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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI):
Considerations for Teaching, Learning and Supporting Students through COVID-19 and Beyond

Below are several considerations for creating classrooms that are inclusive of all learners and that helps students to feel welcome and supported, which enhances their learning. Some of these suggestions are specific to the Covid-19 situation, and most are good practices to adopt during any semester.


  • Check in to see how students are doing and what they are doing to take care of themselves. You do not have to be an expert on public health, but there is an opportunity to remind students about the importance of CDC recommendations  and RI Department of Health Guidelines like social (physical) distancing and the opportunity to build community in new ways right now and information in the RIC's COVID-19 Updates


  • Use the beginning of the semester to establish new norms and remind students of previous classroom norms. Establish group agreements as needed (examples Guide for Setting Ground Rules and Group Agreements for Workshops and Meetings) on how to support one another when learning online, especially as students’ needs vary greatly relative to learning online.
  • Help students think about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in an online learning setting by using TEDTalks, short videos, articles  or websites about diversity, equity, and inclusion (Example: Understanding Blind Spots). Remind students that DEI is an important foundation of classroom learning.
  • Provide a way for students to communicate their correct pronoun to you that is reflective of their identity.  Provide students a way to communicate to you if they want to you to know their correct name and/or pronoun. Faculty and Staff are often in positions of power, so by respecting one's pronoun consistently, you set an example for peers and other students. When someone is referred to by the wrong pronoun, it can make the person feel disrespected and alienated.
  • Utilize students’ requested names. A student may have requested the use of a different name (not yet a legal change) for a variety of circumstances including a difficult name pronunciation, using a middle name instead of first name, domestic or safety issue, student in transition, etc. A preferred/requested name will appear on class and grade rosters, RIC Campus ID, RIC email, student health records and diploma. The preferred name will not appear on official transcripts. (Note: Official documentation is not required for a change in preferred name with the Record’s Office.)
  • Ensure students know what to expect:
    • A Trauma-Informed Approach to Teaching through Coronavirus identifies establishing a routine and maintaining clear communication as crucial to navigating teaching and learning during COVID-19.
    • Publish your course schedule that outlines topics to be covered and assignment due dates so students can plan their workload accordingly
    • Provide students with information about how and when to get in touch with your outside of class time (e.g. office hours) and expectations for response time.
  • Create a collaborative classroom environment:
    • Transforming in-class or face-to-face pedagogy and classrooms online can be really challenging. Using this shared time of adjustment to collaborate with students can help make this experience more enriching and engage students more in their learning.
    • Cultivate opportunities to express vulnerability and transparency about the learning curve for both instructor and students.
    • Integrate space in class for students to connect (e.g. chat and check-ins). Finding ways to continue to foster relationships among students is integral during this time period.
    • Create the expectation that students can give transparent feedback about how they are doing in the course, and what might help their own success, adaptation and growth.
  • Consider how to be flexible whenever possible. Some examples include, but are not limited to:
    • Making class materials available in several formats (i.e. transcript of a lecture, video, etc.)
    • Considering the best use of synchronous and asynchronous options that allow students to participate on discussion boards and complete assignments within a time window, rather than having real-time requirements.
    • Providing flexible deadlines, when needed and a means for students to request an extension if they are dealing with an extenuating life circumstance and need to request an extension.
    • Having strategies and alternatives for dealing with technology barriers should they arise should they arise. For example, when submitting work or participating in discussions.
    • Considering assessment and grading strategies that meet learning objectives and standards for the course but allow for flexibility. For example, make-up assignments, extra credit assignments, using specifications grading.
    • Noting add unexpected extra work on top of what students already do, because it creates an added burden on them.
    • Reaching out to students who do not participate or hand in assignments. Referring students to the HOPE TEAM if you notice they suddenly stop attending class.  
    • Using resources for online courses such as an Equity Rubric .
  • Be aware and respectful of faith-based holidays:Work carefully with students in anticipating and resolving conflicts to their mutual satisfaction. No student or employee should ever have to choose between important religious observances and academic commitments. Provide students who wish to participate in religious observances that conflict with other obligations to make arrangements with you complete their course requirements. Resources on faith-based holidays and religious observances may be obtained from the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’s Mutlitfaith Calendar , Unity Center’s Interfaith Services, and the Office of Student Life’s information on Observance of Religious Holidays. The Academic Policies and Procedures Manual provides further information about attendance under 13.1. 
  • Be aware that students may have experienced racism and xenophobia during this time of COVID-19. Do not put Asian heritage, international students, and students of color in the position where they have to educate you or fellow students about this, but acknowledge this reality and offer compassion for anyone who has experienced this as a way to also set a boundary that this behavior will not be tolerated in an online learning environment. Find ways to talk about the #racismisavirus movement and how education and the helping professions play a role in challenging racism and xenophobia in times of a public health crisis. The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Unity Center and the Dialogue on Diversity and Inclusion (DDI) can provide information and resources that may be helpful.


“Given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents and caregivers are facing unprecedented challenges. With school and daycare closures, limited childcare access, and concerns about heightened risk, many of us in the RIC community--parents, siblings, extended family members, and other caregivers--may at times be required to care full time for children alongside our full-time work as Rhode Island College students, faculty, and staff.
Rhode Island College supports diversity in all forms, including diversity in parenting and caregiving status. In order to teach and learn together amidst this ongoing global crisis, we must center principles of accessibility and equity for all in our community. This statement seeks to foreground the complex responsibilities of RIC caregivers and normalize the following practices:

  • Presence of children during meetings and synchronous classes
  • Short breaks to manage caretaking responsibilities
  • Occasional interruptions by children during meetings and synchronous class sessions
  • Turning off video features when necessary 

Significantly, the above practices are to be expected in the context of the ongoing pandemic, and do not reflect poor planning or lack of care on the part of RIC parents and caregivers.”

  • Ensure accessibility -Students have many kinds of learning abilities and disability access needs, and many may have some concerns about an online learning format. See resources on the TEACHRemote website
    •  Disability Accommodations
        • Add a syllabus statement or post in your course about how students can request reasonable accommodations:

     Rhode Island College is required by law to ensure that students with documented disabilities are provided with the reasonable accommodations necessary to effectively address their individual educational needs.  Students seeking course accommodations for a disability must first register with the Disability Services Center (DSC) at 401-456-2776,  For more information, visit the Disability Services Center’s website

    • Students with disabilities requiring accommodations for face-to-face courses may require different accommodations for online learning. Familiarize yourself with information from the Disability Services Center
    • Save and upload all readings as readable or searchable PDFs as opposed to images. Students who may utilize read-aloud equipment or technology find images incompatible with their adaptive technology.
    • Check out Accessible Teaching in the Time of COVID-19 for tips on ensuring your online learning environment is accessible for a wide range of student needs.
  • Keep in mind student privacy.
    • Be aware of student privacy. FERPA laws are still in place, and specific COVID-19 FAQ released by the Department of Education . Guidance on FERPA and nonstudents observing virtual lessons and other topics is found in this presentation on FERPA and Virtual Learning During COVID-19 . To help maintain student privacy we encourage you to use tools that are supported by RIC’s central authentication systems.
    • Faculty and students may not be familiar with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements regarding the use of an auxiliary or personal aid in their classrooms. Most often, questions arise when a student uses an audio recorder and whether recording lectures is an infringement upon their own or other students' academic freedom, or constitutes copyright violation. The instructor may not forbid a student's use of an aid if that prohibition limits the student's participation in the school program. Faculty may request that students who have ADA course accommodation of recording lecture through the Disability Services Center, sign a confidentiality agreement and also stop recording portions of the course that contain personal sharing during non-lecture components. Contact the Disability Services Center for sample agreements which permit an eligible student with a disability the use of an effective classroom aid and, at the same time, protect the instructor, potential copyrights, and freedom of speech.

Employee Assistance Program

Office of Institutional Equity, Affirmative Action Title IX

Accommodations for Employees with Disabilities

For more DEI resources, please visit the Office of Institutional Equity’s Library of Resources.

Inspired by and Adapted from:
DEI Checklist for Mary Frances Early College of Education Faculty:
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Considerations for Teaching and Learning Through COVID-19

Page last updated: January 19, 2021