Pre-course planning

Generic strategies for designing resilient courses that could be applied by the majority of instructors, regardless of discipline as part of the standard preparation for course delivery.

Start of semester checklist

The start of a semester is a good time to think about how you would conduct classroom instruction in the event of a disruption to campus operations.

Course design

  • When designing your course, consider the options for incorporating flexible learning approaches for students. If possible, design your course so that it is not dependent on a single delivery mode or platform. Blended or mixed learning approaches use multiple modes of delivery and provide options to flex in the event of an emergency, but require advance preparation of teaching materials.
  • If you are designing a new course it is a good opportunity to review alternative learning approaches and incorporate learning continuity as a core component of your pedagogical approach.
  • If you have an existing course, or inherit an existing course from another member of staff, consider how you could use learning continuity as part of a course review for an update or refresh of your approach.

Some simple suggestions

  • Where possible schedule review lecture sessions which could be used in emergency to shift delivery sessions.
  • If possible, design your course so that it is as modular as possible rather than sequential (e.g. the loss of session #3 does not impact on sessions #4, #5 or #6).
  • Build in flexibility in the selection and design of assessment methods. Explore and trial one of the eLearning options profiled by CLeaR.
  • Explore options for flexible learning by booking an appointment with CLeaR
  • See examples illustrating how flexible learning options can be applied to a course’s design on the FHMS TeachingPLUS website

Course outline

  • Finalise your course outline well in advance of the start of the semester.
  • Load your course outline and key course information onto your course site in Canvas to ensure students have ongoing access to critical course information and are well aware of assessment dates and plans for delivering course content. Go to Canvas
  • Make your course resources lists available to students online with the support of subject librarians. Visit Talis Aspire
  • Include the University's disaster readiness statement below in your course outline so that students are aware of the first steps to take should class be interrupted.

University of Auckland disaster readiness statement for course outlines

We undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions, the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and your assessment is fair, and not compromised. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the University website for information about how to proceed.

  • Place other relevant guidelines for your class (e.g. how to contact you if the server is down) in an obvious place on the Course Syllabus page in Canvas.
  • Provide a printed and electronic copy of your final course outline to your faculty, school or department (as appropriate).
  • Prepare a resilience kit for your course. Spending a few minutes making offline versions of your courseware reduces your risk and could save you significant distress. For example, load critical teaching materials on an encrypted memory stick, upload to a cloud server, to the University server and store a physical (printed) version off-campus.

Back-up teaching personnel

  • Identify colleagues with appropriate expertise and experience who could back you up.
  • Seek and secure their commitment to act as backup tutor(s) in an emergency. (It may be appropriate to discuss such arrangements with your HOD).
  • Provide these colleagues with access to teaching materials (including lecture recordings).
  • Add your colleagues to your Canvas course site.

Assignments, assessments and grading

  • Instructors are reminded of our Assessment of Student Learning Policy. This prohibits any changes to approved and published assessment plans without consultation with students and approval by the Academic Head and Dean of Faculty – except in crisis situations (see next bullet point). In the case of changes, these must be agreed and publicised to students within the period of deleting the course from a student’s enrolment without penalty. Read the Assessment of Student Learning Policy.
  • In a crisis, teachers may have to make some unilateral decisions very quickly that affect the course in terms of condensing or altering assessment. If the University Crisis Management Team (CMT) declares a Level 2 or Level 3 event that impacts on learning and teaching, instructors are asked, under the directive of their faculty BCP team leader, to follow the following procedures for implementing emergency changes to assessment plans. This will help to ensure that a consistent and equitable approach to assessment is applied across the University:

Step 1

Prepare assessment change and communication plan using AS-64

Step 2 

HOD signs-off AS-64

Step 3

Associate Dean Approves and sends to examinations

  • Consider how you would adapt assessment to fit the scenarios in Part 4 of the Continuity Planning document guide below. Do not assume that students will react positively to a reduction in assessment load. A better approach might be to consider keeping the original assessment scheme in place while introducing flexibility around submission dates and methods of submission. An alternative option is to use the Aegrotat/Compassionate Consideration process as a guide in deriving an estimated grade for students. However, this approach is not operable unless there are already coursework outcomes available as a base. The basis of these special passes is that there is clear evidence that had the student not been disadvantaged for reasons beyond their control, they would have passed. Find out more about the Aegrotat/Compassionate Consideration process 
  • Submit a copy of all tests and exams in advance of their scheduled dates to the school/faculty office (even if it is just the day before). This will allow schools/disciplinary areas to administer tests or exams in the event that an instructor is absent due to any unforeseen circumstance.
  • An important element of resiliency in course design is the capacity to administer assignments and assessments remotely. You may wish to consider designing your course so that a portion of assignments and activities can be (or are) delivered through alternative means such as Canvas. Further information on Canvas Assessment tools can be found on page 14 of the Continuity Planning document guide below. One issue to keep in mind is that it is not currently possible to guarantee ‘test/exam conditions’ for online assessments.
  • Establish a virtual and physical collection point for assignment submission and returns. Remember to communicate arrangements with students.

Teacher/student communication

Consider how you will communicate with the students in your class in the event of unexpected circumstances. This might be through the communication tools in Canvas or email, but that will depend on the IT infrastructure channels available.

Identify the necessary information that you or your students will need to be able to use these means of communication effectively (e.g. home access to a computer, email addresses, familiarity with Canvas) and discuss arrangements with students early on in the course.

Note: there is no need to make such arrangements complex, as long as students know the first point of contact and that staff have a plan.

The University’s preferred channels for two-way communication between teachers and students at the course level (as opposed to other university communications) are:

  • Nominated Class Rep System (acknowledging that class reps change each semester, and sometimes class reps are not as responsive as they need to be)
  • ‘Official’ discussion boards (Canvas/Piazza)
  • Nominated course coordinator on staff.