Plan B

Planning for disruption (resiliency planning) involves creating options to keep learning happening when circumstances change, making your existing plan no longer possible. You may already have some resiliency plans in mind for when you are sick, an unexpected snow day, or a mid-semester conference where you are scheduled to speak.

During the current emergency situation, we are already pulling on our creativity and existing back-up plans to get going. However, there are a few potential situations to prepare for:

  • Technology access – you and/or your students may not have reliable internet access, have computers, printers, microphones, etc...
  • System breakdown – platforms unable to manage increased load
  • Personal challenges – increased uncertainty in your life and that of your students

Consider the following options to have in your back pocket: Communications, Resiliency Assignment, Alternatives to Live Lecture, Alternatives to Closed-Book, Timed Exams.


The first step in planning for learning disruption is to determine how you’ll communicate with
students before a disruption occurs and to share that information with students.

  1. Determine your communication method. CCRI email, MyCCRI and Starfish can be a back-up to Blackboard in case of a disruption.
  2. Let students know. Build the communication plan and introduce it at the first class meeting. Add a disruption section with the information students will need to your syllabus.
  3. Provide students practice. Make sure the students are technically prepared. Practice the communication plan with your students ahead of time.
  4. Share online. Post your syllabus and course schedule in Blackboard so students have easy access. Also email both files to your students through CCRI email.

Resiliency Assignment

A resiliency assignment is an assignment that can be used at almost any point in a term and typically involve independent work. Resiliency assignments could ask students to explore a relevant topic of their choice in more depth or involve content you want to include, but often run out of time. Assignments could also involve job-readiness skills such as communication, professionalism, critical thinking, information literacy and ethics that are less tied to specific content. Keep a resiliency assignment on your computer that can be emailed to students in case Blackboard is not available.

Resiliency Assignment Logistics:

  • How will you distribute the assignment to your students? How will you collect it?
  • How will you inform the students about the assignment requirements?
  • What will be the criteria for evaluating student work?
  • How will students receive feedback?

If you are interested in creating a resiliency assignment, take a look at the R-Plan Assignment Builder.  The template provides guiding questions and suggestions.

Alternatives to Live Lecture

Hosting live classes can feel like keeping the class ‘normal’ but can also create technical, system, and personal challenges. Sharing content can benefit from a diverse approach, consider any of the following options.

Creating Short Topical Videos

Using Voicethread or Medial, record via PowerPoint, or use other free tools, create 10- to 15-minute recordings of specific topics. Students can watch and re-watch the specific topics they need on a variety of devices.

Tip: Tie the content directly to class activities, such as a discussion topic, reflection, or assignment.

PowerPoints with Notes PDF

Add your talking points, in detail, in the Notes area of the PowerPoint files. Use the Print function to create a PDF and select “Notes Pages” instead of “Full Slides."

PowerPoint to Notes in PDF

Tip: Use the Accessibility Checker on your PowerPoint before making the PDF to ensure the accessibility of the final file. 

Utilize Existing Resources with your Guidance

For many topics, there may be resources – video or otherwise – available through our Library and external sources such as YouTube, discipline-specific sites, online museum collections, and open-access materials. When using these materials, include a description from you on why you selected it and how it relates to the course.

Dreams video

Alternatives to Closed-Book, Timed Exams

Exams in classrooms are a staple of many courses and a frequent topic of conversation when moving to a remote environment. While technology has several options for exerting control over the testing environment online, sometime embracing the nature of online learning can lead to effective assessment of learning and a more equitable one.

Frequent Low-Stakes Quizzing

Frequent, low-stakes quizzing will allow for assessing students learning throughout the term, allowing for both you and the student to know whether they are understanding core concepts. They are an effective alternative for mid-course exams because there is less pressure to cheat on a low-stakes exam, especially if they are something to learn from.

Take-Home Exams

Intentionally planning an assessment for a take-home approach (open-book, open-note, etc...) requires thinking about assessing learning using application of concepts, synthesis of knowledge, and creation of unique answers. Consider essay questions, case studies, or similar instead of multiple-choice style questions.


Replacing an exam with a requirement for creating a unique product that demonstrates learning allows for a good differentiation between students who understand course information at a surface level or a deep one. Asking them to apply concepts to a ‘messy problem’ (one without a fixed, correct answer) requires creating a novel solution.

Using SafeAssign in combination with this kind of assessment will ensure that papers are not shared among students or copied from external sources. The most effective assessments will use personal and/or current situations, require unique answers, and/or incorporate personal experiences.