How to Address Inequities in Remote Learning (2023)

Remote learning under emergency conditions was a “just-in-time” learning experience for both educators and students. Educators and students everywhere “did their best” under pandemic conditions, navigating challenges, and conducting a global experiment in learning, having transitioned with minimal time to plan and prepare. Joseph Luft, the executive director of the Internationals Network for Public School may sum up this emergency best: “I’m not looking for miracles; I’m just looking for people working to keep kids connected to school.”

So, let’s take a moment to take a breath.

As we wind down from the term and look forward, it’s also helpful to look back, even if the past term was pockmarked with more challenges than successes. Because it’s helpful to do a “learning review” (also known as an “after-action-review” or the more macabre-named “postmortem”) with the purpose of improving on a global experiment.

(Video) Can we fix the inequities exacerbated by remote learning?

Learning reviews examine the following:

  • How the process or system might have fallen short
  • How the process and system can be improved to minimize the impact of shortcomings, going forward

In this learning review, we will focus on how remote learning fell short with regard to the digital divide and what we can do to improve in subsequent terms.

Remote learning exacerbated inequities in education, which existed well before the Spring of 2020. In 2012, The Atlantic article entitled “The Decline of the ‘Great Equalizer,’” Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville stated, “Income depends on educational achievement, and the single best predictor of a child’s likelihood of academic success remains in turn the socio-economic status of his or her mother.”

(Video) How To Address Student Inequities with SEL

The above inequities continue in remote learning. Teen Vogue’s “Distance Learning During Coronavirus Worsens Race, Class Inequality in Education” says that according to UC Berkeley education professor Tolani Britton, “The use of distance learning assumes a lot about students’ access to computers, reliable internet connection, space to work at home and parents’ ability to help students with work.” Statistics have determined that this access is sorely lacking, showing big remote learning gaps for low-income and special needs students.

What do some of these inequities look like?

  • Financial instability resulted in students having to prioritize work over school. Impacts include chronic absenteeism. According to The New York Times, “With the vast majority of the nation’s school buildings closed and lessons being conducted remotely, more students than ever are missing class--not logging on, not checking or not completing assignments,” and many students drop out of school completely, unavailable by phone, email, or other forms of communication.
  • Lack of access to computers or a reliable internet connection contributed to chronic absenteeism and decreased learning. “Some teachers report that fewer than half of their students are regularly participating,” perThe New York Times, contrasting reports from selective and affluent schools where “close to 100 percent of students are participating in online learning.” A 2017 report from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration says that 7 million children do not have home internet service. These same children become students in higher education, who when they return home, do not have access, either.
  • Homeless students who relied on residential programs found themselves with nowhere to go and very few or no resources to connect to remote learning. Dormitories shut down during the pandemic, and along with it, shelter and wellbeing, let alone internet connectivity.
  • Support for English-learners students decreased. Remote learning may have shut out millions of English learners. According to EdWeek, “Teachers who work with English-language learners are more apt to use general digital resources rather than tools designed specifically for English-learners and that English-learner educators reported fewer hours of professional development with digital learning resources than did mainstream teachers,” suggesting that remote learning and school closures may have a huge impact on students with limited understanding of English and thus a limited ability to work independently. Additionally, English-learners who don’t speak one of the major languages may receive less support, as distance learning is likely conducted with English or Spanish, unless the student population dictates otherwise.
  • The needs of students with disabilities were largely ignored in the abrupt transition to remote learning. According to Inside Higher Education, “Students who are deaf or hard of hearing, have low vision or are blind, those with learning disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or a physical disability that requires use of a computer keyboard instead of a mouse, students with mental illnesses or various other challenges, have been put on the backburner ‘en masse,’ as instructors scrambled to transfer two months’ worth of teaching content to a digital format.”
  • Remote learning limited culturally-relevant modes of communication. Research has shown that students from oral-based narrative traditions may not readily ask questions in writing and even if they spoke up in class before, within the context of videoconferencing, be discouraged to engage. Anokye states that “research supports the belief that orality, for instance, is the fundamental mode of expression in the African American community. Nowhere is it better demonstrated than in the oral narrative style. The storytelling tradition is strong among African Americans and abstract observations about life, love, and people are rendered in the form of concrete narrative sequence which may seem to meander from the point and take on episodic frames. This is a linguistic style which causes problems with American mainstream speakers who want to get to the point and be direct.” In the realm of remote learning, video conference discussions may not make space for such expansive and episodic journeys. Furthermore, many questions are taken in written format, whether via chat or by email, which may fly in the face of this cultural context.

If education, as stated by Horace Mann, is “the equalizer of the conditions of men,” then remote learning cannot further the rift between the haves and the have nots. Access must be upheld for all.

(Video) Equity in A Remote Learning Environment

In order to address these gaps, we can--and should--enact culturally responsive pedagogy and actions. As Matthew Lynch states in Huffington Post:

“Culturally responsive pedagogy is a student-centered approach to teaching in which the students’ unique cultural strengths are identified and nurtured to promote student achievement and a sense of well-being about the student’s cultural place in the world.”

So, what are some ways to address and bridge inequalities in remote learning under the umbrella of culturally responsive pedagogy?

(Video) Strategies in Addressing ICT Inequality in Remote Learning: The Community-Based Academic Network

  • Support English learners. Now more than ever, uphold their culture of origin and perhaps center assignments around their expertise and knowledge, knowing the end goal is language procurement as opposed to learning new subject matter. Include end goals for each assignment--and in a videoconference, proactively double check your language usage. In-classroom instruction affords more feedback from students through body language; this may be absent in videoconferencing. More tips can be found at EdWeek.
  • Allow your class discussions to meander--every student learns in their own specific way, and consider the journeys a mind must make to reach meaningful conclusions about concepts. In a video conferencing platform, this may be more challenging to facilitate, but consider allowing students to discuss topics at will.
  • Digital technology is helpful but it is new to many. Companies are donating laptops and wi-fi connections to mitigate inequity around access. Keep in mind that students are learning new technologies and may need support in the form of training and extra time and understanding. There may be a double-learning-curve for students unfamiliar with technology and digital access, so configure your syllabus and curriculum accordingly, affording time for onboarding and allowing for alternative modes of instruction, such as printed packets.
  • Be inclusive with technology. Learning materials ought to be compatible with screen readers to benefit visually impaired learners and those with learning disabilities.
  • Anne Milne, in a June 2020 Education Central article, advocates upholding online cultural sustainability and nurturing personal relationships online. In addition to asking educators to audit their online spaces to be centered on student needs, she asks educators to consider asking, “How is your virtual space connected--not just to the internet, but with learners’ lives and realities, across subject areas, with the community, and with students’ identities?"
  • Survey your students to understand their interests. Consider building a reading list that centers their interests and offering a culturally-relevant reading list. Such student-centered actions build personal trust between instructors and students and have lasting impacts on learning and intrinsic motivation, which can be hard to nurture in remote learning.
  • Create multiple points of feedback for students. KQED Mindshift reports that in San Leandro, California, “At all grade levels, high-quality feedback makes a difference in student learning Continuing to give that feedback is one of [Joe] Feldman’s recommendations for grading during COVID19. Focusing on that, rather than on the pressure that is often associated with grades, he said, sends the message that teachers care about what’s happening in students’ lives.” Maintaining feedback loops is critical in remote learning, where most teacher-student interaction can take place.
  • Gather data on student learning to check for understanding and provide formative feedback, through item analysis and one on one interactions with students, whether in written student-to-teacher emails or in face-to-face video-based office hours. Ensure multiple channels of communication so as to be inclusive of different styles of learning and communication. Some students will be more comfortable with written communication, while others may find it challenging to open up without face-to-face discussion.

Karen Strassler wrote in The New York Times, “Equality in the classroom is a fiction — it would be absurd to suggest otherwise. It’s painfully obvious that only some of my students benefited from strong high school educations. Others start college inadequately prepared in foundational reading and writing skills. Many are immigrants who struggle with academic English and miss the cultural references that would make our readings more readily accessible. Race, gender, class, sexuality, citizenship status and other factors shape who feels confident speaking up in class and who feels afraid of saying the wrong thing. When we pretend such inequities don’t exist, we allow them to persist unchallenged. But like other utopian dreams, the fiction of equality — cultivated by those generic rooms with their uniform chairs — also has its value.”

As educators, we are building a narrative and reaching towards equality. While equity may not exist today, we have a responsibility and ensuing choice to move towards equity, as individuals and as institutions, semester by semester, course by course, assignment by assignment, and student by student.


How can I make my online learning more equitable? ›

  1. Five Keys to Ensuring Student Equity in Online Learning. By Storie Walsh. ...
  2. The Right Technology Infrastructure. ...
  3. Time and Space to Learn Without Interruptions. ...
  4. Accessible Learning Content. ...
  5. Engaging and High-Quality Instruction. ...
  6. Comprehensive Student Support.
Mar 22, 2022

How do you address inequality in education? ›

Provide Books to Low-Income Families

One of the first ways that kids experience inequality in education is with their exposure to books in the early years of their lives. Scientific research has proven that reading to kids often when they are young is a great way to give them a head start in their education.

How do you overcome remote learning challenges? ›

Here are 5 effective strategies!

How would you overcome the barriers of online learning? ›

8 Ways to Overcome the Challenges of Distance Learning
  1. Apply for Independent Grants. ...
  2. Meet All Needs. ...
  3. Schedule Guest Appearances. ...
  4. Celebrate Success. ...
  5. Stay Connected. ...
  6. Find the Fun. ...
  7. Capitalize on Digital Tools. ...
  8. Collaborate.

How do you promote diversity in an online classroom? ›

To help promote cultural diversity in the online classroom, teachers should:
  1. Pay attention to the amount of material that appears on a page.
  2. Embed instructions and learning objectives throughout the online learning environment.
  3. Use captioned videos and images with alt text to describe images to the visually impaired.
Nov 24, 2020

How do you create an inclusive online learning environment? ›

Be Relational
  1. Continue to have opportunities for live, synchronous engagement.
  2. Talk to your students about what is happening.
  3. Build/maintain community among students.
  4. Provide students with support and resources.

What is the best way to address inequality? ›

We must, for example, focus on up-skilling the workforce and removing barriers to higher labour force participation of women; thereby strengthening gender equality. The provision of public services such as education and health is also essential in reducing inequality.

What is the best solution for inequality? ›

Income inequality can be reduced directly by decreasing the incomes of the richest or by increasing the incomes of the poorest. Policies focusing on the latter include increasing employment or wages and transferring income.

What steps can be taken to reduce inequalities? ›


Adopt policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies, and progressively achieve greater equality.

What is the biggest problem with remote learning? ›

One of the first remote learning challenges that you might encounter is that remote learning can be expensive. Some online courses for adults require payment if you want full access to a course or certification. Specialized software and tools can also be costly and sometimes aren't provided as part of the course.

Why do students struggle with remote learning? ›

Some kids have trouble with online classes because they lack the structure that in-person school traditionally provides. Additionally, students who have issues with anxiety, attention, or learning challenges may struggle to adapt to the different expectations and format of online classes.

How do you motivate students in remote learning? ›

How to Motivate Learners in an Online Learning Environment
  1. Personalizing Learning.
  2. Rewarding Students' Success.
  3. Providing Meaningful Feedback.
  4. Allow Self-Monitoring.
  5. Setting Clear Goals and Learning Paths.
  6. Encouraging Collaboration with Others.
  7. Using a Variety of Learning Tools.
Jan 22, 2022

What are the 3 ways to overcome barriers? ›

Ways to Overcome Barriers
  • Get Feedback. To communicate more effectively and overcome objections, start by collecting information about the problem at hand. ...
  • Commit to Change. ...
  • Make Decisions. ...
  • Increase Your Productivity.

How do you help students overcome learning barriers? ›

Overcoming the barriers to learning
  1. Building positive relationships. ...
  2. Regular communication between teachers and parents. ...
  3. Encourage them to ask for help. ...
  4. Set realistic goals and targets throughout the school year. ...
  5. Create a safe and engaging environment. ...
  6. Deal with attention-seeking and disruptive behaviours.
Mar 11, 2022

What is your biggest barrier in effectively learning from home? ›

Barrier 1: Poor time management

Procrastination is a time-management trap that can lead to poor performances, late assignments, or worse. Instead of putting things off, try building a study/assignment schedule so that you maximize your time and hit your deadlines with ease. You'll thank yourself later!

How to use diversity equity and inclusion in online learning? ›

Eight ways to apply diversity, equity, and inclusion to online courses
  1. Use diverse and inclusive course content. ...
  2. Use multimedia with text alternatives. ...
  3. Use emotional intelligence. ...
  4. Provide different ways to participate. ...
  5. Allow accommodations. ...
  6. Provide practice exams. ...
  7. Use anonymous grading.

What is equity in online learning? ›

There are a lot of ways that online/hybrid teaching can enhance or hinder classroom equity. Equitable teaching means that the outcomes of our teaching are “fair and just” regardless of the differences that the students bring to the classroom.

How to make virtual learning environment safe and conducive? ›

Online education: Tips to create a conducive learning environment at home
  1. Dedicate an area for your child to study. ...
  2. Create an effective learning environment. ...
  3. Provide necessary tools for learning online. ...
  4. Ensure a good and stable internet connection. ...
  5. Remove distractions. ...
  6. Talk to your child about their experience.
Dec 16, 2021

How can a teacher ensure equality in instruction to all learning levels with remote learning? ›

7 Ways to Make Distance Learning More Equitable
  1. Check in with your students regularly. ...
  2. Help your students' families get connected. ...
  3. Choose tools that are mobile-friendly and/or can be used offline. ...
  4. Provide a balance of asynchronous and synchronous lessons. ...
  5. Double down on project-based learning.
Apr 9, 2020

What are 3 ways to solve inequalities? ›

When solving an inequality: • you can add the same quantity to each side • you can subtract the same quantity from each side • you can multiply or divide each side by the same positive quantity If you multiply or divide each side by a negative quantity, the inequality symbol must be reversed.

What is the negative side of remote learning? ›

By staying at home, they are missing out on recess, gym class, and after-school physical activities and sports. Even missing out on walking around between classes has negatively impacted overall activity levels. That lack of activity plus more snacking at home has led to weight gain and higher obesity rates.

Why do students thrive in remote learning? ›

A benefit of distance learning is that it allows students with ADD or ADHD to learn in the comfort of their own home with fewer distractions and with parents who perhaps know how to keep their children on task better than a teacher can accomplish with 30 other kids in the classroom.

What is a negative of remote learning? ›

In their newest findings, they share that families reported a rise in temper tantrums, anxiety, and a poor ability to manage emotions, especially among the young elementary-aged children during remote learning.

What is challenging about remote learning? ›

According to Statista, 38% of parents said that one of the major challenges of remote learning is that their children lack the motivation to pay attention and engage during classes. In another study done by Pew Research, 65% of students preferred in-person classes to remote or hybrid learning options.

What is the biggest challenge faced by students today? ›

Some of the most common areas where students face challenges include:
  • Academics.
  • Accessibility.
  • Finances.
  • Living environments.
  • Mental health and wellness.
  • Relationship difficulties.
Apr 26, 2023

What are the distractions of virtual learning? ›

Top distractions for students include social media, texting, television, and family, which can pull one's attention away from the task at hand and diminish productivity.

What are your top three ways you would motivate a virtual learner? ›

Motivate your student to complete schoolwork. Serve as a reward for work well done. Teach social interaction in a quality environment. Develop the student's maturity.

What are the remote teaching strategies? ›

Teaching Strategies for the Remote Classroom
  • Establish your presence right away. Welcome your students to the learning community. ...
  • Be available. ...
  • Use online resources. ...
  • Don't lecture. ...
  • Make your assignments clear. ...
  • Provide ongoing feedback.

How to gain students attention in classroom remote learning? ›

  1. Read. Read one or more article.
  2. Watch. Watch one or more video.
  3. Listen. Listen to one of more recording/podcast.
  4. Reflect. Reflect on the following question.

What are the 5 ways on how do you overcome communication barriers? ›

Barriers to communication can be overcome by:
  • checking whether it is a good time and place to communicate with the person.
  • being clear and using language that the person understands.
  • communicating one thing at a time.
  • respecting a person's desire to not communicate.
  • checking that the person has understood you correctly.

What are the 5 major barriers? ›

Definition of Barriers

There are five key barriers that can occur within a company: language, cultural diversity, gender differences, status differences and physical separation.

How do you overcome internal barriers? ›

Overcoming Your Barriers
  1. Observe your current behavior that you want to change. Write down an example of when you acted this way. ...
  2. Analyze the origins of the behavior. ...
  3. Set an intention for changing the behavior. ...
  4. Practice the new behavior. ...
  5. Continue to repeat and refine the new behavior.
Jan 27, 2022

How should teachers support learners with barriers to learning? ›

Make learning participative. Encourage peer learning. Break tasks down into smaller steps that will incrementally build into the task objective. Use learners' own words, language, materials and personal context - be clear about activity purpose and how it relates to the skills needs of the learner.

How can teachers help students with learning barriers? ›

6 Ways of Helping Students With Overcoming Learning Barriers
  • Begin With Believing. This is perhaps the simplest and most obvious way to start. ...
  • Provide Context and Relevance. ...
  • Debrief and Assess Constantly. ...
  • Use Enabling Language. ...
  • Provide and Model Opportunities. ...
  • Guide and Step Aside.
Apr 24, 2019

What are the common barriers in a virtual classroom? ›

Common Obstacles Students Face in a Virtual Classroom and How to Manage Them
  • Lack of Access to Technology. The rise of virtual learning has added new items to students' school supply lists. ...
  • Difficulty Learning to Use New Technology. ...
  • Difficulty Concentrating. ...
  • Difficulty Managing Time. ...
  • Isolation.
Sep 15, 2020

What are the three greatest barriers to success for students? ›

Students cite faculty teaching styles, overly difficult coursework and balancing schoolwork and other obligations as the top three barriers to their academic success, according to Inside Higher Ed's first Student Voice survey of 2023.

What are the factors affecting online learning? ›

Apart from the effective use of technology, other factors such as the availability of suitable facilities, infrastructure and the financial state of the students also play an important role in online learning (Rusli et al., 2020; Laksana, 2021).

How can we make education more equitable? ›

Seven effective ways to promote equity in the classroom
  1. Reflect on your own beliefs. ...
  2. Reduce race and gender barriers to learning. ...
  3. Don't ask students of color to be “experts” on their race. ...
  4. Diversify your curriculum. ...
  5. Hold every student to high expectations. ...
  6. Avoid assumptions about students' backgrounds.
Mar 19, 2020

How do you create a fair and equitable learning environment? ›

  1. Creating a Safe, Fair and Respectful Environment.
  2. Positive Teacher-Student Relationships.
  3. Clear and Consistent Expectations for Behavior.
  4. Routines and Rituals.
  5. Proactive Intervention of Problems in the Environment.

In what circumstances may online learning not be equitable? ›

If the participants' time online is limited by the amount of Internet access they can afford, then instruction and participation in the online program will not be equitable for all students in the course.

How do you promote diversity and inclusion in schools? ›

How can you Promote Diversity and Multiculturalism in the Classroom?
  1. Get to Know Your Students. ...
  2. Maintain Consistent Communication. ...
  3. Acknowledge and Respect Every Student. ...
  4. Practice Cultural Sensitivity. ...
  5. Incorporate Diversity in the Lesson Plan. ...
  6. Give Students Freedom and Flexibility.

What are the key components of equity in education? ›

  • Establish a Justice-Oriented Base.
  • Identify Biases within Yourself and Society as a Whole.
  • Broaden Accessibility For Students and Their Families.
  • Bring Comprehensive Culture Into the Classroom.
  • Institute an Asset-Based Approach to Learning and Problem Solving.

What does it mean to create equitable learning opportunities? ›

Simply put, equitable learning means providing access to educational resources to all students. This can range from textbooks to assistance from academics. Under equitable learning programs, students can get the structure and help that they need, ensuring that they have the same opportunities as their peers to succeed.

How can you center equity and inclusion in your online course? ›

Eight ways to apply diversity, equity, and inclusion to online courses
  1. Use diverse and inclusive course content. ...
  2. Use multimedia with text alternatives. ...
  3. Use emotional intelligence. ...
  4. Provide different ways to participate. ...
  5. Allow accommodations. ...
  6. Provide practice exams. ...
  7. Use anonymous grading.

What does equity mean and how are their inequities in education? ›

It means making sure that personal and social circumstances are not obstacles to achieving educational potential. It prohibits discrimination based on gender, ethnic origin, or socioeconomic status.

How can we fix education inequality? ›

Stop the expansion of charter and private schools as it is not affordable for all students and creates segregation. Deprioritize test based funding because it discriminates against disadvantaged students. Support teachers financially, as in offering higher salaries and benefits for teachers to improve retention.

What is an example of equity in education? ›

An example of equity in education can be found in teachers who are able to adapt their teaching style to match a student's learning capabilities. Some students thrive as auditory learners, who process information out loud and ask questions as needed.

How do you create a positive inclusive learning environment? ›

Tips for Making Classrooms More Inclusive as Students Head Back To School
  1. Use inclusive language on all forms. ...
  2. Stock your library shelves with diverse books. ...
  3. Create a welcoming bulletin board. ...
  4. Develop clear classroom and/or school agreements. ...
  5. Prepare for teachable moments. ...
  6. Model inclusive language.
Aug 24, 2018

Why do some students struggle with online learning? ›

Some kids have trouble with online classes because they lack the structure that in-person school traditionally provides. Additionally, students who have issues with anxiety, attention, or learning challenges may struggle to adapt to the different expectations and format of online classes.

What are ethical issues in online classroom? ›

The main ethical issues in online learning include:
  • The integrity of Online Academic Assessment. ...
  • Adoption of Wrong Narratives. ...
  • Resource Limitations. ...
  • Chances of Missed Deadlines. ...
  • Proctored and UnProctored Exams. ...
  • Digital Inequalities. ...
  • Conclusion.
Oct 20, 2022

What are the three disadvantages of online learning? ›

Disadvantages of Online Learning
  • Online Learning May Create a Sense of Isolation. Everyone learns in their own manner. ...
  • Online Learning Requires Self-Discipline. ...
  • Online Learning Requires Additional Training for Instructors. ...
  • Online Classes Are Prone to Technical Issues. ...
  • Online Learning means more screen-time.
Apr 1, 2023


1. ASU Remote Summit 2022: Strategies for reducing racial inequities using digital learning
(Every Learner Everywhere)
2. Jill Biden Shares Biggest COVID-19 Concerns and Addresses Remote Learning Inequalities | The View
(The View)
3. NJEA Executive Director on The Inequities in Remote Learning
(Steve Adubato)
4. Casio Education Webinar: Being An Upstander to Inequities in Mathematics Education
(CasioEducation US)
5. PLC Day 5: Make Remote Learning Engaging for Students by Focusing on Equity, SEL, and PBL
6. Remote Learning: Solving Inequalities
(Sarah Hanna)
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