Are you prepared to move your course online if the campus was forced to close? Are you prepared if you are unable to attend class or a significant number of your students are out of class due to illness / emergency?

What Is Academic Continuity?

Academic continuity means sustaining a quality learning experience. Sometimes, due to some kind of interruption, emergency, or change in circumstances, academic continuity requires adaptation. These situations could be as short-term as a snow day, during which you might consider whether to teach virtually that day or substitute a Canvas discussion and video for your meeting, or as significant as a global pandemic.

Champlain College’s Academic Continuity Policy provides additional details about academic continuity requirements.

To simplify academic continuity in either short-term or long-term situations, you can assess your course and teaching methods to determine possible solutions in advance.

The questions in this document will help you assess your preparedness and provide you with the specific resources you need.

Do your attendance and late work policies encourage sick students to stay home and support making up work?

  • Review your syllabus policy around attendance. Is it clear? Does it encourage sick students to stay home by allowing excused absences?
  • Create a culture where it is ok for sick students to stay home.
  • Do you require students to notify you when they are going to miss class (be clear)?
  • What is your late assignment policy? Can students with an excused absence make up work without penalty?
  • Do you make it easy for sick students to stay on top of their work?

Using Canvas Announcements to post class notes, slides, and other information you conveyed in class (like logistical updates) is very helpful for students who are ill. If you choose to have an assigned student note-taker each day and/or a collaborative notes document for each class, providing notes is easy.

Do not assume that all students who have a valid need for an excused absence will ask for one. Explicitly stating policies and ways to coordinate with you may make it easier for students to come forward.

Do you have “back pocket” virtual teaching strategies you feel comfortable implementing quickly?

  • Do you have a preferred platform for virtual synchronous (live) classes that you feel comfortable using? Do you have access to that platform? Learn more from our Guide to Preparing for Videoconference Teaching. (Note: after summer 2021, Champlain will not provide all faculty with Zoom accounts, and we strongly encourage familiarizing yourself with hosting Google Meet sessions)
  • Do you have one or two preferred asynchronous interactive teaching strategies you are comfortable with, such as Canvas discussions or quizzes, Jamboard activities, Google Apps collaborations, or something else?

In addition to these strategies, you might also consider:

Are your Canvas courses set up to minimize interruption and confusion in the event of a campus closure?

Many foundational Canvas strategies detailed in our Basic Canvas Best Practices article go a long way towards supporting academic continuity. If you implement these strategies in all courses, you can worry less about course basics if you have to shift your class delivery methods.

Key practices:

  • Upload your syllabus prior to the start of classes, and ensure throughout the semester that the version on Canvas is up-to-date
  • Include clearly written instructions in all Canvas assignments, with due dates; if you use Canvas discussions, do the same
  • Post non-textbook reading assignments to Canvas; consider using ungraded assignments with a due date to clarify which readings are due when
  • Consider using modules to organize content and activities by week
  • Habitually use announcements to provide centralized information about course logistics and changes throughout the semester; this helps students know where to go for information in the event of a campus closure
  • Maintain the Canvas gradebook

If you are not familiar with Canvas discussions, experimenting with them is a great way to be prepared for a closure. They can serve as a great alternative to face-to-face discussions. You may find that online discussions require everyone to participate and allow for better crafted discussion responses. There is an art to crafting a good discussion prompt for an online discussion and a bit of research into what works will pay off!

Does your course have special challenges for academic continuity?

Some courses pose particular problems for academic continuity during a long interruption: lab courses that lose access to a physical lab, studio courses in which students do not have access to equipment, and service learning courses in which service experiences must be cancelled. If you teach such a course, we recommend familiarizing yourself with the strategies that have been used at Champlain in the past, and consulting colleagues for ideas. In most cases, you do not need to have a backup plan ready to go at a moment’s notice, but it may be reassuring to have one in mind.

Do your students know how to contact you remotely?

How can students best get ahold of you? Make sure your students know the best way to reach you, and you model that communication by using the same method to reach them. Recommended methods are Champlain Gmail and Canvas Inbox. Please check these platforms regularly.

If you wish to communicate with students by phone, you can forward your College voicemail to your cell phone or you can set up a Google Voice number. These strategies help you avoid sharing your personal number with students.

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