Boston University (BU) was one of many colleges and universities worldwide that decided to shift to an online teaching and learning environment to combat the spread of COVID-19 on campus last month. The decision was difficult but necessary for both staff and students. Robert A. Brown, University president, said in an interview with BU Today that “The hardest decision was when we moved the classes online. It was tearing down the fabric of this in-person residential education.” In that same interview, Brown also stated that the decision for remote learning has extended through the summer semester and may remain in place through the fall semester as well. With so much uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, many higher education institutions have been grappling with the difficulties associated with remote learning and the need to deliver accessibility to students with disabilities.
BU, however, was prepared before the transition to provide remote learning and accessibility. Lorre Wolf, director of Disability and Access Services at BU, said that “We already had a workflow for delivering accommodations remotely through our efforts with distance education and other such programs we already support.” Through the use of Symplicity Accommodate, BU staff have been able to continue communication with students and fulfill accommodation requests. Wolf also noted that “all of our students who already had accommodations can expect to receive the same accommodation as appropriate for an online environment.” Symplicity Accommodate, as a result, contributed to a smooth transition for students when the campus closed.
“Accommodate has been crucial for supporting accessibility at Boston University and as our numbers rise from this pandemic, and they surely will, the reporting will be invaluable to see how this impacted our students.”
Associate Director of Disability & Access Services,
Having a completely remote learning environment, however, still came with a set of challenges for the BU staff. Katherine Robiadek, a faculty member for the College of Arts and Sciences’ Core Curriculum, was concerned about ensuring students received the resources they need to be successful. “Sometimes students will approach me and divulge a need for accommodation, and then the process is to follow up with a form that’s provided through the university,” Robiadek said, “I realize on the student’s end, there might be technical issues in terms of reaching out and going through the processes because of distance.” Despite the challenges that come with remote learning, BU staff are quickly adapting to ensure the delivery of accommodations for students to help them succeed.
For Stacey Harris, Associate Director of Disability & Access Services at BU, Symplicity Accommodate plays a huge role in her and her team’s ability to approve accommodation requests online, ensure fast and cohesive communication between colleagues, and easily track accessibility resources. “I have been thinking often about where we would be if we had not gone paperless. Accommodate has literally been the boat that has kept us afloat in the storm. Although we can’t pop into one another’s offices to chat about a student, we can easily view each other’s notes and comments on a case. Our workflow has not been interrupted, as it surely would have been. Students who are having a rough time transitioning to the remote learning world; have at least found a seamless transition in our processes,” said Harris, “Their portal is the same as it always was. They can go in as they always have and make a semester request or download faculty letters, even from their phones. It’s a silver lining in the chaos. Accommodate has been crucial for supporting accessibility at Boston University and as our numbers rise from this pandemic, and they surely will, the reporting will invaluable to see how this has impacted our students.”