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What a pandemic looks like

The following assumptions are being used in defining a pandemic:

  • The disruption could last up to 12 weeks.
  • Sick people will stay at home until they are no longer contagious, typically 5 to 7 days.
  • Absentee rates could reach as high as 40%.  You should anticipate that between 5 to 20% of your students would be absent EACH WEEK for a couple of months.
  • Course supplies could be limited or unavailable.
  • An epidemic could occur anytime in fall or spring.

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Questions to guide your course contingency planning

Instructors are asked to create a contingency plan for teaching each of their courses that takes into consideration the following questions:

  • How will the course syllabus change?
  • How will course news and information be communicated to students?
  • How will course content be created and communicated to students?
  • How will student discussions (if any) be held?
  • How will student assignments and other assessments be managed?
  • How will course grades be assigned, recorded and communicated?

Instructors should think about the above questions and do contingency planning, by interacting with colleagues and with the students in your classes now, before problems arise.  In addition:

1.    Students in your classes should be surveyed to find out if, in the case of emergency, they will have access to networked computers and cell phones and whether they will be in Eau Claire or if they will go home in case of illness. 

2.    Instructors should consider how they will teach from campus or from home and who will be able to provide collegial coverage if they fall ill.

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Revising your course syllabus

Instructors should prepare a contingency syllabus that will communicate to students expected changes in course organization and implementation in the case of a pandemic.
Syllabus issues to consider:

1.    Means of communication with students – Plans should be made to replace face-to-face communications with electronic communications during periods of high absenteeism.  For most courses, that will mean either a D2L site or the combination of e-mail and use of the W: drive (see the table below).

2.    Course policies/grading – A pandemic will result in increased absences that will place stress on the flow of a course.  Individuals will probably miss about one week, but absences within a class could be stretched out over a month or two (or three).  Absence policies will need to be changed to enable changes in deadlines, late policies and make-up policies to accommodate both student needs and the course integrity. Grading procedures and polities that change should be fully communicated in the revised syllabus.

3.    Course activities – Communication of course information and course content, student discussions and student assignments and other assessments are course activities that need to be handled electronically in case of emergency.  The syllabus should inform students the plan of how each of those activities will occur if the course goes into contingency mode.

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Tools for communicating with your students

Each instructor should decide which electronic communication tools they will use to teach their course in the case of emergency. Two main possibilities are to use a D2L site or a combination of e-mail and the W: drive (DEPTDIR).  The following table contains information about those two possibilities. The left hand column describes non-contingency procedures.  The center and right-hand columns describe methods to carry out communications using D2L or a combination of e-mail and the W: drive under contingency conditions.

If you already have a course D2L page, that is probably your best communication tool. If you don’t have a D2L page, you can either establish one now, which will require some training, or use a combination of e-mail and the W: drive.

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Face to Face Delivery (Non Contingency)

D2L (Contingency)

Email and W: Drive (Contingency)

Contingency Syllabus
Paper format, electronic, or both Include Policy changes and due dates, and schedule changes.
Content area
Post revised syllabus in this area.
Send revised syllabus to students as an attachment.

W Drive
Post revised syllabus in designated folder.
Announcements, news, directions, reminders, etc News tool
Replicate verbal messages into electronic formal or informal messages. Multiple messages can be posted each day.
Send e-mail messages with or without attachments to students.

W Drive

Post electronic documents in designated folder.
Content Readings/materials –textbook, articles, etc PowerPoints, instructor notes and commentary, outlines, audio files and video files (5 min. max!) and links to web supplementary materials.

Textbook readings/problems, additional books and written materials.
Content area
Post all content, in many formats to this area.

Continue to use the textbook and other books and written materials.
Send electronic documents or web links to students. Avoid large attachments of multimedia files.

W Drive
Post all content in many formats in your designated folder. Continue to use the textbook and other books and written materials.
Whole class Groups Teacher/student Questions about content, procedures, or technology
Discussion tool
Threads can be set up for small groups or entire class. Each discussion thread can be unique to focus on content, procedures, technology, etc
Individual posts to the whole class or have students email comments to assigned group members.
Assignments/Assigning student work
Post assignments and how they will be assessed. Use PowerPoint, word, excel, audio files and video files (5 min. max!), web links, etc

Collecting student work
Content area
Post instructions for completion, due date, and instructions for submitting work. Include grading procedures. Drop Box- Individual or group work
Send instructions for completion, due date, and instructions for submitting work. Include grading procedures.

W Drive
Post instructions for completion, due dates, and for how to submit work. Include grading procedures. Use folder to collect student work.
Quizzes/Exams/Other forms of assessment
Individual or group paper or project, PowerPoint presentation with presenter notes, problems, research, reflection, open-book exam, essay tests, etc
Quizzing tool
Used for low stakes assessments, primarily MC/TF questions. Options include randomization, time limit, and ability to grade electronically.

Drop Box
Collect Individual or group work

Content area Directions for completion, due date, and where to submit the work can be posted here
Send directions for completion, due date, and instructions for submitting work

W Drive
Post instructions for completion, due date, and instructions for submitting work. Use folder to collect work.
Excel Gradebook or paper
Gradebook tool Students have access to individual grades all the time. Email
Send grades to individual students. W Drive – Do not post grades here due to FERPA issues.

Getting some help with your planning

CETL and LTS stand ready to help you prepare your courses for pandemic conditions:

  • Contact CETL (836-CETL or with questions about course redesign issues.

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Rapid Deployment of an existing f2f course to an online format (D2L)

This document contains the steps required to take an existing face-to-face (f2f) course and put it online in some minimal but meaningful way. The purpose of this document is to provide the necessary steps for an instructor to move a course to an online format when f2f is not a viable option. Read more...

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