By Trevor Brandon-Harris
UC DAVIS – Citing the “historic educational barriers” faced by students during the coronavirus pandemic, the UC Davis undergraduate and graduate student governments have asked the Academic Senate to require that all online classes be made available asynchronously.
In a letter addressed to the Academic Senate and campus leadership that was provided to the Vanguard on Monday, the presidents and vice presidents of ASUCD and the Graduate Student Association commended the Academic Senate for extending Spring quarter’s emergency policies that relaxed rules around Pass/No Pass grading and other aspects of enrollment but argued that these changes “do not adequately address” many challenges faced by UC Davis students.
The student leaders asked the Senate, which is the campus’s faculty government and principal academic policy-making body, to go further by mandating that instructors for remote courses not require attendance to lectures or discussions at any specific time and that professors provide a window of at least 24 hours for students to complete exams and quizzes.
“We recognize that many faculty members are already providing students the necessary accommodations, and we thank these faculty for their leadership,” says the letter. “However, all faculty must be mandated to take such leadership.”
The student leaders argued that such a move is necessary because of challenges related to remote learning and students’ changing circumstances due to the pandemic, arguing that COVID-19 is “exacerbating educational barriers that disproportionately affect low-income, nontraditional, and minoritized communities.”
In particular, the letter noted that students may face challenges participating in online classes due to a lack of access to reliable internet. It also pointed out that many learners, including international students, working students and students with dependents, may be unable to attend courses synchronously.
The practice of requiring attendance for remote courses was common in Spring quarter. According to a September report by the Office of Undergraduate Education’s Center for Educational Effectiveness, 49 percent of surveyed instructors and TAs taught at least one course with required synchronous meetings, while 43 percent taught a course with optional synchronous meetings and less than 20 percent taught an entirely asynchronous course.
Members of the university’s academic leadership have also expressed concerns about equity in remote learning. In a July letter to faculty and graduate students, Provost Mary Croughan and Academic Senate Chair Kristin H. Lagattuta asked faculty teaching remote courses to “be mindful of the varied circumstances” that their students may face, and encouraged them to record live lectures and discussion sections and to implement flexible testing methods “as appropriate.”
The university also encourages remote course instructors to consider their students’ responses to its Technology Access and Services Survey in planning their courses. As of Thursday, just over 41 percent of undergraduate students have responded to the survey for Fall quarter. 5.2 percent of respondents have indicated that they have no way to participate in virtual meetings with audio or video, and 7.3 percent say that they reside in a different time zone from the university.
UC Davis students can take the Technology Access and Services Survey here in order to inform their instructors and other staff of any challenges that may arise during Fall quarter.
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