Equal Opportunities and Protection Against Discrimination in Digital Education

The general contact restrictions due to the covid-19 pandemic and the associated challenges for society as a whole affect all areas of Leuphana University Lüneburg: research, teaching, studies, science-related counseling, services and administration - changes can be seen everywhere, affecting and influencing people in different ways depending on their life situation. One example is university members with family and nursing responsibilities, who work or study at home and take on additional care work due to closed schools and care facilities. The additional burden for these university members is high.

The aim of this guide is to draw attention to challenges in digital teaching from a gender equality perspective and with a focus on equal opportunities, compatibility, diversity and protection against discrimination. Since the lockdown due to the corona pandemic, teachers and students are requested to familiarize themselves with digital formats and their possible applications within a short period of time. It is important to set boundaries as quickly as possible and to adapt to new forms of communication, teaching and learning conditions.

At Leuphana, teaching is mainly done with the video communications software Zoom. The instructions for the basic functions have already been written by the teaching service of Leuphana and training courses are also offered.

From a gender equality perspective, it is apparent that the requirements for participation in digital teaching are not the same for all students. Difficulties in organizing everyday life, existential uncertainties due to financial hardship, social exclusion, etc. lead to multiple burdens. International students are often affected in a particular way, as delays in studies and financial difficulties can be connected with questions and consequences concerning residence law. They are also confronted with language barriers. A problem of many students is the lack of an undisturbed workplace in the residential environment. Within the group of students with disabilities or chronic illnesses or students with children, there are some who can benefit from digital teaching formats, for example if those can be used flexibly timewise. For others, it is more difficult to attend classes or to successfully complete courses and exams. All in all, an examining and questioning look at the group of students is necessary as is the identification of difficulties in order to recognize needs and enable differentiated, inclusive and non-discriminatory teaching.

Those particularly affected by the corona pandemic and the associated measures include students

  • with professional obligations,
  • with insufficient technical requirements and/or an unstable internet connection,
  • in stressful life situations, with nursing tasks (responsibility for care / care obligations for children or in nursing, this includes in particular single parents),
  • with low participation in support networks (e.g. international),
  • which belong to risk groups,
  • who experience discrimination and violence,
  • which belong to so-called risk groups,
  • who experience discrimination and violence,
  • with illnesses, with therapeutic obligations, impairments of vision or blindness, impairments of speech, hearing or deafness, certain mental illnesses or autism spectrum disorders.

This list is not intended to be exhaustive.

With this guide we would like to help you consider students in different life situations and their abilities to participate in digital courses. Possible challenges for students arise, for example, from technical and organizational conditions, from exclusions in communication and the way they are addressed as well as the form in which teaching content is prepared and offered. Not everything always works out smoothly for everyone, which occasionally leads to major disruptions and exclusions in teaching.

In addition to insufficiently dealing with the various requirements for participating in class, disturbances can also arise, for example, through discriminatory actions and unwanted contact with participants, through polarizing, right-wing, discriminatory and misanthropic statements or due to the fact that unannounced persons take part in the event and disturb it (so-called "Zoom bombing"). This is also referred to in the following as "undesired", "inappropriate" content, comments, contributions or behavior.

In this manual, we have addressed some of the causes of disturbances and give recommendations on how to deal with them. We would be very pleased if you would take these up as required and consider them in your events and/or in the design of your teaching- and study rooms. We have summarized some tips and suggestions on how teaching can be designed in an integrative way, which settings can prevent possible disturbances and how to proceed in case of disturbances. However, you should always consider carefully which functions you activate or block. The interactivity in your digital event may be affected by this.

In the attachment you will find contact details of Leuphana facilities and representatives to whom you can turn in case of disturbances.

Cooperative Design of Teaching - Communication, Participation and Transparency

Here you will find a brief outline of agreement with participants at the beginning of the course.

Keeping an Eye on Potential Risks of Discrimination

The tremendous time pressure under which digital teaching formats have developed may mean that protection against discrimination (see above) has not been fully achieved. Many things can be minimized during the preparation of a course by obtaining information about the addressees of the course, good enquiries, arrangements and discussion of the technology used. The following recommendations can support you in this.

Point out Compensations for Disadvantages

Proactively point out to the students that there are possibilities of taking a semester off, part-time study and compensating for disadvantages, which can also be taken advantage of if students find themselves in stressful life situations, e.g. due to multiple burdens and increased supervision/care costs. Students who belong to the so-called risk group should be given opportunities to protect themselves without having to explain their situation in detail.

Offer students in special situations and students who belong to the so-called risk group alternative forms of participation, service provision within the framework of compensation for disadvantages and consultation hours. You should proactively point out these possibilities. Look for individual solutions together with students who are currently unable to make use of (student) assistance or interpreters.

Moderation of Online Learning Processes

Good moderation and support of learning processes are an important prerequisite for the success of digital teaching. In addition to preparing the teaching content, the organization of work processes and the motivation of the students are of prime importance. You will find suggestions under the following links:



In principle, all online events should be equipped with password protection (now mandatory for ZOOM). Some software is equipped with a waiting room where participants are put on hold before entering the room.

If you compare the names of the participants with the registration lists at the beginning of the event, please remember that, for example, if you log into Zoom, you can use a name of your own choosing. Please note that inter*, trans or non-binary persons may not be registered with their official name at Zoom and other communication platforms. For inter* and trans persons it can lead to stressful situations if the incorrect (old) name becomes visible to other people, as this can lead to unpleasant questions, rumors, pressure to justify oneself and, as a result, psychological stress.

If you notice discrepancies between registration lists from myStudy and names at Zoom, an introduction round should take place at the beginning of the event so that all persons introduce themselves. Offer the participants the opportunity to introduce themselves with the names and pronouns with which they would like to be addressed. Disclosure of names and pronouns should not be mandatory, but make sure that those who wish to share self-identifications find the space to do so. For more information on how teaching and learning spaces at universities can be made respectful for people of all genders, see the brochure ("trans. inter*. non-binary." (in German)).

If there is no reaction from a person with a pseudonym, not even after direct contact via private chat message and after clarification of possible technical problems on the part of the person with a pseudonym, the person can be removed from the class.

Allow Late Registration

Registration with Zoom does not always go smoothly. Late participation in courses can be due to multiple burdens as described above, which can lead to a temporary slowdown. The reason can also be an unstable or overloaded Internet connection, since the technical requirements are not optimal due to existential emergencies. Therefore, you should not close your registration for a class too early to avoid excluding students from the event. You should also note that attendance at classes is not compulsory.

Calculate the Student Workload

Ideally, a virtual course should not be more time-consuming than the same course in attendance - for you as a teacher and for students. Since both teachers and students have to adapt to the new situation, sometimes under considerable time pressure, the resources of all those involved in teaching should be used carefully. If possible, use tools and formats that require little training. Please also bear in mind that it can sometimes be difficult to obtain literature and that the library is not available as a place to write and work.

Accessible Teaching

It is important for digital teaching-learning formats to take into account the diverse needs and reduce possible barriers in order to enable participation for all.

The following handbook from the University of Hamburg gives you important information on what you need to consider for "students in special circumstances as participants in online courses".

Make sure that your materials (texts, presentations, videos, assignments, etc.) are accessible to all. It is important to format the documents, insert alternative texts, structure the content well and name links clearly, to name but a few aspects. In Word it is possible to test the document for accessibility. A manual from the TU Dresden (in German) and an online course from the University of Rostock are helpful to create accessible documents and materials.

The German Association of Blind and Visually Impaired People in Study and Work (DVBS) has compiled information about the most frequently used tools for telephone and video conferencing and their ease of use for blind and visually impaired people (in German). According to this, Zoom Meetings are probably the most accessible solution.

Accessible teaching (in German): find materials from universities, the Information and Advice Centre for Studies and Disability (IBS) of the German Student Services and others on the accessible design of digitalized teaching and learning offerings as well as web offerings.

This is another handbook on 'Accessibility in online teachingby the Hochschulforum Digitalisierung. Some of the issues mentioned are the methods, communication, materials and others. There will also be more links for further reading.

Sending Files with Inappropriate Content

At the beginning of a digital course it should be decided whether the sending of files among the participants is allowed or desired. If files with inappropriate content are sent, the option can be enabled or disabled in “Settings" [in German: “Einstellungen”], in the section “In Meeting (Basic)” [in German: “In Meeting (Grundlagen)”], "File Transfer" [in German: “Datenübertragung”], and then the option "Hosts and participants can send files through the in-meeting chat" [in German: “Hosts und Teilnehmer können Dateien in einem Chat im Meeting senden.”].

Inappropriate Comments in Chat

The chat function is available in the plenum and in the workrooms. Messages can be sent privately or to the plenum. At the beginning of the course it should be communicated how to use the chat function. A message that should actually go to a fellow student can be sent to the plenum by mistake. Or participants may inappropriately write to others in the group. This can lead to unpleasant situations. To prevent the private chat feature from being used for inappropriate communication during the meeting, or to prevent inappropriate chat messages from being sent, the host can click on the three dots below the chat and select "Participant Can Chat With: Everyone Publicly and Privately" [in German: “Der Teilnehmer kann chatten mit: Jeder öffentlich und privat”]. Or, you can change the setting to "No One" [in German: “Keiner”].

The chat history in Zoom can only be deleted by ending the meeting.

Inappropriate and Unsolicited Release of Screen Content

The administrator’s settings in the Zoom version of the Leuphana University of Lüneburg allow all participants in a course to share screen contents. This is an important feature in seminars with presentations. Unwanted screen sharing can only be prevented if the teachers themselves start their own presentation early. As soon as a release has been started by a person, other participants cannot access this function anymore. If someone has already started unwanted screen sharing, it can be stopped at the bottom of the screen “Security” [in German: “Sicherheit”] by removing the check mark from “Allow participants to: Share Screen” [in German: “Teilnehmern die Erlaubnis geben: Bildschirm freigeben”].

Inappropriate Use of a Shared Whiteboard and Unwanted Comments on a Presentation

The ability for participants to enter data can be deactivated: To do this, click on the three dots saying “More” [in German: “Mehr”] in the toolbar at the top of the screen while your own screen sharing is running where you can then click on “Disable Annotation for Others” [in German: “Annotierung durch Teilnehmer deaktivieren”]. Also, under "More" you will find the option "Show Names of Annotators" [in German: “Namen der Kommentatoren anzeigen”]: The name of the person who is writing or drawing is now displayed. In the now visible floating toolbar under "Clear" [in German: “Löschen”] there is the option "Clear Viewers' Drawings" [in German: “Zeichnungen der Zuschauer löschen”]. If you would like to deactivate the commenting option for students for your meetings, you can also do this in your Zoom dashboard. Click on "Settings" in the left menu bar and deactivate the "Annotation" option in the "In Meeting (Basic)" section [in German: “Annotation” in the section “In Meeting (Grundlagen)”].

Inappropriate Interruptions

If participants of the course do not follow the agreed upon rules of communication, actively interrupt the course, express themselves in a discriminatory and inhuman way towards other people, make populist and anti-pluralist contributions that are not related to the actual content of the seminar, you can click on the button "Mute All" [in German: “Alle stummschalten”] below the list of participants. If you uncheck the box "Allow Participants to Unmute Themselves" [in German: “Den Teilnehmern gestatten, ihre Stummschaltung selbst aufzuheben.”] in the following dialog, it will not be possible to speak until you unmute the respective person. You can do this by clicking on the microphone icon next to their name.

Important: You should not use the "Ask All to Unmute" button, to respect and ensure the privacy of the participants.


Who to Contact in Case of a Malfunction

Should you still experience (permanent) disturbance in your digital course, you can report this at various sites at the Leuphana.

Equal Opportunities Officer

Dr. Kathrin van Riesen
Office for Equal Opportunities
Phone +49.4131.677-1061

Ombudsperson for Students
Thies Reinck, M.A.
Phone +49.4131.677-1087

Teaching Service
Student Support Team for digital teaching

IT-Service for Students
Fon +49 4131 677-1222

External Sites