Continuity of Instruction
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Ensuring Instructional Continuity at El Camino

In a circumstance where you might be required to change the modality of your course with minimal notice, this guide will provide you with some actions to take when making this shift.

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Training to Support Move to Remote Instruction

Until further notice:

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Guides and Templates


Library Resources


Student Resources

Essential Resources for Flexible Instruction

Here at El Camino, there are three resources that can provide you with the ability to continue providing at least minimal instruction regardless of your discipline. By using the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS) and Panopto Video, you can maintain delivery of many instructional materials, receipt of a variety of assessments, and the ability to deliver recorded lectures. ConferZoom video conferencing allows you to conduct meetings and office hours with students.

Canvas LMS

Canvas is the LMS that we use here at El Camino. It’s a powerful tool that can be used for online, hybrid, and face-to-face classes, and in the event of a disruption to on-campus teaching and learning, it can be used to supporting instructional continuity. Using Canvas for this purpose is not the same thing as creating a fully online course, and doesn’t require the same extent of familiarity with the platform or experience with designing online courses.

Panopto Video

Panopto is a video platform that El Camino uses to host video for instructional purposes including supporting accessibility. It integrates with Canvas, is relatively easy to use, generates automatic captions that can be easily edited, and has several interactive features. Panopto can be used to deliver lectures and captures PowerPoint or Keynote slides directly into the recording, and also offers the ability to do screen captures for demonstration purposes. By making short Panopto videos, you can deliver the lecture portion of any course to your students in order to support continuity.

Getting Started with Instructional Continuity
  • Identify plans early: Consider addressing emergencies and expectations up front in your syllabus, so students know what will happen if classes are cancelled, including procedures you will implement. Consider doing this each semester, so you are ready 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 Canvas, so you can get them more details soon. Never used Canvas before? See the quick start guide below.
  • 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 online? 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 you 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.
  • Identify your new expectations for students: You may need 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, or needing to care for family members. Be prepared to handle for requests for extensions or accommodations flexibly and equitably.
  • Be prepared to modify some assignments: Don’t forget to consider equity as you seek to provide instructional continuity. Not all of our students have access to a desktop or laptop computer, but all (or nearly all) have access to a smartphone. Can a short video or audio assignment provide a comparable demonstration of understanding where you might normally ask for a short written paper? Phones aren’t well suited for composing long form text documents, but the Canvas app does allow students to record short media submissions.
  • Create a more detailed communications plan: Communicate changes in the class to students as you go, along with more information about how they can contact you (email, online office hours, etc.). Make sure to make it clear to students what the timeframe for a reply is.

Strategies for Moving to Remote Instruction

Communicate with Students

Keeping in touch with students is vital during any changes to your class(es). You’ll want to let students know about changes in schedules, assignments, procedures, and broader course expectations. Early and frequent communication can ease student anxiety, and save you dealing with individual questions.
Keep these principles in mind:

  • Communicate early and often: Let students know about changes as early as possible, even if you do not have all the details yet. Consider matching the frequency of your messages with that of changes in class activities.
  • Set expectations: Let students know how you plan to communicate with them, and how often. Tell students both how often you expect them to check their email, and how quickly they can expect your response. Let them know too, if you are using the Canvas Inbox tool, since they may need to update their notification preferences. Student help resources will be available on the Distance Education page.
  • Manage your communications load: You will likely receive individual requests for information that could be useful to all your students. It may be most efficient to keep track of frequently asked questions and send those replies to everyone. This way students know they might get a group reply in a day versus a personal replay within an hour. Also, consider creating an information page or Q&A Discussion in Canvas, and then encourage students to check there first for answers before emailing.

Distribute Course Materials and Readings

You may need or want to provide additional course materials to support the shift to remote instruction. The library offers a host of e-content, including e-book collections; databases of scholarly articles, newspapers and magazines; electronic reference collections, and streaming films, which can be accessed through the library’s homepage in the Databases A-Z Directory. There is also an abundance of information available on the Open Educational Resources Guide to help you select a high quality OER for your class. Virtual support from our library faculty is available to faculty and students through our Ask-A-Librarian platform, which can be accessed through the FAQ page or by using the chat function on the library homepage. There is also a research strategies guide available. If you are looking for digital alternative resources and need help, don’t forget to reach out to your library liaison. If you would like a virtual library session in your class, please reach out to the Instruction Librarian.
Considerations when posting new course materials:

  • Make sure students know when new material is posted: If you post new materials in Canvas be sure to let students know what you posted and where. You can suggest that they change their Canvas notification preferences to alert them when new materials are posted.
  • Post materials one Canvas pages inside of modules: Instead of just uploading materials to the Canvas files page, create clearly labeled modules in Canvas and post files or links on pages within those modules. That way you can provide your students with directions on the page about how to use the materials you are posting.
  • Keep things phone friendly: In a case of instructional continuity, many students may only have a phone available. Consider saving other files (for example, PowerPoint presentations) to PDFs., which are easier to read on phones and tablets, and keep the file size small. It is fairly easy to reduce the size of PDF files using Adobe Acrobat, which we have access to through our campus license. For help with Adobe Acrobat, please contact the ITS helpdesk.

Deliver Lectures

Depending on your course, you may need to deliver some lectures to keep the course moving along. Be aware, though, that a 45-minute live lecture sprinkled with questions and activities can become grueling when delivered online without breaks to aid cognition.
Here are a few suggestions to improve online lectures:

  • Record in small chunks: Even the best online speakers keep it brief: think of the brevity of TED talks. We learn better with breaks so we can process what we’ve heard and take an opportunity to apply new information. To aid student learning, record any lectures in short (5-10 minute) chunks, and intersperse them with small activities that give students opportunities to process the new knowledge, make connections to other concepts, apply an idea, or make some notes in response to prompts. Smaller chunks are also much easier to edit if you need to clean up automated captioning.
  • Be flexible with live video: Lecturing with Zoom is certainly possible, and it best approximates a classroom setting, since students can ask questions. However, a crisis might mean some students won’t have access to fast internet connections, ant others may have their schedules disrupted. Only use ConferZoom for lectures if you are confident with the tool, and if you do make sure to record live sessions to provide flexibility in how students can attend and participate.
  • It's not just about content: In the event of campus disruption, lectures can mean more than just providing course content; they also establish a sense of normalcy and a personal connection. In online courses, we talk about the importance of “instructor presence”, and that’s just as true during a short-term stint for instructional continuity. So, consider ways that you can use lectures or even short non-instructional videos to make students feel connected and cared about: acknowledgement of current challenges, praise for good work, and reminders about the class being a community. The Canvas SpeedGrader allows you to record audio and video feedback. Not only is this sometimes more efficient than extensive written feedback, but it can provide a more personal touch. This affective work can help their learning during a difficult time.

Run lab activities

One of the biggest challenges of teaching during a building or campus closure is sustaining the lab components of classes. Since many labs require specific equipment, they are hard to reproduce outside of that physical space.
Considerations as you plan to address lab activities:

  • Take part of the lab online: 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 online (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.
  • Provide raw data for analysis: In cases where the lab includes both collection of data and its analysis, consider showing how the data can be collected, and then provide some raw sets of data for students to analyze. This approach is not as comprehensive as having students collect and analyze their own data, but it might keep them engaged with parts of the lab experience during the closure.

Foster communication and collaboration among students

Fostering communication among students is important because it allows you to reproduce any collaboration you build into your course, and maintains a sense of community that can help keep students motivated to participate and learn. It helps if you already had some sort of student-to-student online activity (for example, Canvas Discussions) since students will be used to both the process and the tool.
Consider these suggestions when planning activities:

  • It's not just about content: In the event of campus disruption, lectures can mean more than just providing course content; they also establish a sense of normalcy and a personal connection. In online courses, we talk about the importance of “instructor presence”, and that’s just as true during a short-term stint for instructional continuity. So, consider ways that you can use lectures or even short non-instructional videos to make students feel connected and cared about: acknowledgement of current challenges, praise for good work, and reminders about the class being a community. The Canvas SpeedGrader allows you to record audio and video feedback. Not only is this sometimes more efficient than extensive written feedback, but it can provide a more personal touch. This affective work can help their learning during a difficult time.
  • Use asynchronous tools when possible: Having students participate in live Zoom conversations can be useful, but scheduling can be a problem, and only a few students will actively participate (just like in your classroom). In such cases, using asynchronous tools like Canvas Discussions allows students to participate on their own schedules. In addition, bandwidth requirements for discussion boards are far lower than for live video tools.
  • Link to clear goals and outcomes: Make sure there are clear purposes and outcomes for any student-to-student interaction. How does this activity help them meet course outcomes or prepare for other assignments?
  • Build in simple accountability: Find ways to make sure students are accountable for the work they do in any online discussions or collaborations. Assigning points for online discussion posts can be tedious, so some instructors ask for reflective statements where students detail their contributions and reflect on what they learned from the conversation.
  • Balance newness and need: As with any changed activities, you will need to balance the needs and benefits of online collaboration with the additional effort such collaboration will require on everyone else's part. Learning new technologies and procedures might be counterproductive, particularly in the short term, unless there is clear benefit.

Collect assignments

Collecting assignments during a campus closure is fairly straightforward, since many instructors already collect work electronically. The main challenge during a campus disruption is whether students have access to computers, as anyone needing a campus computer lab may be unable to access necessary technologies.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Require only common software: Students may not have access to specialty software located in on-campus computer labs.
  • Avoid emailed attachments: It may be easy to collect assignments in small classes via email, but larger classes might swamp your email inbox. Use Assignments in Canvas to collect all the information in one place. This will also allow you time limit file types to standard formats like .docx or .pdf, and to provide students who don’t have access to a computer to submit assignments using built-in Canvas tools. It will also allow you to use Canvas SpeedGrader which is especially powerful for grading assignments like papers and slide decks. Balance what is simplest for students with what is easiest for you to manage.
  • State expectations, but be flexible: Some students will undoubtedly have difficulties meeting deadlines in this new modality, or due to personal circumstances. Make expectations clear, but do your best to provide more flexibility than you normally would in your class without compromising academic integrity.
  • Require specific filenames: It may sound trivial, but anyone who collects papers electronically knows the pain of getting 20 files named Essay1.docx. Give your students a simple file naming convention, for example, FirstnameLastname-Essay1.docx.

Assess student learning

It is fairly easy to give small quizzes to hold students accountable or do spot-checks on their learning, and this might be ideal to keep students on track during class disruptions. Providing high-stakes tests online can be challenging, however; they place extra stress on students, and test integrity is difficult to ensure. If you know there is a date for resuming on-campus classes, consider delaying exams until you return.
General tips for assessing student learning during class disruption:

  • Embrace short formative quizzes: Short quizzes can be a great way to keep students engaged with course concepts, particularly if they are interspersed with small chunks of video lecture. Consider using very-low-stakes quizzes to help reinforce content or to provide practice at applying concepts—just enough points to hold them accountable, but not so many that the activity has a major impact on their grade. Alternatively, add practice quizzes that are scored as Complete/Incomplete for lower stakes.
  • Move beyond simple facts: It is good to reinforce concepts through practice on a quiz, but generally it is best to move beyond factual answers that students can quickly look up. Instead, write questions that prompt students to apply concepts to new scenarios, or ask them to identify the best of multiple correct answers. You can also use time limits on quizzes to increase the difficulty.
  • Check for publishers' test banks: Look to see if your textbook publisher has question banks that can be loaded into Canvas; reach out to distance education if you need help with importing the test bank. In some instances banks are available in a standard format called QTI that can be imported directly into Canvas. Some textbooks also have their own online quizzing tools that can help keep students engaged with the material.
  • Update expectations for projects: Campus disruptions may limit students' access to resources they need to complete papers or other projects, and team projects may be harmed by a team's inability to meet. Be ready to change assignment expectations based on the limitations a crisis may impose. Possible options include allowing individual rather than group projects, having groups record presentations with Zoom, or adjusting the types of resources needed for research papers.
  • Consider alternate exams: Delivering a secure exam online can be difficult without a good deal of preparation and support, so consider giving open-book exams or other types of exams. They can be harder to grade, but you have fewer worries about test security.
  • Proctorio: At current we have a license for Protorio, an online testing plug-in for Canvas. Video tutorials for using Proctorio are forthcoming.

Academic Support through Tutoring in Remote Settings

A plan is forthcoming to determine how to move our tutoring services online and more guidance will be available early next.