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Spreading the Word about Continuous Learning - Not Contagious Illnesses

Responding to campus emergencies such as a pandemic, above all, requires effective communication in keeping classes continuous. Translating a face-to-face course to one that uses online tools requires re-thinking forms of communication. But the core experience of the class already exists -- faculty know how to teach and students know how to learn. The key is in imagining the course anew.

CTRL started emergency training for online faculty two years ago, based on a pandemic simulation called the Bulgarian Influenza. In 2009, AU prepared its faculty for a possible H1N1 virus pandemic. These illnesses and other unforeseen circumstances present the possibility disruption in academic continuity, where a significant number of students and faculty infections are likely to occur, with disruption to face-to-face class meetings

The AU continuity plan is based on time. When a pandemic occurs in the semester is key to understanding how to respond. If the pandemic strikes early in the semester, classes resume later when illness has subsided and courses continue on a condensed basis. If it occurs in the middle of the semester, a combination of condensed classes and online tools are used. Last, if it occurs later in the semester the effort will focus on finishing the courses using online tools, especially Blackboard.

The university plan is based on awareness (surveys and syllabi instructions), training (workshops and simulations), and support (graduate fellows and faculty mentors). The primary vehicle for delivery of courses in such an event will be through the Blackboard content management system and asynchronous delivery. Faculty are also planning on using other tools that may involve synchronous teaching.

Part of the AU plan is to engage faculty with experience in online and hybrid situations to act as mentors to provide content-based training and advice for colleagues. CTRL is supporting school missions through training in both pedagogy and technology issues of importance. Here are some links and tools for more information on the CTRL and university plan for continutity.
Class continuity will be a decentralized process in practice, with each faculty member deciding the appropriate means to approach any campus emergency and working with their departments to coordinate. It is important to engage students early on in discussing how classes can continue. Faculty may regard this planning as not only an opportunity to integrate more technology in the classroom, but also as a teachable moment. Courses in history might discuss the Black Plague, in international relations the security aspects of pandemics, and in business courses the implications of lost productivity to companies.

While we certainly do not regard a possible pandemic as welcome, we do see this as opportunity to raise the consciousness of students and faculty about using online tools in teaching and learning. Teaching remotely is a tool for many situations other than a pandemic, such as sickness, snow days, security situations, or hurricanes. It should also cause us to re-think ourselves as an entity of learning -- it may well be that AU, for some classes or brief periods, may become an online university.

Faculty may watch some of the training sessions from CTRL and other academic units on the AU iTunes site.