Teaching – Protection against discrimination in digital learning

As a lecturer, since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic you have been required to increasingly convert your teaching - courses, consultation, supervision and examinations - online under great time pressure and to implement it in a digital form. Many students experience the changed learning conditions as a challenge because they lack time resources, technical equipment or access to an undisturbed workplace. On the other hand, some students find asynchronous digital formats particularly helpful due to their time flexibility.

Our intention with this website is to support you with your digital teaching activities in such a way that all those involved can work together productively and with as little discrimination as possible. You can find more information on general conditions for digital teaching and questions regarding the pandemic in the sidebar.

General guidance for teaching

  • When designing and conducting teaching, including counselling, supervision and examination, take into account that the time, space, technical and emotional resources of students may be limited. If applicable, also make clear your own personal constraints.
  • Childcare hours in schools and daycare centres are not always reliable, particularly in the autumn and winter. Students with children are sometimes required to provide childcare and homeschooling parallel to their studies and have only limited time to spare.
  • Students who care for relatives must deal with the lack or absence of outpatient nursing services or caregivers at any moment.
  • Since the 2020 summer semester, many students have experienced financial difficulties due to the loss of side jobs, or there is a requirement for unpaid work in a family business.
  • For trans* students, the use of digital tools poses an additional risk of discrimination, as many tools commonly used at the University of Göttingen do not yet offer the possibility to participate in courses with self-chosen names.
  • Some students have experienced increased racial discrimination, e.g. racial profiling as a result of contact restriction measures.
  • Especially International students are particularly affected because delays in their studies and financial difficulties can have consequences in terms of residence law. In addition, they may be dealing with language barriers, lack of access to an undisturbed workplace in their residence or lack of local social support networks.
  • Some students with disabilities or chronic illnesses can benefit from digital teaching formats (e.g. time-independent usability), while for others this creates new barriers for attending courses or successfully completing studies and exams.

The use of online or digital formats may increase existing discrimination risks. Many risks can be minimized during the preparation of a course by good communication, arrangements and support as well as by dealing with the technology used. The following recommendations can help you to do this.


Make sure that students can participate in courses with as much time flexibility as possible (asynchronous formats). If you use real-time formats, make your lectures available as a recording to those students who were unable to attend. Please observe any regulations that are in effect at your faculty, in particular with respect to extended deadlines or extra time given to submit papers or examinations as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

A virtual course should ideally not be more time-consuming for students than the same course in attendance. As a lecturer, you should also put the additional work involved in preparation in proportion to the resources available to you. If possible, use tools and formats that require little training.

During the course of your curriculum planning, be sure to be aware of the latitude you have as an instructor, for example, with respect to dealing with disruptions or incidents of discrimination in virtual teaching.
You will find the appropriate contacts in your faculty, in the Department of University Didactics, in the Department of Public Relations and in the Equal Opportunities and Diversity Office. For legal questions, please contact the Department of Law and Foundation (Abteilung Wissenschaftsrecht und Trägerstiftung). If you have a serious incident, please report it to the Emergency and Fault Reporting Centre at 39-1171.
Here is a presentation by the Department of Law and Foundation (Abteilung Wissenschaftsrecht und Trägerstiftung) with a focus on face-to-face classroom teaching: (Scope and Application of Domestic Law (Geltungsbereich und Anwendung des Hausrechts) (in German).

Answers to legal questions with respect to personal rights in images and audio recordings or data protection in Zoom (for students and teachers) can be found on the webpage of the Digital Learning and Teaching team. Please also note the paper „Einsatz von Videoconferencing in der Lehre und bei Gremien (Use of Videoconferencing in Teaching and Workgroups)“ (pdf, 08.05.2020, in German).

At the beginning of the course, make students aware of their options for counselling and advice when dealing with discrimination (eg hate speech). Options for counselling based on specific target groups and specific topics can be found, for example, in the „Guide: Dealing with Discrimination at the University of Göttingen" (section: What can I do?) or on the „Coronavirus: Information A-Z for University Staff“ web pages (keyword: counselling centres).

Decide before the course which tools you want to use and what features they should have. If possible, deactivate unnecessary features. The more communication channels (audio, visual, text, etc) are available, the better students can participate according to their preferred learning methods. However, the possibility of misuse also increases with the number of communication channels, eg posting abusive messages in public or private chats; showing inappropriate images and symbols as avatars, as video backgrounds, on whiteboards or on shared screens; and making unauthorized recordings or screenshots.
With the number of communication channels, however, the risk that they may be misused increases, e.g. by posting abusive messages in public or private chats, showing inappropriate images and symbols in avatars, in video backgrounds, on whiteboards or on shared screens, and making unauthorized recordings or screenshots (see below).

It is worthwhile to consider the opportunities and risks offered by each tool in advance and to adapt it to your own needs and resources.
eLearning overview

Information on specific tools

Dealing with disruptions

Bear in mind that video conferences can affect the privacy of students. Therefore, to the best of your ability, ensure that digital rooms are as free of discrimination as possible. If you wish to participate with your camera and sound switched on, communicate the reason as to why you are doing this and why it is relevant to teaching.

Always make it clear which parts of a course are recorded and which are not. Recordings may only be made by teachers, and only if all of those who are recorded are informed about the recording and its use and have actively given their consent (this should be documented). This consent can be withdrawn at any time. Always proceed according to the principle of data minimization: Data that is not collected in the first place cannot be misused.

Detailed information and answers to legal questions with respect to personal rights in images and audio recordings or data protection in Zoom (for students and teachers) can be found on the webpage of the Digital Learning and Teaching team. Please also note the paper „Einsatz von Videoconferencing in der Lehre und bei Gremien (Use of Videoconferencing in Teaching and Workgroups)“ (pdf, 08.05.2020, in German).

You can create a Code of Conduct yourself or develop it together with the students. In it, you can document the preferences and expectations of all participants regarding the course and its general environment, how they want to communicate with each other, how they want to deal with conflicts and heated discussions, and what ground rules you want to set in your course for successful communication and protection against discrimination.

Respond as sensitively as possible to inquiries, requests and fears of students, especially in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, and show that you are open to inquiries. This can be done early on, eg on the learning platform page of the course or by email, for example, by using phrases such as “Please tell me what I, as an instructor, should know before the course.” Make sure to communicate that you will treat the information received confidentially or in which cases you will engage others such as superiors and colleagues for additional support.

At the beginning of the course, proactively point out the options of compensating for disadvantages to the entire class as early as possible. To this end, communicate your assignment and examination formats and methods and the performance requirements at an early stage (for more information: " Compensation of disadvantages application for examinations and examination prerequisite ").

Make sure that students can make full use of the opportunities available to them without being forced to explain their situation publicly.

In order to enable all students to participate in your course, offer alternative forms of participation, fulfilling course requirements and consulting hours within the possibilities as defined by the regulations of your faculty. Bring these options to their attention proactively. Design teaching materials (documents, records, web offers ) (all in German) as barrier-free as possible (see below).

Look for individual solutions for those students with disabilities who do not have access to (student) assistants or interpreters. It is precisely these students that are under obligation from their funding agencies to show continuous progress in their studies.

Available brochures and handbooks from the University of Göttingen:

Remember that not all students have an optimally equipped workspace at home. Bear in mind that students may not have the necessary technical infrastructure (internet connection, monitor, workstation, computational power, operating system, printer) and digital skills for certain tools and formats. Make sure that the tools used are as accessible as possible and do not require any special skills. Ask the Office of the Dean of Studies about possible solutions for missing tools.

Exchange experiences, questions, problems and suggested solutions with your University and other teachers and exchange your ideas. Make your need for clarification and requests for support visible to your superiors. Only in this way can changes be initiated beyond the individual level.

And finally: Have the courage to be imperfect!

Further reading: