The teacher is welcoming and accommodating to all students.

As a result of remote learning during COVID-19, an increasing number of students feel isolated and like they do not belong on their respective campuses (HLC Trends Report).  At YSU specifically, students self-report lower perceived levels of feeling “valued” by YSU and feeling “part of the community” at YSU than students in past years (YSU NSSE Results, 2021). As faculty, you possess enormous influence in designing courses and classrooms that are welcoming to all students.  

While not exhaustive, the following are several strategies for welcoming and accommodating all students in your courses: 

  • Think through the lens of Universal Design 
  • Connect students to Accessibility Services 
  • Model inclusion 
  • Create opportunities for students to connect with each other 
  • Think Through a Universal Design of Learning (UDL) Lens

    Universal Design is “the design of products and environments to be useable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation of specialized design” (Burgstahler, 2013). In your courses, this means reflecting on how the content you deliver, and the design of the course is accessible to everyone, not just a select group of your students. The goal of UDL is to “reduce barriers and increase access” in your classroom (Eberly Center).  

    • There are a lot of ways to incorporate UDL principles into your courses, here are a few ideas: 
    • Post a class outline, lecture notes, or slides onto Blackboard before your class session 
    • Allow students to turn in parts of a large project for feedback before it is due 
    • Utilize multiple ways to deliver content  
    • Add a statement on your syllabus that invites students to meet with you to discuss learning needs 
    • Create an online discussion board to supplement in-class discussion to provide students who are less comfortable speaking up in class an avenue to share their thoughts  

    If you want to learn more about Universal Design for Learning, watch this 5-minute video from the Center for Excellence and Teaching at Oakland University. You can also utilize a UDL course checklist, check out these checklists from Colorado State University and Durham College.   

  • Connect Your Students to Accessibility Services

    YSU’s Accessibility Services supports learning for students with physical, medical, learning, hearing, visual, and psychological disabilities. Accessibility Services works with instructors and students to implement accommodations that support individual student learning, accommodations can include things like taking a test in a quiet environment or with extended time. Visit the Accessibility Services website for contact information and more information. 

  • Model Inclusion

    It is important to model inclusion to your students, whether it be through course content, delivery, or structure. Included below is a selected list of strategies and resources for creating an inclusive classroom. The Center for Faculty Excellence at The University of Oklahoma has created an excellent guide on Diversifying Course Content.

    Included below are some strategies that may be a good starting point for your courses. 

    Explore discipline-specific resources that may be relevant to your course content. A few examples are below, but check out this crowdsourced document for more:

  • Create Opportunities for Students to Connect with Each Other

    In addition to making students feel like you want them in your class, it will benefit students to build relationships with other students in their course. There are a lot of ways you can design informal and formal opportunities for connection in your course. Below are a few ideas you may choose to integrate: 

    • About Me Assignment: Have students put together a few slides introducing themselves. Ask them to include a photo, their preferred name, and goals for the course. Even in a face-to-face course, you can have students upload the slides to Blackboard on a discussion board and ask them to comment on 1-2 other students’ slides.  
    • Class Questions: Whether related to the content or just to get students talking, beginning class with questions for small group discussion “breaks the ice” and encourages conversation. This is particularly impactful at the beginning of the semester when students may not know each other. Ask students to get up and find someone new to talk to, so they are not always interacting with only the person next to them. Consider some of these non-content-related questions: If you could create a class at YSU, what would it be? Beyond graduating, do you have any other goals for your time in college? If you had a free day and no access to technology, how would you spend it?  
    • Out of Class Opportunities: Connect students to activities and events that are happening outside of your class. You can even incentivize them to attend activities and events together that are related to your course content. Joining a student organization and getting an on-campus job are great ways to meet other students!