Remote Learning for Courses On-Campus

Occasionally, students may request remote learning as a disability-related accommodation. The information provided here is intended to help guide consideration of such requests.

Work the Problem

When there is a request for remote learning in a course that is otherwise offered on campus, it might be tempting to quickly respond with: "no that's not possible." However, responding too quickly may not fulfill our procedural duty to accommodate. That is to say, before concluding that an accommodation is impossible, we need to carefully consider the problems it might present and ensure we've exhausted all possible remedies.

It is best to have a conversation that starts with: “what would it take to make this happen?” If you have specific concerns, please discuss them with SAS as we might know of solutions that have worked in other courses or departments.

Bona Fide Academic Requirements

There may be some academic requirements that can only be fulfilled on campus - below are a few examples. It is important that these activities be connected to learning outcomes that are “indispensable” (connected to the very essence of the course).

  1. Making use of lab equipment or supplies 
  2. Ensuring health and safety during hands-on learning 
  3. Developing critical professional skills associated with interacting with people, animals or equipment, or a performance of an artistic work 
  4. Playing a role in facilitating group discussion when the rest of the group members are largely together in person 
  5. Observing and measuring a phenomenon, such as what is common in research 
  6. Exploring an environment or location as a part of academic inquiry 
  7. Discussing highly sensitive personal information  
  8. A dynamic learning process of being observed, receiving feedback, and making changes in the moment

Workload Issues

Instructors share the responsibility for providing accessible teaching and learning. Sometimes this means making choices or doing things in a more accessible way, and other times it involves asking for help. The following serve merely as examples:

Low effort: turning on a computer and/or opening a platform such as MS Teams or Zoom.

Moderate effort: learning how to use an unfamiliar software program (tasks that require technical expertise or assistance).

Significant effort: lengthy editing of automatically generated transcripts that takes hours to complete.

For low effort tasks, instructors may need assistance with learning what they need to do. For moderate and significant effort tasks, additional support services may be required – SAS can help with identifying the appropriate service provider.

It is important to distinguish between (a) providing access to content that taught in-class, and (b) recreating the teaching and learning experience in an alternate format (e.g. online). While it may be possible to provide remote access, instructors may not be able to redesign their teaching and learning methods, particularly without significant lead-time before the semester begins. 

Figuring out Costs

  1. What personnel would be required? 
    1. Do they need to be a subject matter expert or have specialized safety training (e.g. a TA)? 
    2. Would a peer helper or educational assistant be sufficient – someone who provides practical one-on-one assistance to the student?
    3. How many hours of work are needed and what would be the hourly rate?
    4. Can SAS assist the student with accessing the Bursary for Students with Disabilities (BSWD) to help cover costs?
    5. Is there someone available who could provide the required assistance and who requires relatively little on-going support?
  2. Is specialized equipment or a different venue required?
  3. Is there a low-cost alternative?

Intellectual property

While instructors have a right to protect their intellectual property, this must be done while also providing accessible course content. Below are a couple of considerations for deciding how this might be achieved.

  1. Recordings offer maximum flexibility and accessibility. Consider providing access through a password protected area, such as by setting up a group on Teams.
  2. If there are concerns about recording, consider whether a student can participate in a live stream of the class. The risk of recording and redistributing content is then no different than for any student in the class.
  3. Upon request from the instructor, SAS can ask students to sign an agreement acknowledging that lecture content is not to be redistributed.

Alternate solutions

  1. Course substitutions might be a viable solution if the student is amenable. However, if a student is committed to learning the content of a specific course, we are obligated to consider accommodations.
  2. Deferring a course to a subsequent semester can be helpful when more time is needed to work out an accommodation plan, or when the student’s ability to access campus is expected to change. This might not be such a great option if the student is close to graduating or if the delay will slow the student’s progress through their degree.
  3. Sometimes there is an equivalent course in a DE format at another institution. In such cases Students might consider taking the alternate course on a “letter of permission.” This process is usually facilitated by the student’s program counsellor.
  4. Avoid telling a student they should transfer to a different institution. If there is an equivalent program offered elsewhere in a DE format, you may wish to discuss this with the student’s SAS advisor. Sometimes this is a good solution, and sometimes not.

Appeals

We are obligated to tell students about how to make an appeal when consensus cannot be reached. Additional details can be found in the policy and procedures approved by Senate. In principle, appeals are made to the department chair (undergrads) or graduate program coordinator, then to the Dean or their designate.

Technical Resources

As always, classroom technical support is available by contacting cts@uoguelph.ca or calling extension 52778.