Ensuring Continuity in Teaching and Learning During Emergency Closings

March 5, 2020

Members of the Faculty, 

Continuity planning is essential to the University’s operational effectiveness and ability to fulfill our mission of research, teaching and learning. The recent experience with the COVID-19 virus has underscored the importance of ensuring that we are prepared as an academic community to continue operations under any range of circumstances that may cause disruption.

While the campus is not currently at risk of an emergency closure, it is essential that faculty are aware and take full advantage of available resources that will enable teaching, research and advising to continue in any range of scenarios – from a weather-related incident to a public health matter. Faculty are encouraged to prepare contingency plans that allow them to continue their teaching and research, and the following are resources available to support this planning and execution. 

Technology is available to support teaching and learning continuity. In addition to email, Brown has an array of tools, including Canvas and Zoom, to support connectedness and continuity. Take time to ensure proficiency with these resources. Staff in Digital Learning & Design and/or Computing and Information Services are prepared to offer support and provide tutorials. More information available at: dld.brown.edu

Identify your key learning goals. Our key objective is to help students get the support they need to complete core assignments in your courses. Please think about your learning goals and what is essential to completing your class successfully. In times of disruption, the University will provide faculty with flexibility about how, when, and where courses are delivered to ensure that students meet key learning goals. Please visit the Sheridan Center page on Teaching During Disruption for creative approaches to making these adjustments, including low- and high-tech ideas.  

Develop a plan. Planning ahead is important to identify key factors for maintaining teaching and research continuity, including student communication, hosting lectures, and engaging and assessing student learning. 

In terms of teaching, please see this Teaching Continuity Guide, developed by the University’s Digital Learning & Design team, for ideas on how to design related activities in a virtual space. Instructors may also find it useful to refer to the many resources in the IT Service Center Knowledgebase, which is intended to assist with implementing digital tools in courses. 

It is also an opportune time to consider ways that online instruction can be leveraged to make a lasting impact on Brown students’ learning experience. The Digital Learning & Design team is dedicated to supporting faculty and departmental planning efforts for teaching online, regardless of the need.  This may include one-on-one assistance with building a “contingency-ready” online module or a fully online course, or a small group of instructors or academic departments that would like expert-led workshops on the tenets of teaching online.  Please email [email protected] to schedule a session or to learn more. 

Finally, please be sure to make health and wellness a priority. Periods of uncertainty can be anxiety producing, especially for students who may be away from their families. Please be aware of the effect that these circumstances may have on you and/or students, staff and colleagues with whom you interact. There are substantial resources available to promote the health and wellness of the Brown community, many of which are listed on the covid.brown.edu site developed specifically in response to the COVID-19 virus, and which are more generally valuable. I encourage you to review this site and these resources.

The health, safety and security of our community is a priority, and it is essential that we work collaboratively to advance our shared goals.  


Richard M. Locke