The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated how students and communities have experienced (further) marginalization with a pivot to primarily remote or hybrid learning. However, virtual learning platforms and technologies also provide new opportunities for students to learn and contribute within inclusive and equitable spaces. At the same time, driven by social justice crises around the world and driven by a shared commitment to decolonizing and anti-racist pedagogies, many instructors and academic units have been working to decolonize their curriculum. This work has often focused on reviewing course materials and learning outcomes; however, we need to move beyond simply decolonizing syllabi primarily in terms of content. Throughout the pandemic, the students who usually would have “gotten by” really struggled to keep up. Accommodations usually provided to students presenting disability documentation are often designed on a case-by-case basis, but some accommodations can and should be designed into our courses. Most students who needed help over the past two years did not have documented disabilities. Registering disabilities with a university comes with added barriers that are often greater for 1st generation, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, economically disadvantaged, and nontraditional students. As we moved forward, I would argue that we must innovate with and apply pedagogies and digital technologies to make “accommodations” that are explicitly meant to benefit everyone. As we redesign our old courses and develop new ones, we must take what we have learned over the past two years to breakdown the visible and invisible barriers to learning. Some suggested avenues discussed include providing content in multiple formats, incorporating some of the central principles of the Universal Design for Learning, making the learning process more transparent using strategies to make explicit what steps are needed to succeed, providing opportunities for students to help create course content, and offering multiple modes of accomplishing course goals.
Heather Worne is an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY. More specifically, she is a bioarchaeologist whose research concerns the interaction between human health and the natural and social environment. The courses she teaches include large lecture introductory courses with a laboratory component, and upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses such as Human Skeletal Anthropology, Forensic Anthropology, and Bioarchaeology.