Universities are reluctant to regulate for obvious reasons: Faculty tend to value independence on decisions, and classes and programs are too different to merit a one-size-fits all approach. Yet the lack of regulation is a problem on its own: it breeds inconsistency, and makes peer pressure worse. Going through the existing services for students with disabilities seems to be too cumbersome. Those procedures work for semester-long accommodations, but not for short-term, or one-time requests. Even regular doctors notes won’t work consistently.
To address the issue, we have been working on a set of guidelines and best practices. The fundamental assumption is that we should communicate three things to the student:
- It is a curtesy accommodation; you are not entitled to it. It comes at a cost to me and to other students in class, so please only request when you are truly desperate. “Gas is too expensive” does not qualify. And even then, I may not be able to grant it to you, sorry.
- Do not expect experience similar to being in class. We do not yet have technology to provide full participation for remote students in a f2f class. It is much more difficult than a regular online class, and you should appreciate the complexity.
- If I agree, find a zoom buddy in class who will do this for you: turn the laptop around, make sure your sound is good enough, ask questions on your behalf, etc. The instructor is too busy teaching to do this for you. And your zoom buddy should do all of that without disrupting the rest of the class.
We also started to collect the best practices for such remote participation. I am sure, in a few years, people will find better ways of supporting such requests. I hope some smart entrepreneurs are working on better tech solutions. In the meanwhile, we should try to live with the imperfect the best way can.