For universities worldwide, moving courses and university services to virtual and/or asynchronous environments quickly has become a necessity—with little time for thoughtful conversations and planning required to make decisions like this. For some, this will mean going online quickly while for others it will require creative solutions depending on their institution’s infrastructure and student needs.

As institutions consider contingency plans to ensure continuity, use this resource to kick start your institution’s planning. We will continue to add more resources and guided questions as the situation evolves.

Academic Continuity

How can we ensure quality learning experiences for learners who cannot attend class or for all learners if campus is closed?

How do we offer distance learning opportunities regardless of where we are as an institution when it comes to supporting online offerings?

How do we design distance education offerings that meet the needs of every student?

  • If this is your first foray into online learning, consider it your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) upon which you will continue to improve and iterate. A poor online learning experience can set back future innovation. While you may not hit every mark for high-quality as you move quickly, use the Emergency Remote Checklist from Quality Matters or resources from the Online Learning Consortium as a guide to help you move online.
  • Accessibility is key: design for every learner. Some may have disabilities you are not aware of because it is less impactful in a face-to-face environment. The University of Michigan has helpful resources regarding Universal Design and Web Accessibility.
  • Distance education will not mean going online with an LMS for each institution. If your institution does not have existing online infrastructure, identify alternative distance education paths like using synchronous meeting software like Zoom, using instant messaging platforms like Slack, etc and provide training to help faculty and students use it.
  • Ensure academic support centers (i.e., writing center, library, etc) have plans for virtual support both asynchronously and synchronously.
  • Create new or utilize existing third-party faculty training and development related to
    • Fundamentals of online course development
    • Facilitating online and distance learning
    • Student support (i.e., providing virtual assessment feedback, student support, and encouraging persistence particularly in times of stress and trauma)
    • Ensuring regular and substantive engagement

Advising

What will you do to ensure online learners feel connected and are able to stay engaged in learning experiences?

  • Online or distance education students may run a higher risk of attrition without necessary support. Identify strategies you will use to ensure an engaging, positive, and supportive relationship with learners so they are encouraged to persist.
  • Examine existing processes around academic advising and coaching. Identify core elements that will stay the same and what needs to change to accommodate virtual students.

Data

What metrics do you need to track as classes move to virtual environments?

What manual tracking may you need to do in the short-term?

How can you collect data and feedback now to inform future emergency planning or flexible learning options?

  • Identify key data points to track student engagement and persistence and develop a consistent method for tracking across all distance education offerings
  • Collect qualitative information along the way from faculty, students, tech support, etc to inform future planning–whether for an emergency or for future flexible pathway work.

Technology

What student information systems, learning management tools, and synchronous/asynchronous meeting options will you need to be successful?

Who will support faculty, staff, and learners through navigating new technologies?

What technology do students have access to and how will that inform our approach to distance learning?

  • Consider your learners, the access they may or may not have, and how best to meet their needs via distance education options. It might mean using synchronous meeting technology or email. It might mean using the mail (not the electronic kind).
  • Evaluate and identify a Learning Management System. If you do not currently have online offerings, you can leverage free aspects of Moodle or other open LMS to move your course online quickly if needed.
  • Identify who will support faculty and students as they use new technology on non-campus owned devices

Career Services

What services will you be able to offer all learners, regardless of location or closure? How can you best partner with employers, virtual internship organizations, and guest speakers to still offer students a robust experience? How can you effectively partner with employers to offer virtual internship opportunities?

  • Engage employers in early conversations about virtual career fairs or interview opportunities. Explore how you will work together to accommodate both face-to-face and virtual opportunities
  • Evaluate virtual internship opportunities and identify key relationships you can build now.