Continuity of Learning

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Why does this matter?

“Sustained learning inculcates an intentional commitment to learning and prepares students to be engaged and involved in the learning process” (Chemosit et al, 2017, p. 6) outside the walls of the classroom. Students who practice the skills needed to be independent, lifelong learners will be better equipped to deal with the rapid development of technologies and the changing job requirements they will encounter as professionals.

A continuity of learning (CoL) plan supports the premise of sustained learning in that it suggests to students that they are capable of learning even when the normal learning environment is unavailable. Whether classes are canceled because of catastrophic events such as hurricanes or flu pandemics or more regularly because of winter weather, family emergencies, illness, or professional obligations, learning can and will continue. This may occur in any number of formats, including – but not limited to – class being held remotely, students watching instructional videos and students completing structured assignments on their own.

What does this look like in practice?

There are some simple support systems and plans that need to be in place long before a class is canceled and a continuity of learning plan is implemented.

Insert language into the syllabus

  • State the continuity of learning plan.
  • Provide an explanation of why it is important for students to practice learning on their own.

Help students see the relevance of sustained learning

  • Create a continuity of learning plan with your students.
  • Establish a method of emergency communication (Blackboard, email, text).
  • Encourage study partners.

Prepare students to use online tools

  • Post all course handouts on Blackboard.
  • Post frequent announcements with language that encourages students to read their email.
  • Offer low-stakes assignments on Blackboard (course introductions, self-assessment quizzes).
  • Use Zoom for virtual office hours.
  • Set up a Q & A Discussion Forum on Blackboard.
  • Require students to use online library resources.
  • Offer a space on Blackboard for students to collaborate with one another.

Develop a support system

  • Book a consultation with the CTSE for pedagogical support.
  • Work with the CTSE to choose and use the appropriate tools.
  • List contact information for student support from on and off campus.

Lesson plans

Just-in-case lesson plans: Preparing a lesson ahead of time

You may find it easier to create an assignment before it is needed. Faculty who have been asked the question – what topics would you like to include in your course if you had more time – have come up with these ideas:

What makes a good just-in-case lesson?

  • Evergreen content (i.e., the content will not need updating every semester)
  • Could fit anywhere in the semester (i.e., not dependent on certain content coverage)
  • Works for multiple classes (i.e., could be included in a course for undergraduates or graduate students; or could be used in a range of courses regardless of content)
  • Skill-based or process-oriented (i.e., focuses on skills rather than content)
  • Reinforces an important idea or concept in your field (even if not covered directly in the course)
  • “Failure-proof” (i.e., make sure that the needed technology is available to all students, etc. so that you are not adding to student frustration)
  • Try to make it fun (the idea is to mitigate student frustration)
  • Includes online component (i.e., is not dependent on face-to-face interaction)

Just in-time lesson plans: Preparing a lesson the day of the cancellation

You may prefer to create a learning activity that complements what you would have done if there was no disruption to the schedule. As is the case with all of the CoL activities, students benefit from clearly understanding that learning will continue even when school is canceled for any reason.


Examples of just-in-time lesson plans

Planned in-class learning activity

Discussion of assigned reading (whole class or small group)

Just-in-time online learning activity

Create the discussion in the Discussion Forum; be sure to attach a rubric that includes expectations. Discussions can be created for the whole class or for groups. Monitor the discussion in order to provide scaffolding when needed; provide feedback to individuals, small groups, and/or whole group.

Planned in-class learning activity

Short introductory lecture or demonstration.

Just-in-time online learning activity

Use Zoom for a live lecture or demonstration. Record the session for students who are unable to access the internet during the live session. Give students a follow-up exercise for practice or assessment purposes.

Why is this important?

Suffolk University is dedicated to providing students with an education that is student-centered. Technology provides an infrastructure that supports interactive learning activities that can be designed to meet the diverse learning needs of all of our students.

Choosing online materials

Guiding questions
  • If I could imagine ideal supplemental materials to help my students learn the content, what would it look like?
  • What skills do I want my students to practice?
  • Does the online resource fit with my learning objectives?
  • Does the online resource promote active learning?
  • Does the online resource help me to assess my students’ learning?
  • Is the online resource accessible for all students?
  • Is the online resource easy for students to find and navigate?
  • Does the online resource include clear instructions for students (if applicable)?
  • Do I need to create any supplemental materials to help students learn through this online resource?
  • Would this online resource work better if paired with another online resource?
  • Is this the best online I can find to help my students learn this material?

Continuity of learning checklist

Course resilience
  1. Syllabus refers to class cancellation expectations.
  2. Instructors create online resources that are UDL.
  3. Students understand the cognitive science behind learner-centered activities.
Activity design
  1. Meets course goals and objectives.
  2. Created as an evergreen learning activity.
  3. Clear directions for students.
  4. Alternative methods of access.
  5. Universally designed for learning.
Student preparation
  1. Class time is used to establish a method of emergency communication.
  2. Course documents are posted online.
  3. Low stakes online assignments are offered early in the semester.
  4. Announcements are sent to students ASAP when a “rainy day” assignment will be used.
  5. Students are exposed to in class student-centered learning activities in face-to-face classes.
  6. Students are encouraged to use online office hours and Q & A forums.
  7. Students have practice using online library resources.
  8. Students have a space to collaborate with peers.
Faculty support
  1. Contact information available for IT, Media Services, and Pedagogical Support.
  2. IT provides a list of recommended equipment for creating remote learning activities.
  3. Website with resources for online teaching and learning tools.
  4. Website with resources for remote pedagogical ideas
  5. ITS provides technology support.
  6. CTSE provides lesson design support.
  7. The Office of Disability Services provides a Blackboard course on Making Online Courses ADA Compliant.
  8. Faculty can access files and other resources from home using Suffolk’s VPN instructions.
Accessibility of activity
  1. Accommodate the needs of students who may not be able to access the Internet.
  2. Ensure accessibility of posted documents.
  3. Add closed captioning to videos.


  • Ambrose, S.A., Bridges, M.W., Lovett, M.C., DiPietro, M., & Norman, M.K. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Chemosit, C., Rugutt, J., and Rugutt, J. K. (Eds.). (2017). Fostering sustained learning among undergraduate students: Emerging research and opportunities. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

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