30 April 2009

Response to Pandemic: Academic Continuity

ACADEMIC CONTINUITY has emerged as the term for contingency planning that allows continuation of educational programs following a disruption in campus services. The current swine flu pandemic may be the first widespread example although higher ed institutions impacted by Hurricane Katrina can claim a prior learning curve.

Katrina led to a number of initiatives among higher ed institutions that helped New Orleans students meet graduation requirements when their schools closed. Especially through distance learning, courses were delivered as well as important social support. A major initiative at the time was the Sloan Semester, a collaborative delivery of courses (for 4000 enrollments) organized by the Sloan-C Consortium. A retrospective report on the 2005 effort explains that the online offerings were pulled together in 21 days.

In the years since Katrina, more higher ed institutions have given attention to the matter of delivering courses during disruptions to campus services. Some institutions have stated bluntly that a canceled semester could cause lay-offs. Business, facilities, and IT operations have long traditions in BC or Business Continuity. Typical concerns are emergency response and disaster recovery. Documentation almost always reflects these concerns; the concept of documenting preparation for academic continuity is relatively new.

Interest in contingency planning has been evident among some distance learning providers, with the purpose of having back-up procedures for LMS (learning management system, such as Blackboard) outages. On some campuses the conversation has shifted to using an LMS as the "off-campus" substitute for holding classes in the case of a campus closure.

Sloan-C's dedicated web page on the topic of Academic Continuity is a good starting point for exploring next steps—or first steps.

© 2009 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. Email contact: bold[AT]marybold.com. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as legal or professional advice. Bold is the co-author of Reflections: Preparing for your Practicum or Internship, geared to college interns in the child, education, and family fields. She is a consultant and speaker on assessment, distance learning, and technology.

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