Instructional Continuity

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Photo depicting a snowy day at the University of Washington Tacoma

Student education and academics is the primary mission of the University of Washington Tacoma.  In the event of an emergency that may result in the long-term suspension of campus activities and classes on campus, it is essential to plan for continuity to sustain our campus mission.

The following Instructional Continuity Guide of technology recommendations is meant to help instructors prepare for possible disruption to campus operations (for example, a pandemic or extended severe weather). Special thanks to UW Seattle IT and UW Center for Teaching and Learning for sharing some of their strategies and best practices.

This guide will help you to:

  • Prepare in advance for a disruption
  • Conduct classes during a large-scale disruption to campus operations (i.e., major snow event)
  • Organize your course materials and communicate with students during normal operations

NEW FAQ GUIDE FOR FACULTY: COVID-19 and teaching and grading during the coronavirus outbreak 

Published by the UW Seattle Center for Teaching & Learning in collaboration with the UW Registrar, head of Enrollment Management, Office of the Provost, & Academic Technologies.


What is Instructional Continuity?

Instructional continuity refers to the university's and faculty efforts of continuing course work despite and during disruptions due to weather, illness, or other factors.  Depending upon the time of year, or quarter, instructional continuity may be critical for final examinations, grading, and/or meeting graduation requirements.

This toolkit is not a definitive list of technology resources, nor is it designed to address non-technical issues, such as program-specific policy, attendance policies or pedagogical best practices. Please keep in mind that during a major “disaster” many of the tools referenced herein may not be available until they are recovered. You will not need to take action on every recommendation in the toolkit. Simply pick and choose the information that is most useful for your teaching context.

*Important: Always align instructional choices with FERPA,  the UW Tacoma Cloud Services Policy and the Data Protection Policy for Portable Devices. Protect your students by keeping data (like backups of student grades and contact information) secure! 

Readiness Assessment Checklist

  1. Establishing an online presence

It is important to make sure your students are familiar with the organization of your Canvas course site and that you are prepared to utilize it BEFORE a disruption of instruction occurs. 




    I have a published Canvas course for each of my courses with a current syllabus and course schedule posted.
    My syllabus contains statements that pertain to inclement weather, emergency and campus closure information. 



I have a way to distribute assignments to my students online such as a Canvas course site.



I know how to record audio or video materials for class and I know how to share these with my students.



I have posted or know how to post course materials/readings on Canvas.

    I have set up assignments/grading in Canvas for each of my classes. 
  1. Establish channels of communication with your students and colleagues

​Plan ahead for unforeseen events. While every scenario cannot be anticipated, let your students know about your communication plan and ways they can obtain up-to-date information. 






My students know my plan for communicating class information during a disruption in instruction. 



I know how to facilitate discussion with groups of students remotely.



Students have a way to contact each other and collaborate online and are prepared to do so. 

    I know how to hold synchronous online office hours or class sessions with students.
    I have encouraged my student to sign up for UW Alerts and have reviewed ways that they can get campus/ departmental/course updates during an event.
    I am prepared to record lectures (Panopto, Powerpoint)  or have pre-prepared a few lectures to post online if needed. 
    I have prepared low-stakes activities for my students to make sure they can access, listen to, and/or watch my lectures online and use technologies that may be required.
    I have a SECURE copy of my students names, email addresses and alternative contact information.
  1. Student assessment at a distance

Think about how you will collect student work, facilitate collaboration, and maintain student grading in the event of an extended campus closure.






I have set up or know how to create online assignment submissions for my class in Canvas.



I have created or know how to create online surveys, quizzes and exams in Canvas.



I know how to grade and provide feedback on work submitted online in Canvas.

    I use the Canvas gradebook to track student grades AND I download a SECURE backup copy of the Gradebook periodically throughout the quarter.
    I have thought about and have planned alternative assignments.

Use Canvas or a course website to put materials online

Having course materials online helps you to be prepared and ensures that students always have access to the content they need. The following list contains a number of ways you can share various types of course materials with your students online. Using Canvas, the official learning management system of the UW, is a simple way for your students and you to stay connected. Course sites are automatically created in Canvas each quarter and allow instructors to:

  • Post the course syllabus Please visit the Suggested Syllabi Service Statements page for potential elements(inclement weather, campus and classroom policies, academic support, etc.) to include in your syllabus.
  • Post your "in case of emergency" contact information and communication plan in the event of a campus closure.
  • Post class lectures
  • Provide course materials, including assignments, readings, and audio/visual materials
  • Collect student assignments online
  • Manage quizzes
  • Record and submit grades
  • Set up and manage online asynchronous discussions
  • Set up and manage group work
  • View Canvas help for instructors

Practice Drills

You may find it helpful to perform “drills” to test your preparedness, and that of your students, to use alternate forms of instruction. Here are some suggested activities that you can do with your students to be ready:

  • Send students a welcome email that contains your contact information. Tell students to save this email in a safe place. Maintain a copy for your own records. This ensures that you have students’ email information, and students have your contact information.
    NOTE: You can use Canvas Announcements to email the entire class.
  • Send a test email to your students' alternate email addresses. This test message will help your students identify problems with spam filters or firewalls that may block your emails. Suggest to students that they add your primary and secondary email addresses to their approved recipient list.
  • Teach one class period through Canvas. This will give you and your students a chance to become familiar with the environment that will be used if classroom instruction must be interrupted.
  • Hold online office hours using Zoom, Skype, requiring your students to join at least one session. This will give you and your students a chance to become familiar with the environment that may be used if classroom instruction must be interrupted and Canvas is also unavailable.

How will you communicate with your students?

Canvas is the preferred method for communicating important course information to your students. In some cases, Canvas may become inaccessible due to power outages, system outages or other issues. You should communicate a back-up plan with your students to mitigate any confusion that may arise during an unforeseen event. Here are some possible alternatives for communicating with your students. 

1. Make sure that you can access your UW email from your phone or on the web

Email on your phone

Modern smartphones and cell-connected devices provide the best way to access email during emergencies. Cell networks are often buffered from disruptions in power and are less susceptible to wind damage than cable, phone and fiber networks. When the worst does happen cellular services are some of the first systems to be restored.

Smartphone apps such as Microsoft Outlook Web App or Gmail for iOS and Android provide a modern interface with functionality superior to either UW G Suite Gmail or UW Office 365 Exchange Online accessed via the web browser. 

Email on the web

If you have access to a web browser but you don’t have access to your own computer, you can still use UW G Suite Gmail and UW Office 365 Exchange Online. They are both web-based and accessible via the Internet.

Remember computer security best practices. If you are using someone else’s computer or a public computer:

  • Make sure the computer is running antivirus. Accessing your UW email from an unprotected computer violates UW policy and puts your personal information at risk.
  • Don’t cache your password.
  • Sign out of your email when you are done and close all browser windows.
  • Delete any downloaded file that contains FERPA or sensitive data.

2. Create a UW email distribution list for your class and have student emails or phone numbers handy

  • On MyUW: You can request an email distribution list for your class on MyUW under the Teaching tab. Class lists will be ready to use the day after you request them.
  • UW Mailman Listserv: If you want to create a list for cross-listed courses or combinations of courses, submit a Mailman Instructor Class List request.
  • Class email contact list: You could also post the class contact in your Canvas course so your students can contact each other. 
  • Use social networking tools to send messages to your students

3. Use social networking tools to send messages to your students

Creating and sharing social media pathways with your students using Twitter, private Facebook groups, or other platforms is a great alternative if email or Canvas is not available. It is critical, however, to get students prepared to use these platforms as an alternative method of communication as well. Once you have created a social media presence for your class, give students the opportunity to test it out before a critical need arises. 

Twitter, Facebook: While these social networking services are popular, they are not safe for FERPA and HIPAA content. If you use these social networks, do not expose sensitive information, such as the names of students in your course. 

UW Yammer: Consider using UW Yammer, which provides a FERPA– and HIPAA-aligned environment. 

4. Use chat, voice, video or all three

  • UW Skype for Business: UW Skype for Business, allows you to conduct a chat or a conference with up to 50 participants and a meeting with up to 250 participants. It is both HIPAA– and FERPA-aligned. Learn more.
  • UW Zoom: Use UW Zoom to participate in group video chat during online class sessions, host virtual office hours, collaborate remotely on research, share screens and host real-time video conversations, host live web broadcasts to thousands of people worldwide and record to the cloud or computer for easy sharing. Learn more about UW Zoom
  • UW Google Hangouts: You can chat or conference with up to 25 people at once in a UW Google Hangout. UW Google Hangouts are FERPA–aligned, but do not have the BAA required by HIPAA. Hangout is a feature of UW G Suite. Learn more about Google Hangouts. (Note that FERPA alignment applies only to UW Google Hangouts.)

5. Create a telephone hotline


Recommended practices and easy wins

  • Prepare your students to conduct class remotely by introducing remote learning tools and practices early in the quarter. Communicate fully and explicitly with students. Summarize all of the changes to your course on a dedicated Canvas page. See Canvas guides for creating a page and uploading media.

  • Utilize Canvas announcements to keep your students up-to-date on any changes or modifications.

  • Focus on learning outcomes even if you need to adjust the specific activities that contribute to those outcomes. Keep students moving toward those outcomes. Avoid "busy work."

  • Prioritize course activities and focus on delivering the ones with the most significant impact on learning outcomes.

  • Take advantage of colleagues’ ideas, departmental practices, and share your ideas.

  • Communicate your instructional continuity plan through UW Email and your Canvas course site.

  • Create and share social media pathways with your students using Twitter, Facebook, or other platforms.

  • Whenever possible, keep local secure copies of your documents/grades as backups in case they are inaccessible during an interruption event.

Practices to avoid

  • Waiting until the day of an unforeseen event to come up with an alternative plan or learn how to use technology tools.

  • Holding class via Zoom at a time and day the class does not meet.

  • Extending class beyond the time the class usually meets.

  • Increasing the amount of work students are expected to do.

  • Asking students to do the same amount and kind of work the syllabus initially expected them to do while (a) compressing the work into a shorter time period and/or (b) reducing their access to instructor, peer, or campus resources. If you have more content than time, reflect on the student learning outcomes for your course and focus on those that are the most important.

  • Teaching via individual consultation and tutorial (unless you were going to do that anyway).

  • Increasing the weight of any graded assignment.

  • Extending the course so that it ends after finals week. Many students have multiple finals and many will have a time conflict during finals week.

  • Rescheduling finals.

  • Adding a class session during finals week.


It is important to understand that, depending on the type of event that causes a disruption in instruction, each student may be facing a variety of connectivity and communication challenges. 

Supported Tools for instructing students during campus closures and emergency situations

Tools for specific instructional need

Listed below are a number of tools to help faculty work with students when they are unable to come to campus. 


(meet online at the same time )

(participate online at any time)

Lecture Recording/Online Class meetings
  • Zoom - Have online lectures, face to face and record them for later viewing. 
  • Skype for  Business Conferencing with UW and off-campus users, distance learning, and instant messaging.
  • Zoom - To record presentations and share them 
  • Panopto Easy recording and reviewing of videos from courses, lectures, and presentations. Integrated with Canvas. Available immediately for student review.
  • PowerPoint Slide Show Recording Record your presentation directly within Powerpoint and upload the file into Canvas (primarily for students to submit to faculty)
  • Canvas Chat Room open to the whole class, keeps a history of conversations
  • Zoom - Interact with students in real-time in an online classroom. using Zoom Pro Account 
Small-Group Collaboration
  • Zoom - Students can meet one on one or in groups via face/voice chat. 
Student Presentations Zoom - Students or teams can present to the class or instructor using screen sharing. 
  • Canvas Assignments students can upload a recorded presentation
  • Zoom - To record presentations and share them 
  • Panopto Easy recording of PPT with voice.
  • PowerPoint Slide Show Recording Record your presentation directly within Powerpoint and upload the file into Canvas (primarily for students to submit to faculty)
Online Exam/proctoring Proctor U - small cost to students for exam proctoring through Proctor U. Faculty can request an initial account by contacting the Office of Digital Learning. Create Canvas Quizzes - design your exam in Canvas or use publisher test banks to build and exam.

Comparison Chart





Skype for


Zoom Pro


Live 2-Way Conferencing





Screen Share



















Offline Recording

(upload once

connectivity restored)








Storage/Recording Delivery

Auto Delivery to Canvas


Auto Delivery to Canvas


Computer Hard Drive/Manual


Cloud or Hard Drive Recording/

Send Link

Computer Hard Drive/Manual


Download Software for Initial










Mobile App Available

Google Play Store Apple App Store




Use Browser






Session Time Limit










PC Preferred



Discussion Notes












Asynchronous Instructional Options

Pre-record your lectures 

Pre-recording lectures works for classes of any size and is especially useful for large lectures. It’s an excellent option for students who may not be available during class time (snow days, kids at home). Colleen Craig (ASA Teaching Fellow, Chemistry faculty) says it’s easy to record lectures using Panopto.

Below are some tutorials she located on the Panopto website:

For more information, check out Digital Learning Panopto FAQs page.

Assign online individual, paired or group work

  • Ask students to complete a Canvas quiz after viewing your pre-recorded lecture or completing assigned readings.
  • Ask students to work on problems, projects, or drafts online. They can do so either individually, in pairs, or groups. Then they submit the work and discuss it together.
  • Students are not all working at the same time, but they do submit the work by a specific time and date. (E.g.: Please submit the draft by 1:00 p.m. on February 25. Peer review the drafts written by the students in your group, using the protocol. Then submit your peer reviews by 5:00 p.m. on March 1.)

Best practices for online paired or group work

  • It’s best to use part or all of an assignment students are already working on—or an activity you’d planned to have students do in class—rather than create an additional graded assignment.
  • Assign groups of students to do different readings on the syllabus and then facilitate asynchronous, online discussion of the readings together (an online version of the “jigsaw” activity).
  • Use the Canvas peer review feature for students to submit rough drafts, and give each other feedback on drafts, as per a protocol you post on Canvas.

Discussion Forums

  • You could set up a Canvas Forum to foster an asynchronous discussion.  For more guided discussion, you might consider asking students to write one-page response papers on a particular topic, post their response in a Canvas discussion board and then you could ask each student to respond to at least one other student’s paper.

Student Presentations

Students can record their presentations offline using Powerpoint or Panopto and then share them out to faculty through Canvas. 


If class time usually includes activities to evaluate student learning, consider online quizzing in Canvas

Synchronous Instructional Options

Meet online via Standard UW Zoom

While best for classes of 50 or fewer students, Zoom can accommodate up to 300 participants easily.

All UWnetIDs have access to a standard zoom account.  Get Started!

Riki Thompson (Writing Studies faculty, UW Tacoma) met her class via Zoom when the campus was closed. Let your students know via Canvas that you’ll meet with them at the usual time and day via Zoom. Advise them to be at their desktop or laptop ahead of time to try out the link you’ll have sent them.

Include some Zoom best practices in your email to students:

  1. Join the meeting a couple minutes early to verify that your setup is working.
  2. Use a computer that is in a quiet room, without other computers that are accessing Zoom.
  3. Click on the Zoom meeting link sent by the instructor.
  4. Unmute the audio and video at the bottom left-hand side of the screen.
  5. When you are not talking, mute your audio.
  6. Use the chat feature at the right if you have questions.

Secure your meetings to prevent "Zoombombing"

Check out the UW Zoom Support page to get started

Helpful tutorial videos to help get started with using Zoom as an online classroom:

Downloading and Signing Into Zoom For The First Time (1:17)
Zoom Essential Features for Students (2:03)
Non-Verbal Communication in Zoom (1:49)
Break Out Rooms in Zoom (2:42)​

Sign in to Zoom

Record a Zoom meeting

Your Zoom meeting can also be recorded to your computer and uploaded to Canvas.

This is helpful for:

  • Students who are unable to get online to join a live session.
  • A small class that requires extensive interaction (be careful to remind students that the meeting is being recorded).

Have students meet online to do team or group work during class time

You can use peer review or other Canvas features during the time your class regularly meets.

Let your students know in advance how long this activity will take and to contact you via Canvas with any questions. If a number of students ask the same question, you can post an answer on a Canvas page to everyone.

Canvas Conferences

Virtual office hours, meetings, student groups, and lectures. Integrated with Canvas. Learn more about Canvas Conferences

UW Skype for Business

Conferencing with UW and off-campus users, distance learning, and instant messaging. Learn more about UW Skype for Business

Mixed asynchronous & synchronous teaching

Pre-record your lecture and offer a supplemental live Zoom meeting

  • Pre-record a lecture using Panopto (or Zoom), and offer a supplemental live meeting via Zoom for follow-up questions.
  • This format would not require recording the follow-up session and is a useful option for those that are comfortable with it.

You could even have students record presentations or reflections and then follow-up via Zoom meetings. 

What about my Internet? Can I speed it up?  What if I need a computer or hardware for my home? Can systems and the Internet handle all of this?

  1. Internet connectivity for learning, teaching and working remotely provides a guide for internet connectivity (home/residential internet, cellular data, hotspots) and provides resources on what phone companies and internet service providers (ISP) are offering during this time to ensure better connectivity.

  2. Increase the speed of your home internet connection
    Tips on how to improve the performance of your home internet, including what activities can affect its speed. 

  3. Acquiring computers and hardware for working remotely.
    Suggestions from UW-IT on computer and hardware specifications optimal for remote work, and also information for students on where to borrow equipment and resources for buying refurbished computers for cheap.

  4. Vendor Capacity and Operations during Coronavirus
    Assurance from our teaching and learning tool vendors that their systems (Zoom, Panopto, Canvas) are designed and operated to meet increased and growing usage, even in the face of unprecedented demand

Recording Lectures if the Internet is down

Instructors can still record lectures and prepare content offline using Panopto or Powerpoint. For more information, please see the “ Supported Tools for instructing students during campus closures and emergency situations” section.


With Panopto’s offline functionality, you can record audio, video, screen images, or PowerPoint slideshows. Panopto will capture the content and store the material locally on the computer that is running Panopto. Once connectivity is restored, sign in to the Panopto recorder, locate your recording, and upload it to the server. Follow these step-by-step guides:

Mac – Upload Offline Recording

Windows – Upload Offline Recording

Powerpoint Slide Show Recording 

Presentations made with PowerPoint’s built-in slide show recording will be stored on your computer. Users will need to upload manually once the network is operational. Manual uploads can be performed using the EDIT tab in one of your Canvas pages and select the Record/Upload Media button inside the Rich Content Editor. 

Faculty Showcase:  Ideas from faculty who were prepared for instructional interruptions due to snow!

When the snow began to fall in Winter 2019, instructors across the UW had to think quickly about how to keep their courses on track. Meet faculty who were prepared and adapted quickly to the disruption in instruction.

Accommodation Guidance & Accessibility Tips When Teaching Online

Teaching online presents new opportunities and flexibility for both faculty and students. The online mode can also present barriers for learners. The resources below offer some tips and training on how to minimize barriers by making content accessible for everyone and offering an inclusive environment. 

Faculty & Instructors Resources for Specific Accommodation Guidance -

UW Bothell's Accessibility Tips when Teaching Online page has information on:

​Additional Resources from UW

Moving in-class exams and quizzes online and recommendations for success

What are some ways I can move my in-person final online?

  • Convert it to a Canvas test with randomized questions and a time limit.

  • Turn your final project into an assignment that students can submit online.

  • Ask students to video record their work or presentation using their phones, Panopto, or Zoom, then upload it to Canvas.

  • Have students give their presentations live using Zoom.

  • Make the test or final open book.

If my class was not an online class but I have a way to administer my exam online, am I allowed to do that?

Yes, alternate testing situations are acceptable as long as students are not being required to come to campus and the materials can be submitted electronically.

Quiz Settings to Maximize Security

How do I Create Quizzes?

The Quizzes section in Canvas allows you to create online tests and quizzes that are automatically graded. If you want to create a placeholder for an in-class quiz or test, create this as as an Assignment (NOT a quiz) under Assignments instead.

To create an online quiz, go to the desired course and click on the Quizzes link.

Open Quizzes

Click on the +Quiz button.

Add Quiz

Name your quiz (1), add instructions in the Settings box (2), and set the quiz parameters (3), including the quiz type and if there is a time limit.

Note: Practice Quizzes and Ungraded Surveys have no point value and will not show up in the Gradebook. Graded surveys can be anonymous and/or graded as complete/incomplete.

Edit Quiz Settings

Next, click on the Questions tab (1) and add a new question (2).

Add Question

Set your quiz type, write your question in the box provided, and add your answers. Then click on Update Question.

Complete Question

When the quiz is ready, click on Save and Publish. The quiz will now show up in your Gradebook.

Recommendations for conducting quizzes and exams

Many instructors are adapting exams to quizzes or assignments in Canvas. We ask that you take the quality of student internet service into account as you set up these exams. As more people work remotely or self-quarantine, residential internet upload and download speeds degrade. 

We recommend the following strategies to provide as smooth an experience as possible for your students:

  1. Advise students to eliminate unnecessary use of their internet service when working in Canvas, such as coordinating with roommates.
  2. If using a timed quiz, set the time limit for slightly longer than you would for an in-person exam to accommodate students who might experience any internet slowness during the quiz. Canvas guide for quiz options >Links to an external site.
  3. Set availability dates and times for the quiz to be open for slightly longer than your class period or the quiz time limit. This will provide a buffer for students who experience delays loading or submitting the quiz. Canvas guide for quiz availability >Links to an external site.
  4. If you are using “File Upload” questionsLinks to an external site. in your timed quiz, please allow additional time for this process; student upload speeds will vary. Keep in mind that students may not all have access to high-quality scanning or camera options outside of campus.
  5. If you are using an assignment for students to submit their final exam, make sure that the availability datesLinks to an external site. are set to allow a slightly longer window for students to view, download, or upload related files. You can set a due date for the allowed exam time; student submissions after this due date will be flagged as late.

If you are concerned about academic integrity and online quizzes:

  1. Limit the overall availability dates for the quiz to reduce opportunity to copy and share.
  2. Use question banks or question groups within the quiz in order to generate a different quiz or a different order of questions for each student. Learn more through the Canvas guides for using question groupsLinks to an external site. and question banksLinks to an external site..
  3. If using the same set of questions, shuffle the answers to change the order for each student.
  4. Use essay questions or questions that ask students to show their work.

Time extensions for particular students can be achieved in one of two ways:

  1. If your quiz is timed, use the “moderate this quiz” function to add time or attempts. Canvas guide for moderating quizzes >Links to an external site. 
  2. You can set up an alternative availability range and due date to extend the time for selected studentsLinks to an external site.. When you add a due date in this manner, the original list of students becomes "everyone else" automatically.

Guides & Webinar

For a full guide to all Canvas quiz help documentation, visit the Canvas Instructor Guide

How do I create a quiz? (Links to an external site.)

How do I view student quiz results? (Links to an external site.)

How do I create a survey? (Links to an external site.)

How do I add "fudge points" to a quiz?

How do I give a student extra time on an exam or an extra attempt?




Be Proactive! Get Help and Support Now!

Resources and contacts for training and support

For more information on how to deal with and prepare for campus emergencies, please visit the UW Tacoma Alert page.

Contact Digital Learning ( for more Canvas support and to discover other optional tools for learning.

Contact IT Media Services ( for support and training on ZOOM, Panopto and other presentation recording optoins.

For live chat support, visit UW Tacoma Information Technology.

If you have further questions regarding how to access and use technology please contact Information Technology at or 253-692-4357.

Other UW Seattle resources if UW Tacoma is offline.

(206) 221-5000

IT Connect

UW Seattle Canvas Support