Steps to Moving Your Course Online

When you realize you have to move your class online quickly, consider the following right away:

  • Identify plans early: Address emergencies and expectations up front in your syllabus, so students know what will happen if classes are cancelled, including the procedures you will implement. Do this each semester, so that you are ready in case of an emergency.

  • Get details about the closure or event: Campus closures or emergencies will be reported via campus email and the university homepage. Those are good places to look for information, including estimates of how long you may need to teach your course online. You can check Technology Services information about the current availability of various tech services at

  • Check with your department: Your department may issue more details about the situation and guidelines about their expectations for classes. Administrators may want to have many of the department’s classes handled in similar ways, so you should check with departmental leaders before doing too much planning.

  • Communicate with your students right away: Even if you don’t have a plan in place yet, communicate with your students as soon as possible, informing them that changes are coming and what your expectations are for checking email or the learning management system (Ex. Compass, Moodle, etc.), so you can get them more details soon.

  • Consider realistic goals for continuing instruction: Think about what you can realistically accomplish during this time period. Do you think you can maintain your original syllabus and schedule? Do you hope students will keep up with the reading with some assignments to add structure and accountability? Do you just want to keep them engaged with the course content somehow?

  • Review your course schedule to determine priorities: Identify your priorities during the disruption—providing lectures, structuring new opportunities for discussion or group work, collecting assignments, etc. What activities are better rescheduled, and what can or must be done online? Give yourself a little flexibility in that schedule just in case the situation takes longer to be resolved than you think.

  • Review your syllabus for points that must change: What will have to temporarily change in your syllabus (policies, due dates, assignments, etc.)? Since students will also be thrown off by the changes, they will appreciate details whenever you can provide them.

  • Pick tools and approaches familiar to you and your students: Try to rely on tools and workflows that are familiar to you and your students and roll out new tools only when necessary. Make sure to only use tools that are already supported by campus, as these are already vetted to comply with appropriate policies such as FERPA.

  • Identify your new expectations for students: You will have to reconsider some of your expectations for students, including participation, communication, and deadlines. As you think through those changes, keep in mind the impact this situation may have on students’ ability to meet those expectations, including illness, lacking power or internet connections, or needing to care for family members. Be ready to handle requests for extensions or accommodations equitably.

  • Communicate with your TA(s): Let your TA(s) know what you are planning, their role, and how they should manage communication from students.

  • Create a more detailed communications plan: Once you have more details about changes in the class, communicate them to students, along with more information about how they can contact you (email, online office hours, etc.). A useful communications plan also lets students know how soon they can expect a reply. They will have many questions, so try to figure out how you want to manage them in a timely manner