Remote Learning Exceptions at PLNU

The university hosted Town Hall meetings and communications to inform students and families about the return to in-person learning for Fall 2021.

As Point Loma Nazarene University planned for this return, the university instituted a process for remote learning requests based on either short-term or long-term disabilities as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Accommodations are considered based on the medical restrictions documented by a licensed medical and/or mental health providers. 

The documentation must include a statement regarding the nature and the severity of the condition, how the condition impacts one or more daily life functions and the specific restriction based on the condition. Because two students with the same condition may have very different needs, all cases are considered individually and specifically for that individual.

After the EAC has reviewed the provider documentation and a remote learning exception is warranted, faculty and the student are notified. Approval is valid for one semester and professors have a menu of ways they could accommodate remote learning. For example, they may want the student to attend via Zoom synchronously, or watch recordings asynchronously, or another mutually agreed-upon alternative.

Not all courses are appropriate for remote learning because of the course content and learning outcomes. For example, many lab courses require students to manipulate compounds/tools in the lab environment. When this is the case, the EAC works with the Academic Unit Leaders to identify possible alternatives that maintain the integrity of the learning outcomes.

When a student has engaged in the process and their request for a remote learning exception is denied, it usually means that the student’s medical restrictions can be addressed with other accommodations that make educational access available. For example, a student with a disability that limits mobility could use campus transportation to/from classes and residence halls with assistance from the EAC. 

A student with an autoimmune condition might be accommodated by limiting contact with other students through independent study, frequent breaks from class, etc. Remote learning is approved when all other options for participation are exhausted. That is why it is listed as an “exception.” 

There is an appeal process students can access if they disagree with the EAC decision. Finally, some programs have stricter standards for some accommodations because of licensing standards and credentialing requirements.

Student information submitted to the EAC is confidential and each student’s situation is considered on individual merits and specific needs. Furthermore, ADA does not allow for the curriculum to be significantly changed in higher education (unlike Individualized Education Plans in K – 12 educational settings); rather, accommodations are granted to those with demonstrated disabilities to provide access to higher education so that students with disabilities are not discriminated against.

Students who are interested in eligibility requirements may visit the EAC website or may email EAC@pointloma.edu. Detailed information on ADA and accommodations in higher education can be found at the ADA website.

Written By: Pamela Harris, Ph.D. on behalf of the EAC Faculty Advisory Committee