Academic continuity planning, expectations, and guidelines

March 5, 2020

Dear University of Oregon Faculty,

As you are probably aware, the coronavirus situation is changing quickly as COVID-19 spreads and there is a lot of concern about how it may potentially disrupt our campus. The UO has fully activated the Incident Management Team (IMT), which is reviewing and updating the UO's pandemic plan and developing strategies to ensure that our university community remains as safe and prepared as possible. To assist this process, the UO took the step over the last few days of formally declaring an emergency, which activates the Academic Council who, in coordination with the Office of the Provost, determines an appropriate academic continuity plan to manage any disruption in academic activities.

Before we address academic continuity planning, we want to remind everyone that information about the UO’s response to COVID-19 is available at a new coronavirus website that was launched this week. In addition, anyone with questions, concerns, or recommendations related to the UO’s response and preparation should use this web form. The queries will go to the IMT, which will ensure they are routed to the appropriate people on campus, and the responses may be used to update the FAQs on the coronavirus website. IMT staff try to respond as quickly as they can, and the team is doing its best to get the latest information out quickly to those who need it.

All UO facilities – including the Eugene and Portland campuses – are currently open and operating normally. A formal campus closure and interruption of academic activity would come at the direction of the Oregon Health Authority, working in conjunction with local health authorities and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a message sent by the provost earlier this week, it was mentioned that it remains important for us all to work with faculty and students who are worried about missing classes due to concerns about the coronavirus. We want to provide every opportunity for coursework to be completed in a fair and reasonable way.

To that end, the UO’s Academic Council met on Wednesday, March 4, and approved a series of expectations and guidelines to help faculty prepare for issues that might arise in the event of an emergency that causes instructors or students to miss classes. The council approved the following specific expectations for instructors.

During any term, including the current winter term, the Academic Council:

  • Reminds instructors to work with their department head or supervisor as they normally would if they will need to miss class.
  • Reminds instructors to communicate to students in advance if class meetings are cancelled and let them know what work they should complete. The goal should be to continue instruction even if that has to be done by a replacement instructor and/or remotely.
  • Directs instructors that they cannot cancel courses. At present, campus is continuing courses as scheduled. Any decision to cancel courses will be made centrally.
  • Reminds instructors that they shall not ask students for doctor’s notes or other documentation to verify absences. Instructors shall have clear communication and make-up protocols in place for students to follow if they are going to be or have been absent. If a student is missing enough class that make-ups will be difficult and they are at risk of not passing, they should communicate with those students, and enlist advisors for help.
  • Requires instructors with attendance or participation polices to modify those such that attendance is not counted in grades and participation points could be made up or waived.
  • Informs instructors that they may modify course expectations such that required work is reduced or grading schemes are adjusted provided they can still meet course learning objectives.
  • Requires that instructors shall have make-ups or alternatives to exams. If instructors will need support to manage an increased volume of make-ups, they should work with their department head, who will take guidance from the school/college Academic Continuity Team. In some cases, a grade of Incomplete may be used for make-ups that will take place after grades are due.
  • Requires instructors to provide clear, consistent, and specific communication to students about any modifications to the course and changes to assignments and deadlines. Instructors, as a matter of good practice, should provide clear and consistent expectations of course graders for timely grading and assessment of materials and recording of grades to the Canvas gradebook for students to see. The Academic Council requires the use of the course Canvas site for all of this communication.

In preparation for spring and potentially summer terms, the Academic Council:

  • Requires use of Canvas for courses starting in Spring term and for the duration of the academic disruption, as it will make adjusting for absences/campus closures easier. Instructors shall publish their Canvas sites and use them to post materials, collect assignments, provide alternatives to lectures/discussions for students who are absent from class, and post grades. This has been an expectation and best practice so faculty are likely already doing this.
  • Asks instructors to explore options and tools to deliver their course content for an extended period on Canvas with either synchronous and/or asynchronous options. The Office of the Provost has created a resource page to help instructors ( This page will be continually updated.

Please visit this link to see the full text of expectations and guidelines approved by the Academic Council.

Admittedly, this is a time of concern for all of us, and the situation worldwide around the coronavirus is dynamic and fast-changing. It is important for us all to work together and do our best to take care of ourselves, each other, and our students.

Again, please visit the UO’s coronavirus website for the latest on the university’s response and other helpful information. Thank you for all you do to make the University of Oregon a strong, caring, and compassionate institution for our students, faculty, staff, and the entire community.


Frances White
Professor and Department Head, Anthropology, and Chair of Academic Council

Elizabeth Skowron
Professor, Psychology, and Senate President

Patrick Phillips
Provost and Senior Vice President