Be Flexible

Be Flexible and Open

Faculty need to be somewhat flexible if they genuinely want to support all of our students. We do not always know what our students are going through, and that may be particularly true if we shift to teaching online and lose our ability to see them in our physical learning environments regularly. 

These suggestions are an essential aspect of equitable and inclusive teaching, in general, is recognizing and working with the diversity of our students, along with multiple dimensions. If you shift(ed) your course into a different modality, try to stay open to trying a few new things. You may find that one silver lining to this situation is that you discover new ways of teaching that are both better for your students and more enjoyable for you!

Flexible policies

  • The structure is essential (see the Be Transparent section), but so is flexibility, notably if the course shifted from face-to-face to virtual. 
  • Set deadlines for assignments in Canvas so that students can still submit/complete after the due date, though they will be marked as late. Similarly, students can even complete quizzes in Canvas after a deadline (and you can also make exceptions for individual students). Both of these suggestions, and more may be found in the setting up accommodations in Canvas guide.
  • Consider giving students one or two ‘free passes,’ particularly when you are first getting started with the virtual tools, and consider how much you want to dock them after that. 
  • Now is also an excellent time to review your syllabus and consider what needs changing to your grading weights and other course policies to accommodate the transition to a different course modality.
  • Recognize that students may not be in an environment where they feel comfortable having their webcam turned on for synchronous activities. Determine different ways to have students “check-in” or show active engagement.

Flexible activities

  • Give students a variety of ways to participate is an essential component of Universal Design for Learning. Consider alternative approaches that students can engage in your course. 
  • In addition to watching / listening to recorded lectures, you might have them respond to quiz questions, contribute to large and small discussions, write reflections, collaborate with classmates. Explore the options found on the Instructional Strategies pages and the Engaging Students Online page.

Flexible assignments

  • Think about alternative ways that students can show you what they have learned. To begin, read through the Remote Assessments page for ideas.


Inclusion in the Online Learning Environment, by the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) at Iowa State University is licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0. This work, Inclusion in the Online Learning Environment, is a derivative of Maintaining Equity and Inclusion in Virtual Learning Environments – Be Flexible developed by San Diego State University Diversity and Innovation (retrieved on May 13, 2020) from