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University Guidance for Instructional Continuity

During a significant disruption to instruction and/or normal University operations (such as a public health crisis, a significant weather event, campus-wide power outage, etc.), instructional continuity becomes a concern. The guidance on this page was developed to help instructors better prepare for instructional consistency and continuity during public health and other emergency situations.

All instructors teaching courses scheduled to take place in person should familiarize themselves with the information below and be prepared for different instructional possibilities, as appropriate for their context. Guidance on more specific strategies to support instructional continuity may be found on the Reinert Center’s website here.

Importantly, there is no one-size-fits-all model for all in-person courses, and all University stakeholders have high expectations for quality learning experiences, even when public health situations are fluid. Regardless of the particular circumstances for each class, all instructors must do their best to ensure that the quality of teaching, and students’ opportunities for learning, are consistent, regardless of instructional modality or format.

Guidance for In-Person Instruction

Because unexpected disruptions could occur at any time, all instructors should be prepared to adapt their teaching strategies temporarily in ways that are consistent with the guidance below. To learn more about each item, simply click the down arrow to expand the text. Note: If you teach in highly experiential learning situations (e.g., clinicals, flight training, etc.) or in an externally-accredited program that limits virtual instruction, some of this guidance may not be appropriate or sufficient. Please work with your department chair/dean to identify appropriate alternatives and share relevant information with students should the need arise for adaptation.

Work with your chair/dean to develop contingency plans in the event you become ill and cannot continue to teach your courses. 

Each academic unit will have different expectations for what this looks like. Ideally, contingency plans will account for instructional continuity of two kinds: how you will shift your course to virtual instruction should the need arise and how you will approach course continuity if you are unable to teach your course in any modality/format. If you are unable to deliver your course remotely due to illness, you should work with your chair and/or dean to determine whether the best approach is to cancel class for a short period of time or have a colleague cover the class for the time you are unable to teach. 

Be prepared to teach all of your in-person courses remotely via Canvas if a shift to remote instruction for all courses becomes necessary.

Should conditions require the University to shift in-person courses to a remote format, you will be expected to facilitate those courses via the University-supported learning management system, which is Canvas. This means you should be familiar with how to use Canvas and ready to shift to Canvas quickly.

If required by the University for public health reasons, include any temporary syllabus statements in your course syllabi.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, such syllabus statements addressed topics such as the expected use of face masks during in-person classes. If public health conditions warrant specific classroom measures, those will be communicated--along with any required, temporary syllabus statements--by the Provost or the President.

Plan how you will modify your course if you are unable to teach in person for a period of time.

If you (or a household member) develop a health condition that requires you to be out of class for a short period of time (i.e., a few class periods), you need concrete plans for instructional continuity. How you approach instructional continuity is up to you (as long as you are aligned with the guidance below and with any accreditation or department/college restrictions). Here is guidance for your planning:

  • If you are able to continue teaching virtually for a short period of time: decide whether you will do so synchronously or asynchronously.
    • Synchronous sessions must take place during the days/times of the published course schedule. They should be conducted via Zoom or another University-supported web conferencing technology.
    • Asynchronous courses should take place via Canvas. 
  • If you are unable to continue teaching remotely for a short period of time: decide (with your chair/dean) if you will cancel class sessions or if a colleague will cover the course temporarily.
  • If you are unable to continue teaching remotely for an extended period of time: work with your chair/dean to identify a colleague who can cover the class for the time you are unable to teach. Note: determining who will be able to do this ahead of time will ease the transition should you need to move to this contingency.
  • Share your instructional continuity plans with your chair/dean, so everyone is clear about what to expect should these plans become necessary. Even if your department does not require you to share these plans, it may be helpful later on if students contact the department looking for information.
  • Share your instructional continuity plans with students. You can do this in a variety of ways (e.g., in your syllabus, in your Canvas course shell, by email). Even if there are many caveats in the information, the more you can share with students at the beginning of the term, the better. Here is an example of language you could adapt for your situation:
    • “Situations may arise this semester in which I and/or a portion of students in this class are unable to attend class in-person because of Covid-related isolation/quarantine. In the event that I need to be absent from class, I will contact you immediately through ____ <SLU email, our Canvas site, or other means by which you regularly send official messages to your students>. Right now, I plan to ____ <use Zoom for synchronous class meetings/use Canvas for asynchronous work/other>. If a portion of the class must be absent, we will ____ <also use Zoom for synchronous class meetings/use Canvas for asynchronous course work/other>. I will contact you ahead of our class time to inform you if our expected ways of meeting will be interrupted. I strongly encourage you to prepare ahead of time any additional materials or hardware, as well as dedicated space for participating in class remotely, that will be necessary for you to proceed with our contingency plans without interruption.
Plan if/how you will modify your course based on student absences due to infectious disease).

We may encounter situations in which either small numbers or substantial numbers of students are absent from the same class at the same time due to isolation/quarantine for an infectious disease. Depending on the public health conditions on campus, this could happen more than once during a term. If/how instructors modify their courses based on student absences will vary greatly, depending on a variety of contextual factors (e.g., how many students are out at the same time, how many students are enrolled in the course, the type and level of the course (i.e., lecture vs. lab/experiential vs. seminar), the pedagogies used, the point in the semester at which the absences come, etc.). If only one or two students are out at a given time, you may choose to work with those students individually to stay on track and carry on with your in-person class. If, however, multiple students are out at the same time, you may want to consider other adjustments. Ultimately, when the number of students able to attend in person meaningfully impacts the integrity of learning in your course, you may need to modify the modality/format in order to best support the student learning and experience you aim to create. Here are the options available as you plan for various scenarios (assuming no external accreditation or departmental restrictions prohibit your use of them):

  • Continue teaching the course in person and work with absent students individually to stay on track in the course. Reinert Center staff have created a brief resource guide that can help instructors think through effective ways to accommodate students in these situations and are available to talk individually with instructors.
  • Continue teaching the course in person and create asynchronous online resources/opportunities to allow absent students to continue learning and stay on track in the course. For example: provide access to recorded lectures or notes for the missed class periods or other self-paced reading/multimedia materials that allow students to remain on track. 
  • Continue teaching the course in person and allow absent students to Zoom in to live classes (i.e., temporarily shift the course to a dual-mode format). This option should only be when the following conditions are met:
    • The option is appropriate to the types of course activities and expected learning the instructor has established for the class sessions.
    • The instructor is able to engage equitably both sets of students (those in the classroom and those attending via Zoom).

    • The instructor chooses to use this option. Dual-mode is at the instructor’s discretion (consistent with any restrictions noted by the chair/dean).

    • The students participating via Zoom confirm that they have the ability to Zoom from the location in which they are isolated–i.e., they have access to the needed technology (including internet bandwidth, computer with working camera/speakers/microphone) and they have access to quiet, semi-private space.

    • The students attending class via Zoom are in isolation/quarantine due to an infectious disease and must miss multiple class sessions. The choice for a Zoom-in option is not used at a student’s discretion and should not be used to accommodate student preferences to attend via Zoom. Students enrolled in in-person courses are expected to attend in person. 
  • Temporarily suspend in-person learning and move the course fully online for all enrolled students for a short period of time. You may choose to do this synchronously or asynchronously as follows:
    • Synchronous (live) sessions must take place during the days/times of the published course schedule and should be conducted via Zoom or another University-supported web conferencing technology. It is important to remember there may be equity implications to this choice. If you think you may choose this option, consider telling students at the beginning of the semester that this is a possibility, so they can begin to plan ahead to ensure access to appropriate technology, to consider where they might be able to access quiet, semi-private space from which to join the live class sessions, etc. You also might want to poll students to ensure they have what they need to participate equitably.
    • Asynchronous courses should take place via Canvas.
    • Note: this is different from determining that a course should be online for the whole term. That decision must be made in coordination with your chair and dean.

Communicate course-related changes and contingency plans with students as early as possible. 

The more transparent and timely you are in sharing information with your students, the better. Consider multiple methods for sharing information, as well, including email, the syllabus, your Canvas course site, a course website, social media (if you use it for your class), etc. Here are some of the things you should communicate to students once you’ve finalized your plans:

  • If you plan to begin the semester remotely, communicate that information to students as soon and as often as possible to ensure they see it in time for the first class session. If you will begin synchronously online, share the Zoom link and password and any other information they may need for how to engage effectively in the virtual class. The recommended syllabus statement for distance education etiquette may be useful as a starting point.
  • Share as much information as you can about your contingency plan in the event that you cannot teach for a period of time. Even if you have to provide caveats or explain that “the information is subject to change, depending on the circumstances,” telling students how you will communicate with them if you need to cancel or change class is helpful so that they can make any arrangements or plans in advance to be able to participate fully.
Instructors teaching in-person classes at SLU are not expected to offer a remote attendance option. 

In general, dual-mode courses (in which some students register for and attend class in person and others register for and attend the live class session via Zoom) are offered only on a limited basis and with the approval of a dean. In situations where instructional continuity requires an adjustment for an in-person course, dual-mode may be an instructor's best option for keeping students on track temporarily/on a short-term basis. As explained elsewhere in this guidance, the option should only be used temporarily and at the instructor’s discretion, when it is appropriate for the planned activities of a given class period, when the instructor can equitably engage both groups of students, and when the students attending via Zoom or another University-supported web conferencing technology are in isolation/quarantine due to an infectious disease. Students who are not in isolation/quarantine due to a health professional’s requirement must attend class in person or be marked absent. Note: courses approved to be offered for a whole term in the dual-mode format are required to meet the University's  Distance Education requirements. These include the course being designed in alignment with the Distance Course Design Rubric and passing the course review process.

Students enrolled in in-person courses are expected to attend class in person unless they are in isolation/quarantine at the demand of a health professional (or have other circumstances that warrant extended absence). 

This expectation is consistent with pre-pandemic practice. You determine how best to support students in isolation/quarantine (or in other circumstances warranting extended absences) in their ability to stay on track in your classes. If you choose to allow students to join live, in-person classes via Zoom, that does not mean students may opt, for their own preferences, to move back and forth between in-person and remote learning. 

If the University needs to implement a face mask requirement as a public health measure, that requirement will apply to all classrooms, labs, and other instructional spaces. 

Instructors are expected to enforce any active University mask requirement in their courses and to include any required, temporary statements in their course syllabi.