Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology

Instructional Continuity Resources: Quick Start

Instructional ContinuityAny one of an array of events can disrupt faculty’s ability to teach courses via on-campus, in-class sessions. Cal Poly’s commitment to students includes making sure that we provide students an opportunity to complete courses despite disruptions, whenever possible. The steady advancement of communication and instructional technologies has greatly enhanced faculty’s opportunities to provide quality virtual learning experiences in these situations. With  planning, training on selected user-friendly technologies, and available mentoring on effective instruction, faculty can be better prepared to continue instruction through many forms of instructional disruptions.

Quick Start for Instructional Continuity

The following quick start guide provides a list of considerations for educators to evaluate immediately in the event of emergency changes to instruction. This list is not exhaustive, but provides a set of fundamental components for maintaining an effective educational experience. 

[Adapted from Indiana University]

As you plan for instructional changes in the case of an emergency, it is important to stay updated on information provided by key sources in order to make informed decisions about instructional continuity and to communicate accurate information. 

For up-to-date information on changes related to COVID-19, we recommend the following resources:

Contact your department

Your home department will be a source for additional information about instructional continuity, including details about the situation and expectations for courses. Administrators may want to have many of the department’s courses handled in similar ways, so be in contact with your department before doing too much planning for instructional continuity. 

Communicate with students as soon as possible

If the campus announces required changes to in-person instruction it is important to communicate with students as soon as possible. Even if you are uncertain about how your course will be affected, you can let students know you are making plans for instructional continuity. Communicate your expectations for checking email or Canvas/PolyLearn (Cal Poly’s learning management systems) so that you can communicate further information as it becomes available. Visit Cal Poly Canvas Support for more information about Canvas, including links to video tutorials.

Set realistic goals for continuing instruction

Review your syllabus and schedule to set realistic expectations for what you and your students can accomplish when shifting to alternative modes of teaching and learning. Is it possible to maintain your original syllabus and schedule? What necessary changes do you foresee? How will use readings, assignments, or other aspects of your course to add structure and accountability? Is there a way to keep students engaged with course content while you make more extensive plans? How will you ensure that your materials are accessible? For more on accessibility visit CTLT Accessibility Resources.

Pick virtual learning tools and approaches familiar to you and your students

Try to rely on tools and workflows that are familiar to you and your students, and roll out new tools only when absolutely necessary. Which virtual learning tools and strategies are you able to immediately employ? Which virtual learning tools and strategies will take longer for you and your students to use in teaching and learning? Changes in instruction due to emergency situations can be taxing on everyone's mental and emotional energy; introducing new tools and approaches may leave even less energy and attention for learning.

Review your course schedule and determine your priorities 

Review your syllabus and schedule to identify your priorities—providing lectures, structuring new opportunities for discussion or group work, collecting assignments, etc. Which activities are better rescheduled, and which can be used or easily altered to be done in a virtual environment? 

Build flexibility into the adjusted course schedule

Emergency changes in instruction often evolve rapidly. In reviewing your syllabus and course schedule, give yourself and your students some flexibility in case the situation changes or takes longer to resolve than was originally predicted. 

Review your syllabus and make changes 

Spend some time reviewing your syllabus to determine what changes you will need to make and adjust accordingly. Consider the various aspects of your syllabus that you need to temporarily or permanently adjust (policies, due dates, assignments, etc.). Since students will also be thrown off by the evolving situation, they will appreciate details whenever you can provide them. 

Identify your new expectations for students

You will have to reconsider some of your expectations for students, including participation, communication, and deadlines. As you think through those changes, keep in mind the inequitable impact this situation may have on students' ability to meet those expectations, including stress, illness, lacking space to complete work, lacking access to technologies or devices, lacking power or internet connections, needing to care for others, lacking access to support for basic needs, etc. Be ready to handle requests for extensions or accommodations equitably and with compassion. For more information on accommodations and supporting students with disabilities, please contact the Disability Resource Center.  

Be generous with your students as they deal with changes in instruction

It is important to be aware that students may experience increased feelings of anxiety or stress during this time. It is also essential to be aware that depending on the emergency situation, students are likely to be affected inequitably—for example, not all students will have access to consistent spaces to complete their work, to laptops, smart phones, internet, or even to support for their basic needs off campus. Be generous in extending compassion and understanding to your students as they deal with changes in instruction. For more information on dealing with students in distress visit Campus Health & Wellbeing’s Resources for Faculty and Staff

Create a detailed communications plan

Once you have more details about changes in your course, communicate them to students, along with more information about how they can contact you (email, virtual office hours, etc.) and how quickly they can expect a reply if they contact you directly. Students are likely to have a number of questions as the situation progresses, and it is important to create a plan that will help you to manage your own workload and wellbeing, while also supporting your students.

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