to nationalism, xenophobia, anti-Blackness, patriarchy, and conspiratorial thinking; an enduring pandemic that is viciously reshaping the health and experiences of working class Black people, indigenous people, and people of color; and the ongoing empowerment of police and federal agents in the face of mass mobilizations against anti-Black state violence.
In light of this, consider how you as an instructor can acknowledge and exercise awareness about the traumas that many students are negotiating in their daily lives and may be finding intensified during this time of political upheaval and social distancing. Consult the Trauma-Informed Pedagogy page on our site as you consider the best ways to recognize the range of race-based injuries that are part of today. Also use your syllabus, course page, and other modes of communication to make students aware of Barnard’s Furman Counseling Center, the Women of Color Support Group, the Student of Color Crisis Text Line, Student Life, and the Equity Office.
Collaborate with other groups addressing racism or point students toward those groups
Many groups on campus and in the broader Morningside Heights-Harlem community are already doing antiracist work that extends beyond the classroom. Consider inviting speakers from campus and community groups to speak about how their activism intersects with the topics you are studying. Also, consider collaborating with groups to develop scaffolded assignments and research projects in collaboration with groups that will critically examine racism within local institutions and our own disciplines. In any case, regardless of whether you find it possible to bring in a guest speaker, becoming familiar with not just antiracist literature but with antiracist activism and activist groups affords something else: it can allow you to direct students to organizations, initiatives, and contexts where they can enact antiracism as they move outside of your classroom.
6 Trauma-Informed Core Principles
1. Understanding Trauma & Stress
Without understanding trauma, we may adopt behaviors and beliefs that are potentially negative and unhealthy. However, when we understand trauma and stress, we can act compassionately and take well-informed steps toward supporting the overall wellness of students.
2. Compassion & Dependability
Trauma is overwhelming and can impart feelings of isolation and betrayal, which may make it difficult to trust others and receive support. Compassionate and dependable relationships can help reestablish trusting connections with others that foster mutual wellness.
3. Cultural Humility & Responsiveness
Keep in mind that students come from diverse social and cultural groups that may experience and react to trauma differently. Be open to understanding these differences and respond to them sensitively.
4. Safety & Stability
Because trauma can unpredictably violate students’ physical, social, and emotional safety, it is helpful to increase stability and minimize stress reactions in order to encourage focus on wellness.
5. Collaboration & Empowerment
Trauma involves a loss of power and control that can lead to feelings of helplessness. Reestablishing a sense of agency can help students feel empowered in and outside of the classroom.
6. Resilience & Recovery
Because trauma can have a long-lasting and broad impact that may create a feeling of hopelessness, utilizing a strengths-based approach encourages resiliency and recovery in students.
Gender Inclusivity in the Classroom
This guide addresses gender inclusivity at Barnard, particularly in classroom settings. Using gender-neutral language and respecting people’s pronouns goes a long way in making students feel a sense of belonging and allowing them to feel present in their learning experiences. Click here to go to the guide.