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Ideas. Insights. Inspiration.

Open Access

I was speaking with my students before my class officially began this week, and asked them if they preferred "in-person" or "online" classes.

As you might expect, the results were mixed. Some suggested they preferred"in-person" because they could make better connections with their classmates and instructors. Some said they loved online learning because it saved time and money versus having to commute to campus for class.

Most of their answers didn't surprise me; we talk about the same things when we ask ourselves if a post-pandemic return to the office would be welcomed or not.

But one student's answer really made me stop and think.

He said, "I really prefer online..."

"... because I can see everybody."

This student has a physical condition that confines him to a wheelchair and doesn't allow him to turn his head.

Most Schulich classrooms have a dedicated space for wheelchairs at the front of the class. But there, he would only see the instructor and whatever students might be in his direct line of sight and peripheral vision.

On Zoom, he gets to see everybody.

And of course, it's not difficult to imagine how much easier it is to attend an online class than it is to physically attend with a wheelchair.

As someone who moves about freely, I never considered the idea that online learning is more accessible and inclusive to those with mobility issues.

But of course, it is.

And despite how smart and well-intentioned I like to think I am, it still took someone with a different perspective in the room to help me realize that simple truth.

Diversity matters.

As organizations begin to develop post-pandemic "return-to-work" plans, I hope there's enough diversity in those rooms to consider options that benefit the greatest number of people.


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