Academic Continuity Plan for the Coronavirus Health Emergency

Academic Council 2020


The Academic Council was convened on March 4, 2020 after the declaration of emergency on February 27, 2020 following the procedures described in the Academic Continuity Policy. The policy guides planning and decision-making in the event that a significant disruption to campus operations impedes academic activity. The goal of the policy is “to continue academic activities as much as possible and to mitigate the effects of a significant academic disruption, which include particularly grave academic and financial consequences for graduating students, international students, and students receiving financial aid.” The policy balances the principles of academic integrity, transparency for students, instructors, and staff, and fairness for students.

The Academic Council voted to approve the following guidelines for the duration of the coronavirus health emergency. These guidelines should be followed by course instructors in consultation with the Academic Continuity Team in their unit. The Academic Continuity Policy is clear that instructors of record (hereafter referred to as “instructors” which includes faculty and GEs) shall retain primary authority over how to manage their courses, assignments, instruction and grades, subject to the conditions described below.

During this time, Academic Council encourages us to come together to support our students and each other. During an emergency situation, it is important to be flexible, empathetic, and prepared to do a bit extra in the short run.

Academic principles to be followed:

In order to receive credit, the learning outcomes and goals of the course, as detailed in the approved course, must be met. The Instructor of Record (including any active additional Instructor(s) of Record) makes the determination about whether the learning outcomes have been met. The Academic Continuity plan allows for changes in various aspects in the way that course content is delivered, and the learning outcomes are achieved. If the instructor determines that the learning outcomes can be met with adjustments to the organization of the course, including reasonable modifications to the modality, delivery, and assessment practices, the instructor should make these changes under this emergency. Specific guidance on modifications is provided below.

Modality changes might include replacing lectures with video lecture replacements, changing methods of assessment (changing short-answer questions to multiple choice) and similar methods including those used as examples below during the duration of this emergency. The feasibility of such modality changes will be highly dependent on best pedagogical practices within the discipline concerned. Instructors should discuss such possibilities with their unit heads for guidance. If a unit head is unavailable, a unit head from a closely-aligned unit will be assigned. If the instructor determines that the learning outcomes cannot be met even with such adjustments, and the unit head concurs, then the completion of the course may be delayed until the missing instructional or grading work is completed.

Academic credit, and grades awarded to students for that credit, are based on delivery of course content in accordance with the learning objectives of the course and the assessment of the quality of student work in that course. As stated in the Academic Continuity Policy, as in any disruption, Instructors should endeavor to mitigate the effects of a significant academic disruption to ensure that the approved course content is delivered, and the appropriate assessment of student performance is undertaken.

The approved amount of student work for each course is listed in the approved Student Engagement Inventory (SEI). On average, for a 4-credit class, this totals 12 hours a week and includes 4 hours of lecture including discussion section or lab time for a lower level class and at least 3 hours for an upper level class. The remaining time is taken with other coursework such as readings and assignments.

Both delivery of content and assessment of student work can be impacted in an academic disruption. During any disruption, instructors should endeavor to ensure that the approved course content is delivered, and the appropriate assessment of student performance is undertaken by changes to the components of the SEI without significant increase or decrease in workload on the students enrolled in the course. Instructors may, for instance, reduce the number of assessed assignments by increasing work needed per assignment if they can still ensure sufficient assessment of learning outcomes. Instructors may also replace class time with out of class assignments that can meet the same learning outcomes. Finally, it may be possible for some class time and assignments to be missed, and still be able to fully assess learning outcomes by altering other assignments to include the missed class time or work.

During this coronavirus health emergency, the goals for academic continuity are:

  • To protect instructors, staff, students
  • To accommodate individual students and instructors who are ill or worried about contracting illness
  • To continue courses in the event of instructor absence or partial/complete campus closure

Therefore, the Academic Council has 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. Academic Council requires the use of the course Canvas site for all 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.
  • 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.

Absence of Instructor of Record:

If an Instructor of Record is unable to continue as instructor, unit heads may appoint an additional Instructor of Record who will continue to deliver course content and follow the course structure and content as laid out in the syllabus and any other additional resources such as the Canvas site to the best of their ability. The original Instructor of Record remains on the course and when they return, the additional Instructor of Record is removed after the appropriate transition between instructors has been affected. The Instructor of Record will then complete the course and submit grades.

The additional Instructor of Record will follow the established syllabus, including delivery of course content in accordance with the learning objectives of the course and such assessment that falls within the timeline of the course. The additional instructor will not require additional work of the enrolled students beyond the level specified in the SEI or syllabus or change the methods of assessment.

Whenever possible, submission of final grades will be done by the original Instructor of Record. If the original Instructor of Record does not return before the end of the class, course grades should not be submitted by the additional Instructor of Record until Finals Week and all assignments and scheduled exams are due and have been graded.

When the original Instructor of Record returns, they will accept the work done by the students under the additional Instructor of Record and not require additional work of the enrolled students for the time the original Instructor of Record was absent. The returning Instructor of Record will assess, in coordination with the unit head, the degree to which the learning outcomes were achieved, and the student work was correctly assessed given this disruption. If the conclusion of the Instructor of Record and the unit head is that the additional Instructor of Record was unable to deliver course content or conduct assessment as specified, or an additional Instructor of Record was unavailable, the Instructor of Record and unit head may conclude that the course has not been completed. In this case, emergency grades, if available, may be used, or incompletes if appropriate, until such time as the course can be completed.

The instructional work required to complete the course will be conducted and compensated according to appropriate labor agreements and requirements. Upon completion, students will then receive regular (non-emergency) grades.

Absence of GEs that support a faculty instructor:

The impact of loss of GEs from a faculty-taught class will vary with the number of GEs, the amount of GE FTE, and duties of those GEs. Instructors of Record may be able to complete a course with minor losses of GE support, but it is expected that major losses of GE support will require some form of replacement. The amount of loss of GE support will be reflected in the total FTE and associated total of hours of work lost.

The Academic Council recommends that Instructors of Record impacted by the academic disruption through the loss of GEs who run discussion sections, labs, etc., consider modifying the modes of delivery of the course content, activities, and assessments that are required to meet the learning outcomes and goals of the course. It is good pedagogical practice to maintain a set of alternative assignments that can be used as “make-ups” if students have valid reasons for missing class. These make-up assignments may be an acceptable method of delivering course material in accordance with course outcomes that can be deployed if planned course activities cannot be completed for any reason.

The assessment of any assignments used to replace planned course activity should be equivalent to the originally planned assessment for the missing activity. For example, a discussion section normally run by a GE could be replaced with a worksheet if the GE is ill. This worksheet covers the same material and the grading of that worksheet should be equivalent to the grading of the discussion section exercise.

Graded assignments should not generally be replaced by non-graded assignments unless completion of an assignment can be seen as having learning value. For instance, students might be asked to complete a module in Canvas that automatically records a completion grade as a replacement for attending a discussion section. Instructor should consult with their unit heads for guidance. If replacement assignments need to be graded, this must be done by a qualified person, following all applicable labor laws and negotiated contracts. Graders must be appropriately qualified. If GEs are unavailable to hold labs or sections, students should be held harmless so that any student credit for attendance to labs or sections should be waived.


The Council will continue to meet to provide guidance about grading procedures (e.g., whether to enable emergency grades) should the disruption continue.

Personnel considerations

Additional and Replacement Instructors of Record must be qualified to teach the course. Departments should follow their criteria for level qualification to teach classes, such as in replacement teaching pools, that should be followed. Departments should also follow their normal criteria for graduate students to be instructors of record such as advancement to candidacy or seniority, etc. Work associated with a course that does not involve any instruction or assessment, such as taking attendance, proctoring exams, distributing materials, supervising room occupancy, etc., may be done by individuals not qualified to instruct and following all applicable labor laws and negotiated contracts.

Unit Heads must consider whether the workload required to meet the course learning outcomes is reasonable with respect to the job description of additional instructors of record and their other obligations.


One thought on “Academic Continuity Plan for the Coronavirus Health Emergency”

  1. From a pedagogical perspective, I would like to caution against the idea that seems to be circulating in a panic in academia that somehow all of our activities are easily transferable to an online format. If we are in an emergency, then we are in an emergency. A sense that we can continue to conduct everyday operations as if nothing is happening defies the definition of the term. While I am fine with moving some activities on-line, the incongruent idea that the UO Academic Continuity Plan suggests that a discussion section can be replaced by a worksheet clearly indicates a lack of pedagogical awareness. Similarly, assuming that a graduate seminar, a fieldwork class, and a music-dance lesson can be replaced solely by doing things online defeats the very university experience. Better to consolidate all our universities into Social Media U and replace our titles of professor with online content providers.

    I am particularly worried about the aftermath of this situation, in which administrators will claim that we reduce the number of GEs and in-person classes that we offer to reduce expenses. They will point to this time as a the new “norm.” I think we need to value what we do. If a class is four credits because of a discussion section, then an online version will need to be reduced to three. If a course is a seminar or hinges on in-person instruction, then not meeting in-person will most likely need for that class to be cancelled.

    It makes more sense to move/adjust the university calendar in multiple ways, in a move of acceptance of our limitations in confronting this virus, than to dismiss proven pedagogical practices and the goals we feel are important. I say this as someone well-versed and comfortable with technology, and as a result, someone who aware of its limitations. Technology is often seen as the panacea for challenges that we face, but scholars who understand the critique of modernity know the dangers of thinking that way. One only needs to consider the current climate crisis to see one example of technology’s drawbacks.

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