Teaching Continuity Guide

This guide is intended to assist Rice instructors in considering how to adjust their course plans during short and long-term disruption to the residential courses. Teaching during times of disruption may involve using technological tools not previously integrated into the course and thinking creatively about how to develop students’ knowledge and skills to complete course assignments. This resource provides guidance on what to consider when developing a plan for teaching your course remotely and high- and low-tech tips to manage your course and support your students.

For support on pedagogical issues during a disruption to your course schedule, please contact the CTE at cte@rice.edu or schedule a consultation through our People page.

For support using Canvas, Zoom, Kaltura, or other technology tools please refer to OIT’s Remote Teaching Resources. You can contact the Office of Informational Technology at helpdesk@rice.edu. For information about dual delivery technology please refer to the Fall Technology Planning Home and contact teaching@rice.edu. Rice Online provides the following guide for Rice instructors: Reimagining Your Course For Remote Delivery Guide as well as a Remote Delivery FAQ.

Developing a Plan for Course Disruption

Consider the following questions when preparing for short or long-term disruption to the residential courses:

What can you realistically expect from students given the circumstances?
  • Stay abreast of current conditions on your campus, and allow current conditions to inform your choices for teaching during a disruption. The cause of the disruption may impact how you will adjust your course (for example, an extended closure for weather and/or flooding may require different adjustments than a public health emergency). Keep the particulars of the situation, and the recommendations of Rice Crisis Management, in mind when making modifications to your courses.
  • Develop a plan to accommodate students who cannot/will not attend class prior to an official campus closure (due to illness, self-imposed isolation, transportation, safety, or other issues).
What are your realistic goals for continuing classes during a disruption?
  • Revisit your learning goals for the course. What is essential for your students to learn during the time away from campus? How can you help them meet those goals given the change in learning circumstances?
  • Help set your priorities and expectations by reviewing your syllabus and course schedule to determine what will be disrupted by the closure, what can/should be rescheduled or postponed, and what can be moved online.
  • What expectations do you have for students’ participation, workload, deadlines, and communication during this time? Try to keep expectations realistic and manageable, keeping in mind that students’ ability to meet these new expectations may be compromised (e.g., they may lack power/internet or may be quarantined).
What tools and resources can you use that will already be familiar to you and your students?
How will you create a sense of community among your students during the disruption?
  • What online tools and techniques will help you stay connected to your students, and keep them connected to each other?
How will you share course materials and readings with students?
  • How will students with disabilities, those who have limited resources, who have been significantly impacted by the cause of the disruption, or who have other challenges be able to access your course materials? For example, will synchronous lectures be closed captioned for students who are Deaf or hard of hearing, or for those who may have to participate in lectures in a non-ideal space (e.g., a noisy computer lab or dorm room)? If you need assistance ensuring your course materials are accessible, please contact the Digital Information Accessibility Coordinator at a11y@rice.edu.
How will you deliver lectures and hold discussion?
  • Consider offering lectures and discussion in asynchronous ways, like recorded lectures or Canvas discussion boards (see the section “Adjusting Assignments and Activities for Remote Learning” below for more information). This will allow students to remain engaged with the course content and each other, but reduce stress about participation and attendance.
How can you recreate lab activities in an online environment?
  • Consider alternatives to lab environments like offering video demonstrations, simulations, or virtual lab experiences; provide raw data to analyze rather than requiring students to collect data; and offer one-on-one or small group office hours (see the section “Adjusting Assignments and Activities for Remote Learning” below for more information).
How will you collect assignments and proctor exams?
  • Communicate with students how you expect them to submit assignments and/or how you will proctor exams, and anticipate that students may have trouble meeting deadlines (see the section “Adjusting Assignments and Activities for Remote Learning” below for more information).
How will you communicate course changes with students?
  • Frequent and early communication can reduce students’ anxieties about changes to their courses. Even if you have not finalized all details about changes to your course, communicate with your students about what you do know, and when they can expect more information.
  • Students might struggle with the shift to remote learning and might not know how to learn without class structure and community. Provide your students with some guidance about how to learn during disruption. Dr. Caleb McDaniel and Dr. Jennifer Bratter developed a guide Tips for Learning During Disruption that you can easily share with your students.

Supporting Students During Course Disruption

  • Students may face a variety of physical, emotional, cognitive, and financial challenges during course disruptions that can impact learning and performance. Remember that students don’t have to be directly impacted by a crisis for it to have a significant impact on their health, well-being, and stress levels. When possible, offer all students additional flexibility to meet deadlines, adjust workloads, and the necessary time to adapt to a changing situation. Please refer to the recent post on the CTE Reflections on Teaching and Learning blog about “Inclusion, Equity, and Access While Teaching Remotely.”
  • Be mindful of the ways in which a crisis can impact communities in different ways, and how students from different identity groups (race, ethnicity, age, religious affiliation, gender, sexual orientation) may respond to a situation. Moreover, consider that some communities may become targets of bias incidents, discrimination, and even hate crimes during times of crisis. Be prepared to address tension, heated moments, or bias incidents if they occur in your classes or on campus. Reflect on how your own response to the situation is impacting you, your approach to teaching, and your interactions with students, and how you can best support your students.
  • Consider whether and how to discuss the cause of the disruption in class, and how you will prepare for those conversations. The resource Teaching in Times of Crisis from the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching offers valuable tips for discussing local, national, and international crises in class. Misinformation spreads easily in times of crisis, and students may have misconceptions about the causes of an issue or about communities that are impacted. When possible, correct misinformation that students may be sharing.
  • Offer students resources and support when necessary. The Rice Wellness and Counseling Center is available 24/7 at (713) 348-3311.

Conducting Classes During Disruption

In the event of an emergency that disrupts residential courses instructors can develop a plan utilizing the technology they are most comfortable with to lessen the impact. When teaching a course remotely, for even a short period of time, one of the main considerations is whether course activities such as lectures, discussions, or group activities will be offered synchronously (all students engaged together at the same time), asynchronously (students engaging with course materials independently and on their own time), or some blend of the two. This section below offers tips for conducting classes during an extended campus closure, whether you opt for asynchronous, synchronous, or blended online learning. OIT’s Canvas course “Remote Teaching Resources" provides tutorials on the various tools in Canvas.

Communication with Students

It is important to communicate early and often with students through Canvas or email. The fastest way to communicate with your students is to post Announcements in Canvas with written or recorded messages for your students. Suggest to students that they check their notifications settings to allow for copies of Announcements to be forwarded to their email address.

  • When setting expectations about the course work and deadlines with students, remember to discuss your expectations for communications. When can they expect to hear from you, and where should they expect to receive that message? When do you expect to hear from them, and how?
  • Students may be unfamiliar with online learning management tools in Canvas. OIT’s Canvas module “Introduction to Canvas for Students” to your Canvas course to offer students support.
  • Keep track of students’ frequently asked questions and share answers with all students (on a Canvas page or as a shared Google document) for faster communication and to avoid answering repetitive emails.
  • Offer regular “office hours” during closures so students can stay connected with you. You may want to offer the option for students to contact you via email, video or text chat, or a phone call. Use Zoom to host office hours, and schedule 1:1 meetings with students. All faculty have a Basic Zoom account.
  • Stay active in the online space (discussion boards, groups, etc.) so students feel your presence and that they’re still “in class” during a closure.
  • Use discussion boards, group work, and synchronous class meetings to help students stay connected to the class community.
Course Documents and Files

It is important that students in your course have access to all documents and files they will need to successfully achieve the course goals and objectives. You can use Canvas, Box, or Google Drive to store and distribute course documents and files to students.

  • Use Canvas to distribute course materials in PDF format whenever possible. PDF format is easier to access and read on mobile devices, which some students may depend on if their internet access is unstable or if they do not have a personal computer.
  • Use the Canvas Check Accessibility tool to check the accessibility of your Canvas pages. All videos uploaded to Kaltura will have automatic machine-generated closed captions, though these captions may not be 100% accurate.
Lecture Video and Audio

Lectures can be captured on video or audio in real time or for students to watch/listen to at a later date. You can use Kaltura Personal Capture to record video lectures, which your students can view asynchronously on Canvas. Zoom, Canvas conferences, or Google Hangout can be used for synchronous lectures. Please see OIT’s Canvas course “Remote Teaching Resources” for more information about these resources and for help selecting a tool.

  • Be sure to check your own computer’s audio and video capabilities.
Assignments and Grading

An extended disruption to residential courses may require you to adjust your timeline for student submissions of assignments and grading. Students will likely have some anxiety about the disruption affecting their final grade in the course. Early communication about changes to assignments, exams and grading will help alleviate some of their anxieties.

  • Having students submit assignments via Canvas may help avoid overwhelming your inbox.
  • Ask students to use a standardized file name for assignments [Lastname_Firstname--Assignment Name] to make files easier to identify when downloaded.

Adjusting Assignments and Activities for Remote Learning

In this section we discuss some of the most common class assignments and tips for adjusting these assignments for extended disruptions and remote learning. If you are using an assignment not addressed below, please reach out to the CTE staff at cte@rice.edu and we are happy to talk through an assignment adjustment with you.

Class Discussion

Class discussions can be conducted synchronously through Zoom or asynchronously through Canvas discussion boards and email threads. Threaded discussions in Canvas or through email allow students to reply to each other, build on their responses, and conduct discussion, with the added benefits of allowing students to engage at their own pace, on their own schedule, and for you and your students to review the discussion at a later date.

  • If you don’t typically offer online discussions, it may be helpful to offer guidelines for participation as well as appropriate behavior. This can help to set students up for success, and indicate to students that you take online discussions as seriously as in-person ones.
  • Participate in discussions with your students! Staying active in the online space (e.g.,commenting on student posts, giving feedback to students) will keep students on track and help build a sense of community in the online space.
Group Work

Group work can be broken down into individual assignments - writing, data collection, presentations, posters, etc. Group meetings and collaboration time can be conducted synchronously using Zoom breakout rooms. For asynchronous group work, the Groups function in Canvas allows students to communicate and work on documents together. Google Suite tools can also be used to help students collaborate in groups when meeting in person is not possible.

  • Have groups develop a “team contract” to keep each team member accountable and on task as they work remotely.

Writing assignments are perhaps the easiest assignments to adjust to course disruptions. However these assignments may also pose some unique challenges.

  • Peer-review can be assigned and managed through Canvas. Students can share drafts and receive feedback through Canvas and Google Drive.
  • Research papers that involve data collection or the use of the libraries physical resources will be difficult for students to complete. Consider the key goals for the paper and how they might be achieved through alternative means. For example, if your most important goal is source-related, an annotated bibliography might also function well as a substitute assignment. If asking and answering questions is most critical, consider if a research proposal -- laying out the key intended aims and approaches of the project -- might meet similar objectives.
  • The Center for Academic and Professional Communication provides many online resources to help students with academic writing.

Labs courses are presented with unique challenges for remote learning.

  • For labs, the key objectives may be achieved through data analysis, rather than data collection. If the latter, instructors can share pre-existing/”dummy” data with students then ask them to analyze and submit via Canvas or email.
  • Some aspects of the lab may be accomplished if students watch them, rather than do them. For example, the Journal of Visualized Experiments offers over 9,500 videos demonstrating experiments, mapped to key concepts and student protocols. MERLOT also serves as a repository housing 90+ virtual labs. Harvard’s LabXchange has a suite of lab simulations with assessments that focus on basic molecular biology techniques; PHET offers interactive simulations that allow students to vary parameters; and many textbooks also provide interactive lab-based resources.

To replace in-class presentations you can ask students to record their presentation using simple technology (even a cell phone) and send it to the instructor or full class. If oral communication is less of a core objective, ask students to do one of the following: (1) submit a script of their presentation to assess content knowledge and other skills like persuasive thinking, or (2) create a poster in PowerPoint addressing the main points and research for the presentation.

  • In-person exams can be replaced with timed or untimed take-home exam Canvas or via email. In the case of a timed exam, an instructor might distribute problems or prompts to students by email, then give students a certain amount of time to return their responses.
  • Some courses may be able to have students complete a series of smaller assignments that can be completed remotely in lieu of comprehensive exam.
  • For classes with significant writing (weekly responses, multiple papers, etc.), one option is to give students the opportunity to revise a certain number of assignments and compile them into a final portfolio.

Resuming Classes After an Extended Disruption

After classes resume, consider how you will address the disruption during your first classes back, as well as for the rest of the semester. Some researchers have found that students appreciated when faculty members directly acknowledged challenging situations, and that faculty responses did not have to be time-intensive or personalized in order to be helpful to students. Your responses to a given scenario may depend on proximity to and/or the scale of the event, as well as whether students have been directly impacted or might strongly identify with those who have been. See the CTE resource “Teaching After Hurricane Harvey” for more resources and suggestions about how to discuss crisis events in your classes.

Helpful Links and Resources

CTE Blog on “Inclusion, Equity, and Access While Teaching Remotely.”

Rice's Program in Writing and Communication "Resources for Teaching Communication Skills Online

Rice OIT Canvas Course “Remote Teaching Resources”

Canvas Instructor Guide

Rice Crisis Management

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Official Coronavirus Webp