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Teaching during campus disruptions

Preparing your courses in any quarter requires a lot of planning and preparation. Part of that process includes equipping students with the information and guidance they will need when an interruption to instruction occurs.

Before a Disruption Occurs

There are a number of things you can do when designing a course that can help reduce confusion and keep students on track when bad weather or another event disrupts normal campus operations.

Articulate your communication plan

  • Include information in your syllabus about what to do in case of inclement weather or other emergencies.
  • Establish clear expectations for how frequently students should check their UW email and Canvas announcements. If you use Canvas regularly, encourage students to set up their notifications.
  • Let students know how you will communicate with them (e.g., Canvas, UW email), and when they can expect you to respond to their inquiries (e.g., within 24 hours, but longer on weekends).

Design flexibility into your course

  • Use Canvas so that students have 24/7 access to your syllabus and other information. Acclimate students to online learning environments by providing a short tutorial on how your Canvas site is organized and where they can go for Canvas-related support.
  • Practice Universal Design for Learning principles.
  • Consider how you might offer low or no internet access alternatives for assignments.
  • Design in-person experiences with flexibility in mind. If your course includes a community engaged project or field experiences, you may need to be flexible in and develop alternative plans with the partners and students

Share key technology information with students

  • Inform students about required technology. Clearly articulate what technologies are necessary to participate and complete assignments. Take into account the level of skill you and your students possess.
  • Provide students with contact information for technology support services.
  • Keep in mind that students’ digital access and technology tools will vary. For example, some students may not have a camera on their laptop and may need to join a Zoom session by phone. Be prepared to work with students who have technological challenges and offer multiple ways to reach learning outcomes.

When a Disruption Occurs

When a disruption occurs, it may be necessary to move learning into an online environment. Often instructors’ immediate instinct is to try to reproduce the in-class experience online through Zoom. However, depending on the nature of the disruption, students may face a variety of digital connectivity and communication challenges. Instructors can minimize Zoom fatigue and the bandwidth issues associated with lengthy synchronous sessions by designing learning that can occur asynchronously.

Reassess your course plan

  • Check in with your school/department. Contact your department or school for requirements and guidelines around instruction during this disruption.
  • Identify essential learning outcomes/priorities. Consider eliminating assignments and activities that aren’t tied to key learning outcomes.
  • Review and modify assignments and assessments to whatever modality makes the most sense given the current situation. Remember, in many situations, minimizing synchronous sessions and investing in asynchronous learning options may best serve students.

Communicate with students

  • Communicate with students and TAs as soon as possible, even if you don’t yet have the full picture. Acknowledge that a disruption has happened. Share what you know and don’t know about the situation. Put students at ease by acknowledging the stress and fluidity of the situation and assure them that due dates will be adjusted, if needed.
  • Review your communication plan and let students know that you expect them to stay informed. Students should take responsibility for staying connected and up-to-date on assignments and due dates. Tell them where and when you will share information, such as on the homepage of your Canvas course.
  • Direct students to appropriate resources. Provide students with information on how to access campus academic and student support resources.

Consult UW technology support resources