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Academic Continuity

Academic Continuity

The safety of all students, faculty and staff remains a top priority at CSULB. Out of that concern, this guide was created in case circumstances might require a class to temporarily be offered in an alternative mode with minimal notice. This pertains to a campus closure, increased absenteeism during a flu outbreak, or a family emergency. The following information will provide some actions, tools and communication strategies to take when making that shift quickly.

A CSULB resource guide on Technology Considerations for Academic Continuity is available. 

Some content on this page was adapted from Indiana University's Academic Strategy Guide for Prolonged Absences and Closures.

Faculty Considerations for Academic Continuity
School Banner
  • Get details about the closure or event: Campus closures or emergencies will be reported on the campus homepage, including estimates of how long you may need to provide alternative curriculum for students.

  • Check with your department: Your department may issue more details about the situation and guidelines about their expectations for classes. Administrators may want to have many of the department's classes handled in similar ways, so check with departmental leaders before doing too much planning.

  • Communicate with your students right away: Even if you don't have a plan in place yet, communicate with your students as soon as possible, informing them that changes are coming and what your expectations are for checking email or BeachBoard (CSULB’s learning management system), so you can get them more details soon.

Reviewing and Communicating Priorities
Students in Classroom
  • Consider realistic goals for continuing instruction: What do you think you can realistically accomplish during this time period? Do you think you can maintain your original syllabus and schedule? Do you hope students will keep up with the reading with some assignments to add structure and accountability? Do you just want to keep them engaged with the course content somehow?

  • Review your course schedule to determine priorities: Identify your priorities during the disruption—providing lectures, structuring new opportunities for discussion or group work, collecting assignments, etc. What activities are better rescheduled, and what can or must be done online? Give yourself a little flexibility in that schedule, just in case the situation takes longer to resolve than you think.

  • Review your syllabus for points that must change: What will have to temporarily change in your syllabus (policies, due dates, assignments, etc.)? Since students will also be thrown off by the changes, they will appreciate details whenever you can provide them.

Considering Delivery and Activity Changes
Student on campus with phone
  • Consider alternative course materials and readings:
    You will likely need to provide additional course materials to support your changing plans, from updated schedules to readings that allow you to shift more instruction online. In a pinch, providing some new readings and related assignments may be your best bet for keeping the intellectual momentum of the course moving.

  • Pick digital tools and approaches familiar to you and your students:
    Try to rely on tools (i.e., BeachBoard, ZOOM, Keep Teaching and Learning Site) and workflows that are familiar to you and your students, and roll out new tools only when absolutely necessary. If a closure is caused by a local crisis, it may be already taxing everyone's mental and emotional energy; introducing a lot of new tools and approaches may leave even less energy and attention for learning.

  • Re-design lab activities 
    One of the biggest challenges to academic continuity is sustaining the lab components of classes. Since many labs require specific equipment, they are hard to reproduce outside of that physical space. Considerations as you plan to address lab activities:

    • Take part of the lab online: Many lab activities require students to become familiar with certain procedures, and only physical practice of those processes will do. In such cases, consider if there are other 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), and save the physical practice parts of the labs until access is restored. The semester might get disjointed by splitting up lab experiences, but it might get you through a short campus closure.

    • 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). Those vary widely by discipline, but check with your textbook publisher, or sites such as Merlot for materials that might help replace parts of your lab during an emergency.

    • Provide raw data for analysis: In cases where the lab includes both 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 closure (for example, a building versus the entire campus), your campus teaching and learning center might be able to help set up alternate computer labs that have the software your students need.

Continuing Instruction
  • 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 impact this situation may have on students' ability to meet those expectations, including illness, lacking power or internet connections, or needing to care for family members. Be ready to handle requests for extensions or accommodations equitably.

  • Create a more detailed communications plan:
    Once you have more details about changes in the class, communicate them to students, along with more information about how they can contact you (email, online office hours, etc.). A useful communication plan also lets students know how soon they can expect a reply. They will have many questions, so try to figure out how you want to manage that.

  • Collecting assignments and assessing student learning
    Collecting assignments during a campus closure is fairly straightforward, since many instructors already collect work electronically. The main challenge during a campus disruption is whether students have access to computers, as anyone needing a campus computer lab may be unable to access necessary technologies. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

    • Require only common software: Students may not have access to specialty software located in on-campus computer labs. Be ready with a backup plan for such students.

    • Avoid emailed attachments: It may be easy to collect assignments in small classes via email, but larger classes might swamp your email inbox. Consider using BeachBoard instead. Balance what is simplest for students with what is easiest for you to manage.

    • State expectations, but be ready to allow extensions: In the case of a campus closure or other crisis, some students will undoubtedly have difficulties meeting deadlines. Make expectations clear, but be ready to provide more flexibility than you normally would in your class.

    • Require specific filenames: It may sound trivial, but anyone who collects papers electronically knows the pain of getting 20 files named Essay1.docx. Give your students a simple file naming convention, for example, Firstname-Lastname-Essay1.docx.

    • Because taking a higher-stakes exam online with proctoring can add to anxiety, try to schedule a low-stakes, participation-only practice test before scheduling a high-stakes exam. This allows students to confirm that they have the required equipment and sufficient internet speed. It also gives them a chance to get familiar with the process beforehand.

For more information and suggestions, see the campus Faculty Center or Academic Technology Services (ATS).