Instructional Continuity and Contingency Planning

The instructional continuity and contingency planning website was created to provide faculty best practice strategies and items for consideration when planning their course.

Official notification of campus closures in the event of adverse weather and/or information on making up missed instructional time due to the suspension of Instruction are guided by official university policy.

Contingency Planning

A contingency plan involves anticipating and planning for an alternative delivery of course material and communication with students when technology is not available.  A contingency plan should appear on your course syllabus to ensure that students know their responsibilities, the timelines, and alternative means to meet requirements during a downtime situation.

When planning your course, it is important to think about student and instructor expectations and activities in the unlikely event that one or more of the course technologies you use are not available. Your course syllabus should communicate this information to your students.

To prepare for potential problems and/or downtime, we advise all instructors using ECU’s Learning Management System (LMS), lecture capture, web conferencing, or other online technologies, to have a Contingency Plan in place that will be used when the technology is not available. Define situations that would trigger the Contingency Plan to action. Will your DE Contingency Plan be implemented if your online course or technologies are down a few hours, 24 hours, or even longer? Assure your students that they will hear from you if the course downtime is 24 hours or greater.

Class activities that may be affected by course downtime

  • Access to Course Content
  • Online Exams
  • Web Conferencing/Synchronous Meetings
  • Assignment Submissions


Consider the following before creating your contingency plan:

  • If the LMS or other learning platforms are not available during a scheduled synchronous session, how long should students attempt to log in (number of minutes)?
  • How and when will you contact your students after such a situation occurs?
  • Do you want students to contact you if they are not able to access a scheduled online exam, synchronous session, assignment tool, or course content?
  • How will this downtime affect the course due dates? When can students expect to receive new due dates?
  • If the LMS is not available, will you ask students to submit an assignment via ECU email? Will this down time affect the due date? What if email is not available?
  • How will any of the situations discussed here affect your student’s grades? They may need reassurance that unexpected and verified downtime will not affect their grade.
  • What do you expect from your students when their online course materials, assessments, synchronous meetings, or multimedia materials are not fully accessible or completely available
  • How will you communicate with your students? If the LMS is not available, you can email your students outside of LMS using the Email Class feature within Self Service Banner. You can use this feature to update students on prolonged outages and course assignments and requirement


Getting Started with your Contingency Plan for your Syllabus

  • Have your syllabus, timeline, and course content available to email
  • Encourage students to download and save relevant course materials
  • Create a file of course content organized in a format that can be shared via your Office 365 OneDrive and/or emailed to students.
  • Inform your students of any additional office hours you may be available during an extended technology downtime.
  • How will any of the situations above alter your semester course schedule? Will you have to delete a lesson or unit? For example, if a class chat is scheduled to begin at 12 noon, you must try to log into the chat until (12:15). If you are not able to log into the chat session after the stated time, ..(How will they know when the chat will be rescheduled? How and when will you contact them after such a situation occurs?)


Syllabus Example

As with any technology online tools have the potential for technical downtime or performance issues. To prepare for course downtime or a performance issue that makes the system unusable, you are encouraged to:

  1. Save and/or print a copy of the syllabus, assignment schedule, and course material
  2. Save my email address so that you can contact
  3. Save names of fellow classmates, so that you may contact each other through ECU email or other third-party email.
  4. Determine that the problem is with an ECU supported learning platform and not your Internet Service Provider.


If we experience Internet or downtime with any ECU learning platforms, you can expect me to… (Describe your responsibilities as the instructor, such as email communication).

Contact Information:

  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Office hours
  • Alternate office hours during Internet course downtime

Continuity of Instruction

Continuity of instruction planning occurs in situations when we need to continue instruction without being able to meet with students face-to-face. This could occur in the case of suspension of campus-based activities including face-to-face classes at ECU.

A continuity plan could require creativity, alternative expectations, and flexibility in course delivery. In most cases, moving all components of an entire course online is not needed. Instead, the event may require using the learning management system for a few days or communicating via email or web conferencing to continue the class dialogue.

Primary activities to continue

Four primary activities will need to be continued, even if face-to-face opportunities to meet with students are temporarily restricted:

  1. Communication,
  2. Delivering course content,
  3. Participation and interaction, and
  4. Assessment.

In this guide, we offer several alternatives and support resources to provide you with ideas and assistance during an unexpected event. We encourage faculty to think about strategies in advance, so you are prepared.

While multiple options are described below, the primary alternative the University recommends for faculty to use is Canvas. Please continue to use university approved communications for the storage and communication of FERPA data.

Consider the following

  1. Which elements of your course can be supplemented using online content?
  2. Could you record and share lectures for your students?
  3. Which course activities can be translated to online?
  4. Can you adapt to an asynchronous vs. synchronous method of instruction?
  5. What is the minimum adaption you need to continue instruction?

What should I do now?

  1. Attend Canvas Training and review Canvas Guides & Overview Videos.
  2. Migrate your course to Canvas now.
  3. Test the communication, web conferencing and recording tools.
  4. Add a continuity statement to your syllabus, for example,

“In the event of a campus emergency that disrupts academic activities, course requirements, deadlines, and grading percentages are subject to change. Information about changes in the course will be communicated as soon as possible by email, and on Canvas. If we are not able to meet face-to-face, students should log onto Canvas and read any announcements and/or access alternative assignments. Students are encouraged to continue the readings and other assignments as outlined or this syllabus or subsequent syllabi.”

  1. Make sure your syllabus contains enough information each week such that students could continue on their own for a short period of self-study if needed.
  2. Move files needed for instruction to Microsoft OneDrive.
  3. Download the software you may need to work off campus.
  4. Visit the Virtual Computer Lab to determine if tools your students need are available.
  5. Reach out for a consult now to get help thinking through teaching strategies.
  6. Request an accessibility audit to ensure all students can use your digital files.

Teaching Online Best Practices

The ECU Office of Faculty Excellence

The Office for Faculty Excellence offers teaching resources to faculty, including Universal Design for Learning, teaching online, and resources offered at other institutions on strategy and best practices.

Additional Teaching Online Resources

While other institutions do not necessarily use the same tools, there are a host of great ideas and best practices available to help you think through how to adapt your course.

Universal Design for Learning

CAST, a nonprofit education research and development organization, also provides web-based resources for UDL in Higher Education.

Creating Accessible Content

Creating accessible documents and course resources is a necessary step when teaching online. The Accessible Content checklist provides guidance on creating accessible documents and content.

Teaching Online Preparation Checklist

All ECU courses currently have a course shell in Canvas.

ActivityGuidance/Preferences Internet & Computer Available
  • Establish a method of communication & content delivery.

  • Share syllabus electronically.

  • Establish objectives.


Outlook Email

Delivering Course Content
  • Upload content to LMS.

  • Use web conferencing to lecture
    and share information.

  • Record & share lectures.


Lecture Recording

Web Conferencing

Participation & Interaction
  • Use chat, discussions, web
    conferencing and groups to engage
    students and achieve course objectives.

  • Use WebEx
    or Canvas web conferencing for
    office hours, and student-to-student,
    and faculty-to-student interactions.


Web Conferencing

  • Use the assessment tools in LMS

  • As an alternative to online proctored
    tests for face-to face students assign papers, discussion groups,
    homework assignments, portfolios, and/or projects.

  • NOTE:  SACSCOC 10.6 requires notification of additional fees
    such as proctoring costs at enrollment.


1 Available in learning management system (LMS).

2 WebEx, Canvas, Canvas Studio work well on a mobile device.

3 Special Note:  All of the tools are available to the entire campus. In some instances, a college or school uses other specialized software not listed.