Instructional Continuity During Disruption

In the event of an emergency that disrupts our residential learning environment, this guide provides instructors with some recommendations for transitioning instructional activities to an online approach.


  1. Focus on the learning objectives you still need to accomplish and consider what you think you can realistically achieve during this period.
  2. Refine your schedule as needed.
  3. Using Zoom, Sakai, and other tools/approaches if applicable, find a good balance between synchronous and asynchronous engagement.


Review Expectations

As you think through these changes to your courses, consider the impact the circumstances surrounding the emergency may have on students’ ability to meet expectations, including illness, Internet connectivity, caring for family members, etc. Be prepared to handle requests for extensions or accommodations equitably.

Communicate Effectively

Because you will be more indirectly connected with your students, you will need to inform students about changes to schedules, assignments, procedures, and broader course expectations in a more proactive manner.

Early and frequent communication can ease anxiety and save dealing with individual questions.

  • Develop a consistent communication strategy. We recommend using the Announcements tool in your Sakai course site to post messages using the option to concurrently send those announcements as email notifications
  • Set expectations for:
    • how students should contact you (email, phone, text message, etc.)
    • how quickly you will respond
    • students to regularly check their email
  • FAQs - address frequently asked questions using the Forum tool (see info below) or a visible page in Resources (or Lessons)
  • Outline the tools you plan to use and how/when you plan to use them
  • Remove Sakai tools you will NOT be using

Distribute Course Materials and Readings

  • Use Sakai Resources folder or Lesson pages (most faculty use one of these options already)
    • Make sure files along with folders and/or pages are labeled clearly (e.g. dates by week), or lesson plan or syllabus links directly to the applicable resources
    • If necessary, move content into a concise, organized structure
    • Use email notifications when new material is posted, or expectations change
    • If you are currently using internal network folders (e.g. T:drive), consider moving it to Sakai or sharing it via OneDrive so your students do not need to use VPN to access

Class Lectures and Discussions

  • Meet synchronously using Zoom:
    • hold online interactive classes, do advising, be available for office hours
    • Present by sharing your computer screen or a virtual whiteboard
    • Zoom sessions can be recorded and posted for review (consider whether recording is beneficial – for instance, for those students who cannot attend a session -- and/or if recording will affect engagement)
      • Ensure that all participants know a session is being recorded and how the recording will be used
    • Consider getting familiar and testing ahead of time BEFORE you and your students use it on a larger scale in an emergency situation
  • Record video lectures using Panopto
    • Panopto will record your audio along with your webcam and/or screen
    • When recording lectures, break presentations into shorter chunks
    • Talk as you would in class, opt for a natural style over a rehearsed or polished approach
    • Practice a few takes before completing a recording
    • Additional Resource: Adapting PowerPoint Lectures for Online Delivery: Best Practices 

Set up an Asynchronous Class Discussion

  • Setting up a Sakai Forum with different topics is easy and can allow:
    • instructors to discuss course content or assignments
    • students share work for peer review
    • everyone to reflect on readings or lecture or just ask questions
    • Additional Resource: Strategies for Managing Online Discussions 
  • Set clear expectations for level and timing of engagement and consider sharing a rubric or exemplar post
  • At least early on, closely monitor, moderate engagement and either directly guide the discussion within the forum or by providing direct feedback to students through email, etc.

Collecting Student Work

  • Use Sakai Assignments to collect assignments digitally, provide students feedback, and share student grades

Tracking and Reporting Grades

  • Use the Sakai Gradebook to enter grades and comments in a spreadsheet view

Facilitating Exams and Quizzes

  • Use Sakai Test and Quizzes to author assessments easily
    • There is support for multiple-choice, T/F, short answer, fill in the blank, matching, and other question types
    • You can designate when each quiz is available and how much time they have to complete
    • There is also an option to provide accommodations for different times or extra time accommodations that might be needed for specific students (e.g. Student Accessibility Services)
    • You can also analyze how students perform by question and see general information about a student's performance on the assessment
    • Consider your tool. An un-timed, essay-oriented test might be more effectively accomplished through a PDF submission to the assignment tool
    • For more information, see Best Practices for Remote Testing
  • Share Tips for Taking Online Tests in Sakai with your students

Run Lab Activities

One of the biggest challenges of teaching during a building or campus closure is sustaining the lab components of classes. Since some labs have specific requirements and/or necessitate the usage of specific equipment, some activities will simply be impossible to accomplish outside of that physical lab space.

  • Lab activities require students to become familiar with certain procedures:
    • Are there parts of the lab experience you could take online (for example, video demonstrations of techniques, online simulations, analysis of data, other pre- or post-lab work)?
    • Consider including an assignment requiring the students to explore the experimental procedure, design considerations, challenges, next steps, etc.
  • Investigate virtual labs:
    • Online resources and virtual tools might help replicate the experience of some labs (for example, virtual dissection, night sky apps, video demonstrations of labs, simulations)
    • These vary widely by discipline. Check with your textbook publisher, colleagues, professional lists, science library databases, or sites such as MERLOT for materials that might help replace parts of your lab during an emergency
    • Other resources to consider:
  • Provide raw data for analysis:
    • In cases where the lab includes both the collection of data and its analysis, consider showing how the data can be collected, and then provide some raw sets of data for students to analyze
    • This approach is not as comprehensive as having students collect and analyze their own data, but it might keep them engaged with parts of the lab experience during the closure.
  • Explore alternate software access: Some labs require access to specialized software that students cannot install on their own computers
    • Depending on the nature of the software, IT might be able to help set up virtual computer labs that have the software your students need
  • Increase interaction in other ways:
    • Sometimes labs are more about having time for direct student interaction, so consider other ways to replicate that level of contact if it is only your lab that is out of commission

Need Help?

Contact Educational Technologies! You will be there for your students and we will be there for you. Using the same tools, we can assist you with your contingency plan in real-time using Zoom or asynchronously using other communication methods, please do not hesitate to contact us via the Service Desk.

Additional technology recommendations

  • Test your computer mic and webcam
  • Try to have access to a quality microphone for use on your computer
  • Internet stability is critical when working remotely, if you experience network issues, try turning off Internet-heavy devices or services on your network (e.g. Netflix streaming, game consoles, etc.)
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