Here are some of the first steps to take when faced with a disruption to delivering your course.
Get the information and hardware you need
- Campus closures or emergencies are reported through Wolfalert and the university homepage. The Adverse Weather and Emergency Status phone number is (919) 513-8888.
- Check with academic departmental leaders for guidelines about their expectations for course delivery.
- The NC State University Libraries offers Technology Lending services with a variety of devices available.
- Information about instructional technology at NC State can be found via DELTA LearnTech.
Communicate with your students right away
- Even if you don’t have a comprehensive plan in place, communicate with your students as soon as possible, informing them that changes are coming and what your expectations are for checking email and using tools such as Moodle (NC State’s learning management system) and Zoom (NC State’s web conferencing tool).
- Inform your students that the NC State Help Desk (help.ncsu.edu, 919-515-4357/HELP) is available if they need support using technologies in their courses.
- Students will follow your lead. In your communications, convey calm and assurance that everything will be okay with the course, which will help students remain positive and on-task.
Adjust your course plans
Build in some flexibility, just in case the situation takes longer to resolve than you expect. We’ve created a series of questions and a template that may be helpful for developing your academic continuity plans and sharing with departmental leaders and colleagues. Initial questions to consider include:
What are my goals during this time?
- What learning outcomes can I realistically accomplish during this time period?
- Can I maintain the original syllabus and schedule?
- Will I ask students to keep up with the originally planned readings and assignments, or do I just want to keep them engaged with the course content however I can?
What are the new priorities and schedule?
- Will I continue providing lectures?
- Should I structure new opportunities for discussion or group work?
- Will I collect assignments?
- What activities are better rescheduled?
- What can or must be done online?
Which of my policies and expectations must temporarily change?
- Will my students be able to meet expectations for participation, communication and deadlines?
- What if they are dealing with illness, lacking power or internet connections, or needing to care for family members?
- How will I handle requests for extensions or accommodations equitably?
What new tools or approaches are needed?
- What tools and workflows are already familiar to me and my students?
- Are there colleagues in my department, university or discipline with resources or creative approaches I could use?
- Is it absolutely necessary to roll out a new tool or approach? When mental and emotional energies are already taxed, little energy and attention will remain for learning new things.
- What can I reasonably master and introduce? Keep it simple. Don’t expect to implement a fully online course that would normally take 18 months of planning. Use only the tools you need to be effective.
Communicate to students again with more details
As you know more about how your course plans will be adjusted, reach out to students and provide those details. Set student expectations. They will have many questions, so consider how you want to manage that.
Show care, compassion and kindness to students. Underserved and marginalized students may experience disproportionate stressors including lack of resources or the need for accessible formats. Your care and support for all students may make all the difference in their motivation, persistence and ultimate success in your course.
- What key changes about the class can I share at this time?
- How can they contact me (email, online office hours, etc.)?
- How soon can they expect a reply from me?
Stay prepared when there’s no disruption
- Consider relevant statements you may want to include in your syllabi and review with students each semester, such as:
- Reserving your right to modify a syllabus when necessary and guaranteeing communication to the class in writing about any such changes when they occur.
- Inclement weather, emergency preparedness or campus closure information.
- Your expectations and procedures should classes be cancelled.
- Consider introducing online learning tools and practices early each semester.
- Engage regularly with departmental, university and disciplinary colleagues about teaching innovations that work well online.
- Consider a plan for course continuity should you be unable to teach your course for any reason.
For more information and suggestions, contact the Office for Faculty Excellence or DELTA’s faculty help desk at firstname.lastname@example.org or (919) 513-7094.
Some “Keep Teaching” content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License by the Trustees of Indiana University.