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Continuity of instruction in the time of a possible coronavirus threat

*Published March 9, 2020

This letter was published and shared on March 9, 2020. This is a rapidly changing situation and Salem State University is closely monitoring developments of the Coronavirus outbreak. Learn the latest updates.

Dear Colleagues,

Please review the information below, which provides important guidance regarding SSU’s efforts to maintain (to the extent possible) continuity of instruction during this time of a coronavirus threat. It is my understanding that these guidelines were originally developed in 2009 and revised in 2013. Given the need to plan for a potential disruption due to health concerns around possible future spread of the coronavirus, it seemed wise to review our existing “continuity of operations” plan, revise it as necessary, and re-circulate it among the faculty.

The importance of planning having been duly noted, I believe it important to make clear that at this time, we are operating under standard conditions. If, in the next few days or weeks, it becomes necessary for us to deliver the face-to-face curriculum via alternative means, then this planning document will guide us.

How can you prepare?
Review the information below and assess your own capacity for delivering your course(s) in a modality other than face-to-face. Where appropriate, adopt whichever of the recommendations indicated as they might be appropriate to your course(s).

How can we help you prepare?
In service to those members of the faculty who might need to become more comfortable using digital tools for teaching (such as Canvas and Zoom), the team currently overseeing the Center for Teaching Innovation (CTI) will be offering workshops on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Moreover, they will hold drop-in hours on Friday. 

For the more autodidactically-inclined, the “Flu-Proof Course Workshops” page also includes a link to self-paced online tutorials and guides. 

While we certainly should all hope for the best (i.e., no disruption), we are wise to prepare for a possible period of no face-to-face teaching. Should you have any questions, please direct a message to


-David Silva

Salem State University Academic Continuity Planning

*Updated March 9, 2020

Given the possible spread of COVID-19 into our region, faculty should consider the steps below to begin planning your courses as well as preparing students for the possibility of a college declared critical emergency.

Planning considerations for faculty

  1.  Make sure the required SSU emergency statement is in your syllabus, with the appropriate directions for students: “In the event of a college declared critical emergency, Salem State University reserves the right to alter this course plan. Students should refer to the Salem State website for further information and updates. The course attendance policy stays in effect until there is a college declared critical emergency. In the event of an emergency, please refer to the alternative educational plans for this course. Students should review the plans and gather all required materials before an emergency is declared.”
  2. Consider reviewing the appropriateness of your attendance policy. “Review attendance and sick leave policies. Students, staff, and faculty should not attend class or work when sick. Allow them to stay home to care for sick household members. Make accommodations (e.g., extended due dates, electronic submission of assignments), as possible, for individuals who may be temporarily unable to attend class due to restrictions placed on them related to possible exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.” 
  3. If the President of Salem State University and/or the health authorities deem it necessary, the President may declare a period of relaxed attendance policies. However, your course attendance policy stays in effect until there is a university declared critical emergency.  
  4. Make sure you can login with your SSU network ID to Polaris, SSU email, Canvas and your Library access at home. Test your home system to make sure you can access these systems. 
    If you need support with your network ID, Polaris, Canvas or email, please contact the ITS Helpdesk.

    If you need support with library access, please contact the library.
  5. Consider how to help students continue work even if they cannot come to class. Consider potential alternative assignments for missed classes, quizzes, discussions and labs.
  6. Think about choosing a departmental “Pandemic Pal,” a colleague who might assist with your course in your absence and share with canvas course, communication plans and alternative assignments.
  7. Prepare a communication plan in case you and/or your students are unable to attend class on campus or the class is canceled. For example, use Canvas to send emails or announcements to your students.
  8. Identify alternate instructional plans:
    - Consider an interdisciplinary assignment, developed by faculty colleagues across departments.
    - Consider preparing your course in Canvas. Update the site with announcements, class materials and alternative assignments.
    - Post alternative educational activities for up to 2 weeks in the event of a university declared emergency.
    - Review your course policies, alternative assignments, and communication plan with your “Pandemic Pal.”
  9. Consider attending workshops on flu-proofing or preparing for remote class continuity. See a list of workshops and guidelines here under Flu Proof Guide. 
    - Learning electronic community tools (Canvas, Zoom)
    - Creating alternative lesson plans
    - Recording class lectures to post online
    - Narrating slide shows from home
    - Conducting group-work and collaborate on projects and assignments online

Planning to Address the Needs of Your Students with Disabilities

Please contact Lisa Bibeau if you have any questions or need clarification about the following:             

  • In the event of a university declared emergency that requires alterations to the course plan, faculty must maintain accommodations set in place at the start of the course for students with disabilities throughout the alteration period.
  • If alteration to the course requires the students to view a video electronically the video must be made accessible. Most recent videos have closed captioning built-in, but a simple, text transcript can be provided separately.
  • If using Canvas, for exams, extended time must be provided for those students whose letters stated this accommodation. If you need help doing this, please contact Disability Services for a tip sheet, or use this Canvas Guide.
  • Documents need to be posted in an accessible format. Word documents tend to be the most accessible because they allow for better access with screen-readers. Many PDFs are either not accessible or much more difficult to navigate with a screen-reader.
  • Faculty will need to have access to the original Accommodation Approval Letter written by the Disability Services office. It is critical that the faculty give only the accommodations stated in the letter. If a faculty member doesn’t not have access to the letters while the alteration to the course is in place, s/he can contact Lisa Bibeau

Preparing your Students

  1. Review your course policies, alternative assignments and communication plan with your students and inform them of your “Pandemic Pal.”
  2. Review alternative assignments and suggest that students assemble all necessary materials at home.
  3. Encourage students to choose “Pandemic Pals,” someone who will share notes and keep them updated on activities if they miss class.
  4. Ensure that students know their SSU network login and password and that they have access to the communication tools and materials you intend to use as alternative educational activities. Have them test their access from home. If you need support please contact Canvas online support or the ITS Help Desk.
  5. Insist students use Canvas for communication and strongly encourage them to log in to Canvas and Email to get the most up to date information.
  6. Library databases, journals, streaming videos, and e-books are accessible via SSU network login and password but students also need their 14-digit NOBLE Library card number (on the back of their Clipper Card) and their NOBLE PIN number for access to North of Boston Library consortium services.
  7. Introduce students to LibGuides, which contains research assistance, subject guides and useful resources compiled by Salem State librarians. Also let students know that they can schedule a virtual research consultation with a librarian (via zoom or phone) or contact the Library Help Desk.
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