Continuity of Learning

Interruptions to learning come in all forms. Snow days, sick days, and other unintended days off can be disruptive to learning. Here are some resources that faculty can use to prepare for these unexpected disruptions while ensuring the continuous learning experience for students at Suffolk University.

Course Resilience Syllabus refers to class cancellation expectations.
Instructors create online resources that are UDL.
Students understand the cognitive science behind learner-centered activities
Activity Design Meets course goals and learning objectives
Created as an evergreen learning activity
Clear directions for students
Alternative methods of access
Universally designed for learning
Student Preparation Class time is used to establish a method of emergency communication.
Course documents are posted online.
Low stakes online assignments are offered early in the semester.
Announcements are sent out to students ASAP when a "rainy day" assignment will be used.
Students are exposed to in-class student-centered learning activities in face-to-face classes.
Students are encouraged to use online office hours and Q & A forums.
Students have practice using online library resources.
Students have a space to collaborate with peers.
Faculty Support Contact information is available for IT, media service, and pedagogical support.
IT provides a list of recommended equipment for creating remote learning activities.
Web site with resources for online teaching and learning tools
Web site with resources for remote pedagogical ideas
ITS provides technology support.
CTSE provides lesson design support.
The Office of Disability Services provides a BlackBoard course on Making Online Courses ADA Compliant
Faculty can access files and other resources from home using Suffolk's VPN instructions.
Accessibility of Activity Accommodate the needs of students who may not be able to access the internet.
Ensure accessibility of posted documents.
Add closed captioning to videos.

Continuity of Learning Checklist for Faculty [PDF]

When planning activities in response to a campus closure, consider the following:

What do you want your students to know, understand, or be able to do after the activity is over?

Is there an online activity that closely mimics what you had planned to do in class?


Ask students to complete an online multiple choice question check-in test before the start of next class.

Ask students to complete an online crossword puzzle that reinforces the main concepts from last class.

Ask students to find two resources that pertain to topic X and post these resources to the course LMS site.

Encourage students to spend the snow day getting ahead with reading, paper writing, or exam prep.


Ask students to listen to a podcast on topic X and to provide their own written interpretation on the class discussion board of its main message.

Ask students to create a concept map that shows how the main themes from a previous in-class discussion relate to one another.

Ask students to contribute keywords to a set of searchable keywords for a series of articles posted on the course LMS site.

Record a mini-lecture using a program like YouTube or Screencast-O-Matic or a web conferencing tool (e.g., Blackboard Collaborate, Adobe Connect, WebEx, GotoMeeting) and upload your video to a site like YouTube or Vimeo for student viewing. Direct students to watch your video content and respond with questions via email or a discussion board post.


Ask students to participate in an online simulation.

Ask students to pose three questions to the class discussion board that shows their application of the central themes of context X to context Y; have students respond to each other’s questions.

Ask students to find an online headline news article that illustrates a key concept discussed in class; have students post newspaper article to the course LMS site and explain to the class how the article demonstrates the concept.

Ask students to participate in an online resources scavenger hunt.

If appropriate for your discipline, consider assigning students to complete modules from Khan Academy. Topics include math, science, arts & humanities, economics & finance, and computing, among others. instructors who create a profile can “add students” to track progress.


Ask students to compare the blog posts of author X and author Y on topic A in a blog post of their own on the course LMS site.

Ask students to conduct their own data analysis on a set of online data; have students post the results of which they can post online to the course LMS site with an explanation of their findings.

Ask students to find two online articles that show a contrasting writing style of an author; have students post these articles to the course LMS site with some guiding questions for their classmates’ exploration of the readings.


Ask students to post their thesis statement to the class discussion board; have students critique at least two of their classmates’ statements.

Ask students to watch two short online videos on topic X; based on their observations from these videos ask students to outline a thesis statement to extend our understanding of this topic according to a set of research parameters; have students post their statements to the class discussion board and offer feedback to at least three of their classmates’ statements.
Ask students to design a wiki for a topic they are interested in and that is connected to the course material.

Have students develop test questions for an upcoming exam as a study guide and post to course LMS site.

Ask students to post a summary of a concise summary of a reading on twitter.


Ask students to create their own podcast (either on their own or in groups) that distills the main message of the readings for next class.

Divide the class into two teams – one for and one against – a particular viewpoint of a current contentious debate; have students debate with each other in their groups online.

Ask students to complete an online (real-time updated) survey about topic X; have students assess their own responses in comparison to the responses of the rest of the class.

Potential Activities to replace a face-to-face class meeting [PDF]

Here are some considerations and examples for lesson planning:



Instructional strategy Case-study and dialogue
Learning objective(s) Analyze and apply
Assessment method(s) Self-assess using rubric provided by instructor
Time 3 hours
Personal Technology Tablet/desktop/webcam
Student Technology Personal computer, internet connection, microphone
Media Strategy Synchronous web conference
Preparation Announce continuity of learning plan in advance in Blackboard. Ensure Users can access connection point in advance.
Backup Plan In case of electrical outages, have students phone into web conference.

Activity Design [PDF]

Here are some Just-in-Case learning activities:

  1. Communication skills: writing, oral presentation, visual communication
  2. Rhetorical skills: an ability to persuade others
  3. Collaborative skills: an ability to work with others
  4. Technological skills: an ability with a particular technology important to a discipline or career
  5. Graphic skills: tables, graphs etc.
  6. Mathematical / statistical skills
  7. Research skills: ability to read about and understand (and maybe conduct) particular kinds of research (e.g. surveys, ethnographies, textual analysis)
  8. Analytical skills: abilities to analyze certain kinds of documents and / or situations (e.g. medical, nutritional, psychological, etc., diagnoses; historical analyses)
  9. Critical thinking skills: ability to think independently and maturely
  10. Problem-solving skills
  11. Cognitive skills: meta-cognition, reflection, self-regulation, self-motivation
  12. Creativity: inventiveness
  13. Professional dispositions
  14. Ethical skills
  15. Team-building skills
  16. Information literacy

Just-in-Case Learning Activities [PDF]

Just-in-Time Online Activities

As is the case with all of the Continuity of Learning activities, students need to clearly understand that learning will continue even when school is canceled for any reason. To prepare students:

  • Add your continuity of learning plan to your syllabus
  • Engage students in low stakes online activity early in the semester.
    Example: Use the Discussion Forum for student introductions
    Planned In-Class Learning Activity Just-in-Time Online Learning Activity
    Discussion of assigned reading
    (whole class or small group)
    Create the discussion in the Discussion Forum; be sure to attach a rubric that includes expectations. Discussions can be created for the whole class or for groups.

    Monitor the discussion in order to provide scaffolding when needed; provide feedback to individuals, small groups, and/or whole group.
    Short introductory lecture or demonstration Use Blackboard Collaborate for a live lecture or demonstration. Record the session for students who are unable to access the internet during the live session.

    Give students a follow-up exercise for practice or assessment purposes.

    Just-in-Time Online Activities [PDF]

Open educational resources (OER) are any resources available at little or no cost that can be used for teaching, learning, or research. The resources can include:

  • Textbooks
  • Course readings
  • Simulations
  • Games
  • Syllabi
  • Quizzes, and other assessment tools

and virtually any other material that be used for educational purposes. Each resource is issued under a license that spells out how it can be used. Some materials may only be used in their original form; in other cases, learning resources can be modified, remixed, and redistributed.

One of the longest-running OER initiatives is the OpenCourseWare project from MIT, which began in 2002 and today features the complete course materials from over 2,000 MIT courses. The OpenCourseWare model has been replicated by dozens of colleges and universities around the world which are putting their full course materials online for anyone to use.

Open Digital Libraries

Library of Congress Collections are available for use by the public. The Library provides one of the largest bodies of noncommercial high-quality content on the Internet. By providing these materials online, those who may never come to Washington can gain access to the treasures of the nation’s library.

National Science Digital Libraries (NSDL) for STEM courses:

  • NSDL is the National Science Foundation's online library of resources and collections for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education and research.
  • Resources available through NSDL include images, video, audio, animations, software, datasets, and text documents such as lesson plans and journal articles.
  • Use of the website and related search and reference services is completely free, as are the majority of the resources discoverable through NSDL. However, some of the resource providers who make their materials accessible through NSDL do require a login, or a fee-based membership or that users purchase the complete version of a resource.

National Libraries of Virtual Manipulative (NLVM) for Math courses: NLVM is an NSF supported project that developed a library of uniquely interactive, web-based virtual manipulatives or concept tutorials, mostly in the form of Java applets, for mathematics instruction (K-12 emphasis).

Open Multimedia Resources or Resources under Creative Commons

AcademicEarth hosts educational videos and allows anyone to freely access instructions from the scholars and guest lecturers at the leading academic universities. It offers 60 full courses and 2,395 total lectures (almost 1300 hours of video) from Yale, MIT, Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and Princeton that can be browsed by subject, university, or instructor through a user-friendly interface. For example: the famous lecture series from Dr. Michael Sandel, Harvard University – Justice.

College Open Textbooks (COT) is public domain or under a Creative Commons license. The COT is a project on the mission of driving awareness, adoptions, and affordabilities of open textbooks. The focus is on community colleges and lower division of 4-year institutions. An open textbook is an integrated course-associated learning tool that is in the public domain or has been open-licensed by the copyright holder to permit re-use without the necessity of asking permission of the copyright holder.

FlatworldKNOWLEDGE is under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA). Every Flat World textbook is free to read online – all students have access to the textbook that you assign.

Flickr is the online photo management and sharing application in the world. Most images could be used under the Creative Commons licenses.

Khan Academy offers over 3000 free education video resources for anyone, they cover math, science topics such as biology, chemistry, and physics, and finance and history. Each video is a digestible chunk, approximately 10 minutes long.

MERLOT offers over 30000 open multimedia resources designed for faculty and students of higher education for learning and online teaching.

MIT OpenCourseWare is a platform where 2000 MIT courses are open to the public.

MIT World is a free and open site that provides on demand video of significant public events at MIT.

TED brings the inspiring talks available to the world, for free. More than 900 TEDTalks are now available, with more added each week. All of the talks are subtitled in English, and many are subtitled in various languages. These videos are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.

WGBH Forum Network is a public media service of WGBH. The online library contains thousands of video and audio lectures from the world's foremost scholars, authors, artists, scientists, policymakers, and community leaders, available to the public for free. 

Creative Commons enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools, and maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation.


Guiding Questions

If you could imagine ideal supplemental materials to help my students learn the content for this week, what would it look like?

What skills do you want your students to practice this week?

Choosing Online Materials Checklist

Does the online resource fit with my learning objectives for the week?
Does the online resource promote active learning?
Does the online resource help me to assess my students' learning?
Is the online resource accessible for all students?
Is the online resource easy for students to find and navigate?
Does the online resource include clear instructions for students (if applicable?)
Do I need to create any supplemental materials to help students learn through this online resource?
Would this online resource work better if paired with another online resource?
Is this the best online resource I can find to help my students learn this material?

Choosing Online Materials - guiding questions and a checklist [PDF]

The Instructional Technology Services Group, a division of Information Technology Services, provides faculty with the tools, training and support needed to integrate teaching and learning technologies into their curriculum. Instructional Technology provides training and support on the use of Blackboard Collaborate for live online classes and lecture capture, to enhance the learning experience for students. 

Learn more.

The CTSE's learning continuity facilitator guide [PDF] can be used by faculty developers to lead workshops on rainy or snowy day lesson plans.

The following are resources from other institutions:

University of Toronto - Teaching Continuity Planning website

Georgetown University - Instructional Continuity website

UNC Charlotte Instructional - Continuity Planning website

Rochester Institute of Technology - Continuity of Instruction website

University of Washington - Bothell Instructional Continuity website