5 Things Students Need to Ensure Equity in Online Learning
By Storie Walsh
Online learning is a valuable tool for advancing student equity; it increases access to high-quality computer science instruction, Advanced Placement courses, and other learning opportunities that can lead to higher-paying careers. However, online courses are not inherently equitable for all students unless certain conditions are met first.
In a recent THE Journal article, I discussed the key factors in providing equitable online learning. Here are 5 things students need to ensure equity in online learning:
- Technology tools that support online learning effectively
Whether they’re learning at school or at home, it’s critical for students to have access to the right technology infrastructure to ensure equity in online learning, including a robust and capable digital device and high-speed internet connectivity. At the least, devices need to have a keyboard and functioning screen so students can properly engage with learning content. High-speed internet––including at-home connectivity–– should be accessible to all students, which districts can support by distributing mobile hotspots where necessary.
- Time and space to learn without interruptions
Many students don’t have a distraction-free space to learn, and others have to share their personal devices with siblings or family members. When expanding online learning opportunities, asynchronous courses are the most effective at promoting equity in online learning, allowing students to complete their work whenever it’s convenient to them. Schools can also mitigate these challenges by scheduling time for students to take online courses while at school.
- Content that’s accessible on all devices
Accessible learning content is key to equity in online learning, regardless of what device students are using or whether they have any learning disabilities. VHS Learning was involved in the development of the National Standards for Quality Online Learning, which include standards for the accessibility and usability of online content. Content that aligns with these standards is device agnostic, meaning it reads the same across different devices, making it equally accessible to all students.
- High-quality instruction that is interactive and engaging
Every student should have a chance for success, and high-quality instruction from a talented and well-trained online teacher is key to this success. High-quality online learning is engaging, collaborative, and puts students at the center of the learning process. Online learning should also be highly interactive, enabling students to form strong relationships with their teacher and peers.
- Comprehensive support and feedback
While online learning can be more independent than face-to-face learning, students still need consistent and comprehensive support and feedback in order to succeed. Schools can make their online learning programs more equitable by ensuring online teachers work closely with students. In online courses from VHS Learning, school staff serve as local site coordinators to provide additional support for students.
At VHS Learning, one of our core beliefs is that all students deserve equitable access to online learning opportunities. By ensuring that online learning programs offer these five elements, schools can promote equity in their online learning programs, and help to level the playing field for students of different backgrounds and abilities.