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When you realize you have to quickly shift to teaching your classes remotely, consider the following right away.

1. Identify plans early

Consider addressing emergencies and expectations up front in your syllabus, so students know what will happen if classes are canceled, including procedures you will implement. Consider doing this each semester, so you are ready in case of an emergency.

2. Get details about the closure or event

Campus closures or emergencies will be reported on the NIU updates webpage, so that is a good place to look for information, including estimates of how long you may need to teach your course remotely. 

3. 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.

4. 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 (NIU's learning management system), so you can get them more details soon.

5. 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?

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

"In times of significant disruption, the key goal is to help students get the support they need to meet your most essential course objectives. Teaching in times of disruption may involve thinking creatively about how to build up students' knowledge and skills in different formats to complete the same assignment." - Brown University

For more information and suggestions, contact the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

Portions of the guidance on this page are adapted, with permission, from the Indiana University keepteaching.iu.edu website. "Keep Teaching" content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License by the Trustees of Indiana University.

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