Academic Continuity Planning


In April of 2019, the University Senate passed the “Policy on Academic Continuity and Emergency Grades: Academic Continuity During a Significant Disruption to Academic Activities.” This policy provides “a framework to guide planning and decision-making in the event that a significant disruption to campus operations impedes academic activity.” The goal is to continue academic activities as much as possible and to mitigate the effects of a significant academic disruption, which include particularly grave academic and financial consequences for graduating students, international students, and students receiving financial aid.” (See Appendix A for complete policy). The policy on Academic Continuity is managed by the Office of the Provost, and is closely coordinated with the comprehensive Emergency Management & Continuity Program in the office of Safety and Risk Services. Academic continuity plans would only be activated if the state of emergency allows for at least partial continuation of academic operations. A decision to completely close campus as a result of a state of emergency would be made by the University President in accordance with university emergency procedures.

While the specifics of the conditions may vary, a campus state of emergency may include one or more of the following general scenarios:

  1. Loss of teaching and learning facilities including loss of public infrastructure or access to our facilities. Classes may need to be held at alternative locations or online.
  2. Significant reduction in faculty, staff and student attendance related to illness, natural disasters, or other events.
  3. Need to provide instruction without face-to-face contact (e.g. pandemic).

Each of these contexts will require different approaches so flexibility will be needed in planning. The purpose of this document is to provide guidance on the implementation of the policy during a significant disruption to academic activities.

Convening Academic Council

Once the University President declares by signature a “Campus State of Emergency,” the Office of Safety and Risk Services convenes the university’s Incident Management Team. The faculty co-chair of the Academic Council is the identified representative on the Incident Management Team, and will be contacted by the Office of Safety and Risk Services. The faculty chair of the Academic Council will then convene a meeting of the Academic Council to determine if the declared emergency is likely to create an academic disruption and to begin planning for academic continuity if warranted. For the purposes of this process, the last elected faculty chair serves as the representative of the Academic Council on the Incident Management Team.

Action Items:

  • The Academic Council faculty co-chair will contact the Provost designee that sits on the Academic Council and begin coordinating a first meeting of the Academic Council. The provost designee will assist in contacting the committee, determining a meeting time, and arranging for an accessible location.
  • The Provost designee will post the meeting time and location (see public meeting laws) and will provide a staff member to take notes and prepare minutes for council approval and posting on the senate website.
  • If any voting member of the Academic Council is unable or unwilling to meet, they will be replaced using the procedure specified in the Senate approved academic continuity policy.

Action of Academic Council

  • The Academic Council will decide whether there is a significant academic disruption based on the circumstances of the campus state of emergency.
  • If a disruption is determined, the council will develop a continuity plan in coordination with the Provost designee. The plan will include the following elements:
    • A decision whether Emergency Grades will be activated.
      • If so, whether they are temporary or permanent.
      • If so, will the grades be awarded directly by the instructors of record (through Banner/DuckWeb) or by some other indirect means (by using available grade information).
      • If temporary, specify under what circumstances and by what procedure the emergency grades will be changed to regular grades.
      • If permanent, specify under what circumstances and by what procedure students will be allowed to appeal for changes of grades from emergency grades to regular grades.
    • A set of recommendations for faculty to address the disruption with respect to student engagement (e.g. substitutes for in-class lectures or discussion), appropriate reductions in assignments needed to determine a final grade, grading modifications (e.g. using alternate assignment structures such as online quizzes), and office hours (e.g. online chatrooms or call in hours). The Academic Council should request the convening of school/college academic continuity teams and consult with the school/college academic continuity teams where possible on these recommendations.
    • A plan for communicating Academic Council recommendations. The Office of the Provost will coordinate communication. A schedule of follow up Academic Council meetings to assess the ongoing disruption and adjust the plan as needed.

Activating School/College/Office of the Provost Academic Continuity Teams

Each school/college shall identify an internal academic continuity team that will be convened at the request of the Academic Council. These teams will coordinate the implementation of the Academic Council’s academic continuity plan for each school/college which might include:

  • Determining which courses may be most affected by a disruption and prioritizing responses
  • Appointing replacement or additional instructors of record
  • Determining alternative class locations (with assistance of the Incident Management Team in Safety and Risk Services)
  • Determining and communicating acceptable modifications to courses such as replacing class time with other instructional methods, changes to assignments and grading methods, and alternatives to office hours.
  • Determining how to handle emergency grades, if called for by the Academic Council, for courses that serve as prerequisites, requirements, and for courses that have a minimum grade requirement or contribute to an overall GPA requirement.
  • Developing and implementing communication plans to students, faculty and staff
  • Developing and implementing student appeals processes
  • Ongoing reporting to the Academic Council and the Office of the Provost regarding academic continuity plans and implementation

School/college academic continuity teams should be comprised of individuals who have knowledge and experience with academic operations at the department and school/college level. It is recommended that teams include at least the following roles:

  • Associate or Divisional Dean(s)
  • Department Head(s)
  • Officers of Administration with knowledge of school/college academic operations
  • Director(s) of Graduate Studies
  • Members of curriculum committee(s)

Office of the Provost continuity team will consist of the following who will assist the school/college teams and the Academic Council in maintaining academic continuity:

  • Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
  • Associate Vice Provost for Online Education
  • Assistant Vice Provost for Teaching Engagement
  • Associate Vice Provost(s) for Academic Affairs
  • Vice Provost for Academic Affairs

Instructors of Record

The Senate legislation provides additional guidance on the university’s instructor of record policy to clarify how instructors of record can be replaced or added after the term has begun. The guidance states that “the unit head or designee” may appoint a replacement instructor of record or an additional instructor of record in certain circumstances. 

  • The Provost designee will send a communication regarding instructors of record to all deans and department/program heads as soon as possible after the President’s declaration. The email will reiterate the Senate instructor of record policy and explain any procedures regarding the replacement of instructors if the listed instructor of record “leaves the university permanently or is otherwise not expected to return to duty before final grades are due.”
  • Each school/college academic continuity team will provide the Provost a list designating by role who serves as “unit heads” and list any “designees” by role that have authority to replace or add instructors of record. For instance, department/program heads are most likely the “unit heads” for this purpose. Associate deans, divisional deans, school heads, assistant department heads are examples of possible designees.
  • In consultation with the Provost, each school/college will determine whether or not they will implement a process of replacing instructors of record and if so by what process consistent with the Senate academic continuity policy. The determination will then be approved by the Provost. If the Provost approves a decision to implement a replacement process, this decision will be communicated to all unit heads and faculty as soon as possible.

Determining Courses Affected by Disruption

The type of disruption will dictate the process for determining which courses are affected by the disruption. In any case where it is necessary to determine which classes and discussion sections are meeting and which are not, the following process will be used. The Provost designee, in coordination with the Incident Management Team in Safety and Risk Services (see Appendix B for IMT org chart) and the school/college academic continuity teams will:

  • identify personnel who will assist in identifying which classes are missing instructors
  • work with the University Registrar to produce a report of all courses and discussion/lab sections by building and meeting time and will distribute this to the individuals checking classrooms each day during the disruption
  • develop a process and data input system for those checking classrooms to report their findings
  • issue reports to relevant deans and other regarding the courses in their units
  • advise the Academic Council as to which courses are missing instructors to help the council determine the implementation of Academic Council recommendations for student engagement, grading, office hours and for determining whether the instructor of record should be replaced by the established unit procedure for adding or replacing instructors of record (see above).

Instructional Guidelines and Resources for School/College Academic Continuity Teams

The Academic Council will need to develop academic continuity plans and guidelines that have some built-in flexibility to account for the nature of the disruption, and differences between academic units and courses.  The goal is to continue academic operations as much as possible while maintaining academic integrity, transparency, and fairness for students. The OtP Office of Online Education will make all of its instructional designers, as well as other personnel and resources, available during any academic disruption to help faculty with course modifications, including the use of Canvas. Information Services (IS) will add instructional designers, replacement instructors of record, and additional instructors of record to Canvas course sites, enabling appropriate permissions for each. The OtP Office of Online Education will provide Help Desk personnel with updated FAQs and scripts regarding Canvas support.

In order to preserve academic integrity, academic units need to consider how academic time required for the course can be altered. Are there ways to condense and prioritize course material in this event? What are the alternatives for labs and discussions? Also, consider how the timing of the disruption might affect how things are adjusted:

  • Weeks 1-4 – if students will miss time in the first few weeks, can faculty adjust workload in the course by altering assignments without making up class face time? How can activities and assignments on Canvas be used to replace lost class time?
  • Weeks 5-8  – interruption coming at mid-term will require exam flexibility on the part of faculty and make-up exams or alternative assessments may be needed. Faculty should record an approximate grade to date in Canvas.
  • Weeks 9-Finals – Faculty and units may need to redefine what it takes to be considered a course to be completed in light of performance to date in this scenario. If there are projects that are not completed, can faculty extend deadlines and still get grades out by the end of the defined term? Faculty should also record an approximate grade to date in Canvas.


Flowchart diagraming the responses to academic disruptions at different times within an academic term. Explanation in previous text.

Faculty will also need to relax/adjust attendance policies and grades related to participation. (See Appendix D for Faculty Checklist of ways to prepare for an academic disruption)

In addition, school/college academic continuity teams will need to adjust plans according to the nature of the disruption. Are facilities unavailable? Are instructors unavailable? Is there a need to maintain physical distance due to a contagion? How should responses differ for courses vs. labs/discussions? (See Appendix C for a checklist of things academic continuity teams can do to prepare for an academic disruption)


Flowchart diagramming school and college responses to academic disruptions. Explanation in previous text.