Online Teaching Support
Remote Teaching at RISD: Statement of Values
This fall, we will return to a campus transformed by the realities of the global pandemic. All our classes during the fall and spring semesters will involve at least one week of online delivery, our curriculum will rely on blended delivery models that leverage both in-person and online components, and our in-person classes and activities will have to conform to public health guidelines. For many of us committed to RISD’s intimate, interactive, and immersive classrooms, the pivot to remote teaching necessitates a fundamental rethinking of our teaching values and methods. How do we translate the important interactions that foster learning in our in-person classrooms onto platforms that often raise concerns about the unraveling of the intimacies of teaching? How do we center values of equity and inclusion while using technologies that have long histories of reinforcing racial disparities? How do we prioritize student well-being at a time of global pandemic and political unrest?
To address these questions as we transition our curricula is no mean feat. Yet it is essential that we do so actively, collaboratively, and through the lens of a pedagogy of care that puts student well-being at the forefront of our practice by centering the following values:
Equity and Inclusion
The global pandemic has exacerbated the social inequities that marginalize and/or create much more challenging learning environments for some of our students. The sudden pivot to remote teaching this spring further exposed the impact of a range of such systemic inequities, from the increasing socio-economic disparities that undergird access to course materials, technology, and project supplies, to the ways in which race, gender, and ability, for example, shape the ways in which students can be ‘present’ in our classrooms, or experience the erosion of a sense of community. Our understanding of equity and inclusion, then, takes into account issues of access, ability, and accommodation, as well as considerations of race, gender, class, sexuality, nationality, citizenship, and more, as they connect, impact each other, and intersect. In our ongoing curricular redesign, we must rethink our pedagogies to engage these issues more fully or we risk failing our students.
- Building and sustaining an inclusive community, in particular creating classroom environments that are not antiblack, racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic, classist, ableist, or otherwise oppressive. (See the Center for SEI’s list of Resources, including an anti-racist reading list).
- Mitigating the increased potential for harm and miscommunication in socially distanced and online settings by collaboratively developing a code of conduct for online and in-class communication that clarifies expectations and responsibilities. (see, for example, our Classroom Statement, and RISD’s Code of Conduct for Remote Learning).
- A dynamic understanding of access and ability; that reflects an awareness of Disability Studies frameworks (see: Ohio State: Sustaining Inclusivity and Accessibility, and RISD’s Disability Support Services, Remote Instruction Accessibility Tips).
- Acknowledging the impact of the current political and social environment. Everything is not fine and acting like it is will only make things worse, especially for students who are experiencing that “not fine” in ways many of their teachers may not be. (See, for example, the University of California’s Acknowledging the Current Racial Crisis in the Classroom)
Active teaching and learning
An effective pedagogy, as much online as in person, requires planning for the important interactions that foster learning: all the ways that faculty and students communicate, interact with, and learn from one another; all the ways that we learn and critically engage through physical manipulation of materials; all the somatic, tactile, auditory, etc. dimensions of the experience of learning. In our curricular planning, we must address concerns about the unravelling of the intimacies of teaching, the delimiting of relationship building and mentoring, and an increase in faculty and student isolation in remote teaching and learning.
- Motivation and engagement of students and faculty, of you, me, us. (See this recent article on the challenges of online engagement).
- Cultivation of collaborative learning models and pedagogical practices constructed by all participants.
- Fostering embodied awareness in the ‘classroom’ and acknowledging stressors and anxieties.
- Intentionally adapt your teaching to online platforms so as to prioritize student learning and well-being.
Critical engagement with remote platforms and technologies
An understanding of the digital technologies central to much art and design practice and the development and presentation of ideas is essential in today's world. As we cultivate this understanding, we must also critically engage the complex histories of these technologies in terms of their role as mechanisms of surveillance capitalism. Despite long-term design efforts to make them appear like open spaces of productive connection, the software and tools we use are far from neutral and deeply political in nature. Their use to track, trace, and extract data across race, sexuality, class, and gender – with impacts on a vast range of issues, from loan eligibility, to job advancement and criminal profiling – replicates and reinforces systemic inequities, occlusions, and erasures. Our students, often struggling with smartphone addiction or violations of privacy, are directly impacted and scarred by these technologies. As we further embed the use of these platforms and technologies in our classrooms and pedagogies next year, we must also cultivate related critical and contextualized understandings while centering human interaction and experience.
- Think beyond the tools that create the illusion of business-as-usual face-to-face instruction (and how to use them) and address the various conceptual challenges we face
- Contextualize such tools within their historical and cultural frameworks
- Humanize our interactions with such tools, by establishing clear ground-rules for use, and creating plenty of opportunity for discussion of student experience and concerns