We recently hosted a Community Talks series webinar in which we discussed education equity with three higher ed students. What we heard was fascinating. It was a raw look at how technology is changing the educational experiences of these students. We heard firsthand how education equity is progressing in higher education.
Rochelle Bowyer, a University of Washington undergraduate, shared her perspective that her school has made an about-face on education equity since the pandemic began. For students with disabilities seeking academic accommodations, she says:
“Once we went online [during the pandemic], a lot of students reflected that it was a lot easier to obtain their accommodations….It was a wake up call for me. I had the feeling that the school always had the chance to be this accessible, and why wasn’t it accessible until everyone needed it? So it kind of felt like, until it benefited the greater good, no one really cared about accessibility. So it’s kind of this stark feeling of we were told that these things weren’t possible, but in reality I guess it just needed a global pandemic to set a lot of these things in motion.”
Denise Lewis, a PhD student at The College of William and Mary, describes the challenges she faced when getting her masters, holding down a job, and raising three teenagers simultaneously. Having recorded classes and offline materials available on-demand was crucial for her. “Providing flexibility in learning options, in learning tools, is the key to not only attracting, but retaining adult learners.”
Sam Vido, an undergraduate at The College of William and Mary, showed off the camera and giant tripod that he set up in front of a large (real!) chalkboard and the professor in his linear algebra class in order to make the course hybrid. Sitting in the front of the class while broadcasting on Zoom and recording in Panopto, Sam helped a remote student with a medical condition who couldn’t attend classes. Describing his own experiences with a disability, which caused him to frequently miss classes, Sam said, “Recording lectures and having that option of going back and watching things later has really been a game changer in the education world for me.”
The new table-stakes for equity in higher education now include the ability to watch classes anytime and anywhere, read and search class transcripts, slow down and fast forward recording playback, and watch the class again.