Using online strategies to address absences and support accessibility

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Instructors are advised to incorporate blended strategies into their in-person courses to address absences and support accessibility.

Online strategies can help instructors to:

  • Increase access to course materials and assessments for students in cases where they are experiencing short term absences (e.g., due to illness)
  • Provide options for continuity of instruction where the instructor is not able to attend a class on campus (e.g., due to illness)
  • Enhance flexibility for students unable to attend class (e.g., International students, students with unexpected family responsibilities)  
  • Provide some certainty and security for students (and instructors) knowing that they will have continuity of access to course materials and their assessments

Increasing flexibility and accessibility in three steps

There are many ways to integrate elements into your in-person course and the most appropriate strategies for your course will vary depending on the course learning outcomes, context and content. 


1 - Start with the context

Every class is different. Consider the unique course context and the participants (learners and instructors) when deciding how to address absences and support accessibility. 


2 - Focus on essential course elements

Review course-level learning outcomes and identify those elements that are critical and essential. It’s important to focus directly on the essential outcomes and provide flexibility and accessibility to support students to achieve these outcomes.  


3 - Evaluate options

Consider the different options for maximizing flexibility and accessibility, including lecture and content presentation, assessment, class discussions, and communication and community building.

Explore strategies by activity


Communication & Community Building

Strategy Format UVic Tool How-to
Post a well-designed syllabus that clearly outlines expectations and accessibility options Asynchronous
Weekly announcements and news updates Asynchronous
Video introduction & course site orientation Asynchronous
Virtual office hours Synchronous
Q&A forum where peers and instructor can respond to questions Asynchronous
Elicit student feedback through use of online white board Synchronous
Elicit student feedback through Midcourse feedback survey Asynchronous
Provide a “get to know you” survey at the start of term Asynchronous
Community agreement forum Synchronous

Lecture & Content Presentation

These strategies can be used to create flexible ways for students to access in-person course materials and content, such as class lectures.

 Strategy Format UVic Tool How-to
Online lecture / class meeting /  demonstration Synchronous
Post a lecture recording / video demonstration / video tutorial  Asynchronous
Run in-class polls for active learning  Synchronous

Add polls to videos for active learning    Asynchronous
Post materials  (readings, files, etc.)   Asynchronous
Post slidedeck/ PowerPoint in Brightspace Asynchronous


Assessments & Learning Activities

Consider what would be an effective strategy for any assessment components, to maintain their integrity, but also to support flexibility and student absences.

Strategy Format UVic Tool How-to
Online timed exams and assessments Synchronous
Online flexibility-timed exams and assessments Asynchronous
Assignment, Essay, or take home exam
Authentic and alternative forms of assessment (e.g., reflections, case studies, etc.)



  • Various
Address common accommodation assessment requirements  Synchronous
Student presentation or demonstration (online in real time) Synchronous
Student presentation or demonstration (recorded and posted) Asynchronous

E-portfolio Asynchronous
Self-reflection/journal Asynchronous


Class Discussions

Strategy Format UVic Tool How-to
Facilitate a live discussion online Synchronous
Post a discussion prompt and ask learners to respond before a designated date/time Asynchronous
Assign students to small groups to discuss an issue in real time  Synchronous
Provide a discussion prompt and ask small groups to consider and respond before a designated date/time Asynchronous

Group Work & Collaboration

Strategy Format UVic Tool How-to
Groups meet to collaborate during an online class Synchronous
Groups meet and work together asynchronously Asynchronous
Study groups/ learning pods Synchronous
Group sign-up sheet



  • Various

Experiential Learning

Strategies will be different for courses that include an experiential learning component (ie. lab, studio work, practica) than for more content focused courses that could be delivered in flexible formats. Some experiential learning components are challenging to simulate in the online environment. If you would like to consult further about this contact: Finally, consider what would be an effective strategy for any assessment components, to maintain their integrity, but also to provide maximum flexibility should they need to be delivered online.

Synchronous and asynchronous formats 

Depending on the learning outcomes, online activities can take place  synchronously or asynchronously.  Synchronous activities need to occur during the regularly scheduled class time as per the timetable.  Asynchronous activities provide students with flexible options to access the course (ie. different time zone) or to “catch up” in a course if they have been away for a period.

Below are some example “weeks”  where the in-person delivery of a class is supplemented with synchronous and asynchronous online elements.


Format 1

In this week, the in-person lecture is supplemented with online course activities that students complete independently or collaboratively

In-person Online002754
Mon Lecture & class discussion (1 hr)
Tues Asynchronous class activity/assessment (1 hr)
Wed Synchronous discussion (1 hr)
Fri Optional: office hour Optional: office hour

Format 2

In this week, there is an in-person lecture complimented by an online discussion or activity. 

In-person Online
Mon Lecture & class discussion (1.5 hr)


Wed Synchronous activity discussion (1.5 hr)

Fri Optional: office hour Optional: office hour

About this post

This post was last updated:

January 13, 2022

We acknowledge and respect the Lək̓ʷəŋən (Songhees and Esquimalt) Peoples on whose territory the university stands, and the Lək̓ʷəŋən and W̱SÁNEĆ Peoples whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day.

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