Academic Continuity Planning

Academic Continuity refers to the continuation of academic services at North Central University through virtual learning environment modality) in the event of all or parts of instructional site locations being closed and/or unavailable. 

In a real emergency which often occurs with little to no notice, knowing what to do and how best to do it will contribute greatly to our community resiliency and academic recovery.

The purpose of this guide is to provide resources for faculty members that enables them to continue instruction in the event classroom instruction is interrupted for an extended period of time. Please contact for help and more information.

Possible reasons for the disruption of classroom instruction include, but are not limited to:

  • Severe weather events
  • Unsafe conditions on campus
  • Public health emergency 

These resources assist faculty in continuing instruction in the event of an extended disruption to campus operations, including:

  • Physical classrooms are inaccessible.
  • Zoom is unavailable.
  • External events affect regular academic continuity.
  • Library services are unavailable. 

When classroom instruction is interrupted due to disasters and emergencies, faculty may need to use alternative methods and tools to continue class activities at a distance. Class activities may vary depending on the subject and teaching methods used. However, the following would be core categories of class activities that course instructors may need to continue:

  • Communicating with students
  • Delivering course content
  • Encouraging student participation: Answering questions, discussion, group work, etc. Administering assignments, tests, and grades.

In this article



Familiarize yourself with the following and verify that you can successfully access:

Other strategies for being prepared

  • Develop a bank of alternate assignments/activities that can be used when class can't meet in person.
  • Create an alternate assignment to take the place of an in-class activity.
  • Take part of the lab to the virtual environment: Many lab activities require students to become familiar with certain procedures, and only physical practice of those processes will do. In such cases, consider if there are other parts of the lab experience you could take the virtual environment (for example, video demonstrations of techniques, online simulations, analysis of data, other pre- or post-lab work), and save the physical practice parts of the labs until access is restored. The semester might get disjointed by splitting up lab experiences, but it might get you through a short campus closure.
  • Investigate virtual labs: Online resources and virtual tools might help replicate the experience of some labs (for example, virtual dissection, night sky apps, video demonstrations of labs, simulations).
  • Increase interaction in other ways: Sometimes labs are more about having time for direct student interaction, so consider other ways to replicate that level of contact if it is only your lab that is out of commission.

Planning ahead - start of semester

All of these ideas can be done prior to the start of the semester to ensure that you and your students are prepared in the event of a campus shutdown.

  • At the beginning of the term/semester, send your students a welcome email that includes your contact information. Suggest that they hold on to the message until the end of the course in case they need to get in contact with you.
  • Include information in your syllabus regarding your expectations for days when the weather might be questionable, you might need to miss class, etc. Setting expectations at the very start of the semester will help to eliminate confusion.
  • Remind students to download or print a copy of the syllabus.
  • Add a contingency plan to your attendance policy allowing for emergencies and disasters accommodating individual student situations.
  • Establish virtual  office hours. These can be held at the same time as your on-campus office hours but should provide an alternative way for students to get help if coming to campus isn't an option.
  • Have all assignments that students will turn in during the semester set up to be submitted digitally via Moodle.
  • Have all quizzes/exams that students will take during the semester set up to be taken on Moodle.
  • Start building your own repository of lecture videos. One way to do this is to begin recording one lecture each time you deliver a lecture in class. By the end of the semester you'll have recordings of every lecture, should you ever need them.
  • Prepare a draft communication to send to your students referring to your syllabus contingency plan if a university closure is imminent.
  • Install Office 365 on your personal devices. Every employee and student is eligible to download a copy of Office 365. Learn more about Office 365. Learn how to install.

Backing up teaching materials

Having a backup of your teaching materials and student materials and then storing them in Moodle ensures that you can access class materials even if you can’t access your office computer physically. You can also save your backup files to Microsoft 365 / OneDrive.

Back up critical teaching materials including:

  • Syllabus
  • Lecture files and notes
  • Discussion or forum topics
  • Assignments with instructions and any files students need
  • Quizzes
  • Grades

You may also back up student submissions including assignments, discussion or forum posts, email messages, and any feedback you gave. 

Lastly, encourage students to back up class materials including:

  • Syllabus
  • Class schedule file
  • All materials they submit to you, including assignments, discussion or forum posts, and email messages.
  • Your feedback
  • Grades

You may also wish to record contact information of the key colleagues in your department and college (for example, your department head and administrative assistant), including names, primary and secondary email addresses, and phone numbers.

Responding to an event

In the event of a natural disaster, widespread illness, or other situation that requires that on-campus instruction must be suspended,  you may need to move your course to the virtual environment quickly. 

Consider the following right away:

  • Identify your plans to address emergencies, and expectations, upfront in your syllabus so that students will know what to expect if classes are canceled. This should include any procedures you will implement. Consider doing this every semester so you are prepared in case of an emergency.
  • 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 Moodle, so you can get them more details soon. We recommend using a combination of Moodle Quickmail and Moodle announcements.
  • Set communication expectations with students for how quickly the instructor will respond to online communication.
  • 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?
  • 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 in the virutal instruction environment? Give yourself a little flexibility in that schedule, just in case the situation takes longer to resolve than you think.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, virtual 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.

Course continuity

Using Moodle as a central meeting point 

Moodle is the university’s learning management system. Moodle can be used for a number of tasks, such as announcements, assignments, discussions, content delivery, media management, collaborations, and more.

To create a Moodle course, contact

The IT service site has an extensive Moodle knowledge base with over 130 articles that covers all facets of setting up a course, grading, assignments, and more.

Academic Continuity Planning - Moodle Available 

Moodle supports academic learning with the ability to communicate to students, deliver course content, facilitate discussion, administer assignments and tests, and track grades. If you have your lecture materials written or otherwise recorded, then you just need to make them available by uploading them to your Moodle course. 

Academic Continuity Planning - Moodle Not Available 

If class is interrupted and Moodle is also unavailable, you may need to use a combination of other tools to continue instruction. An effective method for continuing instruction would be utilizing the combination of an virtual conferencing tool and file-sharing because they enable you not only to deliver lectures but also facilitate administering assignments and tests and encouraging student participation.Options for alternative methods of instructional delivery are included in this guide.

Options for virtual learning:

In-Person Plan

Synchronous Option (activities occur at the same time)

Asynchronous Option (activities occur independently but with specific due dates/times)

In-class lecture

Present lectures in real-time using Zoom

Record lectures using Panopto.

Guest speaker

You can send guests a URL to access your Zoom.

Guests record their content using another platform, such as screencast-o-matic, they upload to another service like  YouTube, and you can import with Panopto.

Student presentations

Students present in real-time using Zoom.

Students record presentations using Panopto.

Small group work/discussions

Small group work (assigned groups) using Zoom.

Create a prompt for students to respond to by posting to a discussion forum in Moodle.


Schedule oral exams with students by creating an individual meeting in Zoom.

Convert your paper quiz to a Moodle quiz.

Peer review writing session

Assign break out groups or pairs using Zoom.

Organize students into groups or pairs in Moodle and have students communicate feedback through discussion forums.

Delivering a virtual lecture

There are many ways in which instructors can host lectures with their students, either synchronously or asynchronously, using digital tools provided by Brown.  For a virtual, synchronous meeting Zoom web conferencing is a great solution.  In a Zoom meeting, both instructors and students can share audio, video and screen presentations.  There is also an option for the host of a Zoom video to record the session(s), which can be saved and posted to Zoom after the session ends. 

To optimize your asynchronous Panopto lecture, we recommend: 

  • Draft a script or an outline of your ideas for your lecture before recording. 
  • Use headphones or earbuds with a microphone to minimize surrounding noise and maximize your voice.
  • Record longer lectures into smaller, separate video lectures, organized by topic, idea, or skill.  By watching video lectures of less than 15 minutes each, learners are more likely to maintain focus and retain key information.
  • Include quiz questions throughout your lectures to engage learners and allow them to check for understanding as they watch. 

Upload PDF files, websites and media that support the content of your lecture to provide your learners a comprehensive and immersive learning experience.

Synchronous instructional option - Zoom

Meet virtually over Zoom to hold virtual real-time, interactive classes and office hours. In Zoom, you can share your computer screen, poll students, live chat, and open breakout rooms for smaller discussions.

Select the Sign In button and claim your account using your NCU account and password. Zoom users can use in-meeting features to work on projects, share content and engage in live discussions. You can record Zoom sessions locally or in the cloud; Zoom recordings are automatically uploaded to Panopto if the cloud option is selected. 

You will need:

  • A device with a good internet connection
  • Headphones or earbuds (optional)
  • Microphone (a separate microphone can be better than your device's built-in mic if possible)
  • Web camera (optional, preferred for face-to-face contact)

A few tips and tricks:

  • As host of the Zoom meeting, you can mute participants when their background noise becomes distracting
  • As the host of the meeting, instructors can turn on the Breakout Rooms feature in their Zoom settings for group discussion or group problem sets. In a Breakout Room, instructors can split the large meeting into separate rooms for small groups of students to work collaboratively.  

Let your students know that you will meet with them at the usual day and time via Zoom. Advise them to be at their desktop or laptop ahead of time to try out the link you have sent them. Learn more about Zoom.

Include Zoom best practices in your email to students:

  • Use a computer that is in a quiet room, without other computers that are accessing Zoom.
  • Click on the Zoom meeting link sent by the instructor.
  • Unmute the audio and video at the bottom of the screen.
  • When you are not talking, mute your audio.
  • Use the chat feature if you have questions.

Asynchronous instructional option - Panopto

Pre-recording lectures works for classes of any size and is especially useful for large lectures. It’s an excellent option for students who may not be available during class time.

Below are Panopto tutorials on:

For more information, see our Pantopo knowledge base


How can I have students do individual or group presentations?

Use Zoom If you hold synchronous virtual classes; one of the students can share their screen with the presentation, while all of them can use their computer microphones or their phones to speak to the class.  It would be a good idea for everyone to do a technology check in advance of the presentation sessions.

How can I collect student assignments digitally?

Moodle has a feature to collect assignments digitally, provide students feedback, and share student grades. The two most common ways to collect work from students through Moodle is by using the Moodle Assignment activity. Both activities are widely used by faculty at Purchase to collect papers and other digital projects.

You can collect more than just documents using the Assignment activity in Moodle.  Set up your assignment as a text submission instead of a file upload, and students can provide links to videos of themselves doing performance or other activities.  

What if the files I need are stored on a network share like the P: Drive or my H: Drive?

Faculty and staff can access an on-campus-Microsoft-Windows-based desktop computer from home or another off-campus location via Remote Desktop.  This windows-based desktop is called NETPC. Learn more about NETPC.

What about Colleague and other administrative applications?

Faculty and staff can access an on-campus-Microsoft-Windows-based desktop computer from home or another off-campus location via Remote Desktop.  This windows-based desktop is called NETPC. Learn more about NETPC.

What's the best way to have an virtual meeting? 

If you are meeting with a group that uses Microsoft Teams, simply click the "Meet Now" button in a team chat, or schedule a future Teams meeting. 

Zoom is integrated with Moodle and may be the easiest solution for meeting with people who are outside of NCU.


Article ID: 100120
Thu 3/5/20 4:24 PM
Wed 9/9/20 4:34 PM