Plan, Adapt, Communicate

Keep Teaching in Times of Disruption

Teaching during times of potential disruption requires creative and flexible thinking about how instructors can support students in achieving essential core course learning objectives. This is not a one size fits all. Faculty are encouraged to talk to their program teams and associate deans to ensure any modifications to the curriculum will still meet 80% of the learning outcomes.

While the process will no doubt feel unfamiliar and at times possibly frustrating, try as much as possible to be patient. There will always be hiccups, but times of disruption are, by their nature, disruptive, and everyone expects that. Be willing to switch tactics if something isn’t working. Above all, stay focused on making sure the students are comfortable, and keep a close eye on the course learning outcomes–while you might not be able to teach something exactly the way you imagined, as long as you’re still meeting 80% of your learning outcomes of the course, you’re doing fine.


Take a look at this alignment document (click to download). You can map you learning outcomes from your course outline to the assignments that you have planned using CourseLeaf CIM Courses. Do you need to make adjustments?

Listing of faculty supports available at the college.

Current Georgian Policies and Recommendations

The most up-to-date recommendations are found at

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 Blackboard, so you can get them more details soon. Also, ensure students are checking the Georgian College website and/or student portal for the most current and up to date information.

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.

Pick 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. Information about COVID-19 is changing hourly and it may be already taxing everyone’s mental and emotional energy; introducing a lot of new tools and approaches cause frustration and leave even less energy and attention for learning.

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.

As you make plans for remote learning opportunities, focus on what tasks you are trying to accomplish. Keeping in touch with students is vital during any changes to your class(es)—whether a planned absence on your part, or because of a crisis impacting all or part of campus. You’ll want to let students know about changes in schedules, assignments, procedures, and broader course expectations. Early and frequent communication can ease student anxiety, and save you dealing with individual questions. It is also important you direct students to valid resources for information regarding COVID-19.

Keep these principles in mind:

Be safe and do what is right for you: It is important to create contingency plans for completing the course and semester but it is also important that people feel safe and take care of their health. Accommodate students as best you can.

Communicate early and often: Let students know about changes or disruptions as early as possible, even if all the details aren’t in place yet, and let them know when they can expect more specific information. Don’t swamp them with email, but consider matching the frequency of your messages with that of changes in class activities and/or updates to the broader crisis at hand (for example, the campus closure is extended for two more days; what will students need to know related to your course?).

Set expectations: Let students know how you plan to communicate with them, and how often. Tell students both how often you expect them to check their email, and how quickly they can expect your response. Let them know, too, if you are using the Blackboard Email tool, since they may need to update their notification preferences (details in the next section).

Manage your communications load: You will likely receive some individual requests for information that could be useful to all your students, so consider keeping track of frequently asked questions and sending those replies out to everyone. This way, students know they might get a group reply in a day versus a personal reply within an hour. Also, consider creating an information page in Blackboard, and then encourage students to check there first for answers before emailing you. Also remember a static pdf document may become outdated very quickly and any information regarding COVID-19 should be direct links to valid websites and/or the Georgian College website.

Office Hours: Set up virtual office hours to meet with students using WebEx. If you are more comfortable, you can also give students your phone number to call, or you can set up an online chat.

Academic integrity is a core value at Georgian College and a priority in all academic activities.  Students are responsible for being aware of and demonstrating behaviour that is honest and ethical.  Students are also expected to take responsibility for their own academic work, adhering to integrity standards for themselves and their program but also encouraging and cultivating a culture of integrity among their classmates.

Please refer to the Georgian College Academic Regulations for further elaboration on definitions and process for academic misconducts at Georgian College.

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. Consider the following when posting new course materials and readings.

Make sure students know when new material is posted: If you post new materials in Blackboard or OneDrive, be sure to let students know what you posted and where. You might even ask that they change their Blackboard or OneDrive notification preferences to alert them when new materials are posted.

Keep things phone friendly: In a crisis, many students may only have a phone available, so make sure you are using mobile-friendly formats, PDFs being the most common. Consider saving other files (for example, PowerPoint presentations) to PDFs, which are easier to read on phones and tablets, and keep the file size small. It is fairly easy to reduce the size of PDF files using Adobe Acrobat, and there are online tools that do the same thing (for example, search Google for “PDF file size”). Videos take lots of bandwidth, so only require them if you are confident students will have access to them during a crisis.

Ensure all students have Access to required resources. Consider OER: Open Educational Resources (OERs) are teaching and learning materials that you may freely use and reuse at no cost, and without needing to ask permission. OERs have been authored or created by an individual or organization using a Creative Commons license or other permission to let you know how the material may be used, reused, adapted and shared. OERs range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and animation. For students, OERs offer free access to some of the world’s best courses and educational content. They can also offer huge cost savings as alternatives to expensive textbooks. For more information and to get started finding OER, please visit our website.

Depending on your course, you may need to deliver some lectures to keep the course moving along. Be aware, though, that a 45-minute live lecture sprinkled with questions and activities can become grueling when delivered online without intellectual breaks. Here are a few suggestions to improve online lectures:

Record in small chunks: Even the best online speakers keep it brief; think of the brevity of TED talks. We learn better with breaks to process and apply new information. To aid student learning, record any lectures in shorter (5-10 minute) chunks, and intersperse them with small activities that give students opportunities to process the new knowledge, make connections to other concepts, apply an idea, or make some notes in response to prompts. Smaller chunks also lead to smaller files, especially when using voiced-over PowerPoint presentations.

Be flexible with live video: Lecturing live with WebEx is certainly possible, and it best approximates a classroom setting, since students can ask questions. However, a crisis might mean some students won’t have access to fast internet connections, and others may have their schedules disrupted. So, record any live classroom session, and be flexible about how students can attend and participate.

It’s not just about content: Information related to COVID-19 is changing fast and faculty may find they need to change their delivery. This may mean faculty need to move their lecture on line but recognizing that lectures are more than just providing course content; they also establish a sense of normalcy and a personal connection. In online courses, we talk about the importance of “instructor presence”, and that’s just as true during short-term online stints. So, consider ways that you can use lectures to make students feel connected and cared about: acknowledgement of current challenges, praise for good work, and reminders about the class being a community. This affective work can help their learning during a difficult time.

Not comfortable with videos: Many online courses do not have a video component at all. If you are not sure you have the right equipment and are uncomfortable with the tech setup, this might be a good option, at least for the short-term. Annotate your slideshow with notes and share this with students using Blackboard or email.

Collecting assignments in an online course is fairly straightforward, since many instructors already collect work electronically. The main challenge during a campus disruption for face to face classes is whether students have access to computers or effective internet. Also consider anyone needing a campus computer lab may be unable to access necessary technologies. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

a) 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.

b) 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 the tools below instead. Balance what is simplest for students with what is easiest for you to manage.

c) 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.

It is fairly easy to give small quizzes to hold students accountable or do spot-checks on their learning, and this might be ideal to keep students on track during class disruptions. Providing high-stakes tests online can be challenging, however; they place extra stress on students, and test integrity is difficult to ensure. If you know there is a date for resuming on-campus classes, consider delaying exams until you return.

General tips for assessing student learning during class disruption

Embrace short quizzes: Short quizzes can be a great way to keep students engaged with course concepts, particularly if they are interspersed with small chunks of video lecture. Consider using very-low-stakes quizzes to give students practice at applying concepts—just enough points to hold them accountable, but not so many that the activity becomes all about points.

Consider assessing learning in a different manner than tests and quizzes: Students can provide examples of learning through assignments, blogs, discussion boards or videos. Refer to tools for digital assessments resources at

Promoting academic integrity: It is good to reinforce concepts through practice on a quiz, but generally it is best to move beyond factual answers that students can quickly look up. Instead, write questions that prompt students to apply concepts to new scenarios, or ask them to identify the best of multiple correct answers.

Check for publishers’ test banks: Look to see if your textbook publisher has question banks that can be loaded into Blackboard; Even if you don’t use these questions for your exams, they can be useful for simple quizzes. Some textbooks also have their own online quizzing tools that can help keep students engaged with the material.

Update expectations for projects: Campus disruptions may limit students’ access to resources they need to complete papers or other projects, and team projects may be harmed by a team’s inability to meet. Be ready to change assignment expectations based on the limitations a crisis may impose. Possible options include allowing individual rather than group projects, having groups record presentations with WebEx, or adjusting the types of resources needed for research papers.

Consider alternate exams: Delivering a secure exam online can be difficult without a good deal of preparation and support, so consider giving open-book exams or other types of exams. They can be harder to grade, but you have fewer worries about test security.

General Tips for Teaching Online:

Resources for Online Writing Instruction

a. Grounding Principles of OWI: Beth Hewett

b. Asynchronous and Synchronous Modalities: Connie Mick and Geoffrey Middlebrook

c. Faculty Preparation for OWI: Lee-Ann Kastman Breuch

d. Preparing Students for OWI: Lisa Meloncon and Heidi Harris

Remote Learning

Remote Learning occurs when the learner and instructor, or source of information, are separated by time and distance and therefore cannot meet in a traditional classroom setting. Information is typically transmitted via technology (email, discussion boards, video conference, audio bridge) so that no physical presence in the classroom is required; otherwise, it would be Hybrid or Blended Learning. Remote learning can occur synchronously or asynchronously and is also referred to as Distance Education, Virtual Instruction, or Remote Training.

What does remote learning look like?

If you’re new to remote or online learning, have a look at this screencast. It provides helpful tips and tricks to guide you through the process!

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous?

There are two options for faculty to facilitate class sessions remotely for whole classes or for individual students:

Description: Instructors prepare course materials for students in advance of students’ access. Students may access the course materials at a time of their choosing and will interact with each over a longer period of time (usually one week).

Instructors may choose to engage their students synchronously or asynchronously depending on the course content or material that needs to be taught. There are many advantages and disadvantages to asynchronous and synchronous teaching options.

Advantages of Asynchronous Teaching

  • Higher levels of temporal flexibility, which may simultaneously make the learning experiences more accessible to different students and also make an archive of past materials accessible.
  • Increased cognitive engagement since students will have more time to engage with and explore the course material.

Disadvantages of Asynchronous Teaching

  • Students may feel less personally exchanged and less satisfied without the social interaction between their peers and instructors.
  • Course material may be misunderstood or have the potential to be misconstrued without the real-time interaction.

College Supported Tools for Asynchronous Teaching


This is available as a free service. However, you are limited to creating 15 minute videos. To record longer screencasts and access other features, you will access to the Pro Recorder. To get the Pro Recorder, please email

Before you begin you will need:

  • A laptop (or desktop computer) and a microphone. We recommend a good quality USB microphone.
  • A free account. You’ll need that to be able to share your screencast with students and faculty. Alternatively, you can use YouTube to store your video – you’ll need to create a YouTube account if you want to do this.
  • (Optional) Earphones/headphones for listening to the audio of your screencast. If your earphone/headphone has a built-in microphone, you can use it to improve the sound of your screencast.
  • Screencasting Best Practices
  • Tutorials

Using Microsft Forms: A Simple Online Handout Tool

Other Tools for asynchronous learning

To learn more about the many digital learning tools available to facilitate asynchronous online and learning please visit the Learning Technologies section of our website.

Description: Instructors and students gather at the same time and interact in “real time” with a very short or “near-real time” exchange between instructors and students.

Advantages of Synchronous Teaching

  • Immediate personal engagement between students and instructors, which may create greater feelings of community and lessen feelings of isolation
  • More responsive exchanges between students and instructors, which may prevent miscommunication or misunderstanding

Disadvantages of Synchronous Teaching

  • More challenging to schedule shared times for all students and instructors.
  • Some students may face technical challenges or difficulties if they do not have fast or powerful Wi-Fi networks accessible

College Supported Tools for Synchronous Teaching

At Georgian all faculty, staff and students have access to WebEx – To log in use your normal Georgian credentials. For tutorials on WebEx including getting started, how to schedule and join meetings visit Meeting help at


Decision Tree Tools

You are the professional and you know what your students need. Use what you are comfortable with and what works for you and your students. Please don’t let the idea of the perfect virtual delivery undercut the good one we know you can prepare. These handy decision tree tools are here to help guide you through the process of moving to a remote learning environment.​

Decision Tree for lecturing online:  Use this decision tree to help you consider how you can adapt your lectures to your online class.
remote learning decision tree Berkeley University

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Decision Tree for pivoting to remote teaching:  You can use this decision tree to help decide whether your lecture should be synchronous or aschynchronous delivery.  

decision tree to help move course material to remote learning environment.

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Decision tree for active learning: Use this decision tree to help you consider how you might incorporate active or participatory learning into your virtual course.  

decision tree for active learning

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Decision tree for moving an exam online: Curious about whether or not you need a final? Believe you can you achieve your course learning outcomes without the exam? Curious about re-weighting the exam? Those are questions for your Dean or Associate Dean.  

decision tree to guide faculty through the choices of moving an exam online

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WebEx access and support

A WebEx meeting is an online meeting that allows you to virtually meet with other people, without leaving your home or office.

WebEx meetings require a computer with Internet access and a separate phone line.  By logging into the meeting via the Internet, you will be able to see the presenter’s computer screen.  By calling into the conference phone number, you will be able to hear the presenter and other participants.

**The first time you use WebEx, please allow yourself approx. 5 min to login and get setup as your computer will need time to automatically download the free Webex plug-in that will allow you to join the meeting.

For detailed instructions to login, setup a meeting and record a session, please refer to the WebEx section of our website.


The most effective tool for interacting with your students and presenting course materials is Blackboard. Below you will find tip sheets and videos for the fundamentals of Blackboard. If you have any questions, please contact our Faculty Blackboard Support team at Contact IT Support for login issues at ext.1732 or Please note that we are responding to requests for assistance as soon as we can, however, we are experiencing a greater number of help calls than normal.

Visit the Faculty Blackboard Support website to learn more!

References This site and all content contained on its pages is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Please attribute any use to the Trustees of Indiana University. For more information about using this material at your institution, see: Reuse IU’s Keep Teaching materials.

Teaching Effectively During Times of Disruption, for SIS and PWR. Jenae Cohn, Academic Technology Specialist for PWR, , Beth Seltzer, Academic Technology Specialist for Introductory Studies, Find this again at