Teaching During Unplanned Events

Disruptions to teaching, such as power outages, wildfires, evacuations, public health emergencies, labor actions, and so on, have become more common. Some disruptions will be short-term (one or a few days), while others will be longer-term (weeks, months, or a year).

There are steps you can take to prepare, and this page provides information to help you.


  • Sign up for CruzAlert and monitor UCSC websites such as Slug Strong for important notifications and updates. Ask your students to do the same.


  • Develop a plan (and a plan B) for disruptions and communicate it to your teaching team. Your plan should include information about communication channels and technologies you will use in a disruption. Your plan may entail adding asynchronous elements (such as reading, independent assignments or pre-recorded video) to your Canvas course, as they generally make responding to unplanned events easier. In other instances, it may entail moving to synchronous options such as Zoom. In instances when it is necessary for another instructor to continue instruction, work with your Department or Program Chair or College Provost.

  • Include a statement in your syllabus addressing how the teaching team will communicate with students should there be a disruption.

  • Send students a survey (sample) at the beginning of your course to give them an opportunity to share concerns or challenges they may face. (To make a copy of the survey sample, sign into your UCSC Google account, go to Forms, click on “Template Gallery,” and look for “UCSC: Preparing for Disruptions.”)

  • Communicate consistently: whether you are using Canvas Announcements, email, or a discussion tool (Discord, Slack, etc.), students should know which method to expect. It's also advisable to use more than one method of communication, especially when sending critical communications (e.g., sending an email and an identical Canvas announcement).

  • Communicate with your students as soon as possible (through whichever channels are typically used in the class) to let them know about the ins and outs of the shift. Let them know what kinds of changes you’ll make to the class if there is a disruption (e.g., class will be held on Zoom). Even if you don’t know what adjustment you’re going to make, let them know that you’re aware of the obstacle and that you’ll circle back with a plan in x hours.

  • Keep lines of communication open and consistent to keep students informed about a possibly changing situation and the current status; make sure that students have a standard way of communicating with the teaching team.


  • Keep your Zoom app current by installing the latest version. If you don’t already have Zoom, download, install, and sign into Zoom using your UCSC account.

  • Add your course materials to your Canvas course and publish the course even if you are primarily teaching in person. Canvas is a centralized place for students to access course materials and submit assignments.

  • Familiarize yourself with Lecture Capture and consider scheduling to have your lectures recorded even if you aren't disrupted; having recordings from previous offerings will provide more flexibility for responding to unplanned events in the future.

  • Make sure you know how to use your classroom's technology and consider allowing students who are experiencing an emergency to attend remotely.

  • Get to know YuJa; this will be especially helpful if you are using any recorded or pre-recorded video materials.

  • Consider downloading apps to your mobile device for easier communication: Zoom and Canvas Teacher.

Types of DisruptionS & Ways to COntinue Instruction

You will notice that “asynchronous” is referenced several times in the table. Asynchronous can refer to an online course that does not use video conferencing, and it can also refer to examples of activities in a course—such as reading or independent assignments— that do not require synchronous student engagement. This next section tells you which adjustments you might make to your course format. Following this section is one that gives guidance on how to make the relevant adjustment.

In prolonged disruptions the Keep Teaching website will cover all aspects of teaching during the specific unplanned event, and it will be the primary website for teaching resources during that period.

I have been notified that there may soon be power outages that could affect me and my students

  • Design an asynchronous activity that does not require power (e.g., assigning reading) and let students know what they are supposed to do if there is an outage.

The power is out on campus (in-person courses)

  • Make elements of your class asynchronous until power is restored.

  • Consider whether your class can be taught in an outdoor location.

The power is out for some of my students (remote courses)

  • Adjust your syllabus to account for the missed class time.

  • Make elements of your class asynchronous until power is restored, such as by designing an activity that students can do on their own.

The power is out for some of my students (in-person courses)

  • If individual students are impacted, adjust deadlines and timelines appropriately.

  • If many students are impacted, provide clear communication to the class about adjustments to the syllabus, requirements, etc.

  • Make elements of your class asynchronous until power is restored, such as by designing an activity that students can do on their own.

My power is out

  • If you are able to access power on campus, work from your office on campus to make elements of your course asynchronous until power is restored. If you cannot teach from your office for some reason, or you do not have an office, consult with your department, college, or program manager about finding a conference room or other space on campus where you can teach your class.

  • If you cannot access campus, or if campus is also without power, adjust your syllabus to account for the missed class time.

I am in quarantine or isolation

  • Notify your supervisor (chair or college provost).

  • Review how to quickly transitioning from teaching in-person to remote.

  • Teaching synchronously: Schedule Zoom meetings in Canvas (text instructions or video walkthrough) to continue instruction remotely.

  • Use Canvas to collect homework or other assignments digitally (read "Utilizing Canvas" under Common Transitions below).

  • Make your class asynchronous until you can return to campus. For example, if you have an archive of recorded lectures for the course or if there is a lecture that would work well that is available freely on the internet, ask the students to watch the lecture and do an engagement exercise.

  • If the learning outcomes for your course cannot be achieved while you are in quarantine or isolation (such as in some lab or studio courses), work with your department chair, college provost, or program chair to find a replacement instructor whom you can share your existing lecture notes with as needed. Alternatively, in some cases it may be appropriate for you to ask a Teaching Assistant in the course to step in for you, but you would want to adjust the hours to make sure the TA does not exceed their hours.

One (or more) of my students is in quarantine or isolation

I’m unable to access campus

The entrances to campus are closed

Some of my students are unable to access campus

I am unable to access campus/my classroom for the rest of the quarter or until further notice

I am not able to continue teaching my class this quarter

  • Work with your Department or Program Chair or College Provost to find a replacement instructor with whom you can share your existing lecture notes as needed.

common transitions & how to make them

The following topics cover common transitions in course offering formats due to disruptions and guidance on how to make them. The format you choose will depend on the type of disruption you’re responding to, available technologies and your facility and comfort with them, and, most importantly, your learning outcomes.

Switching your course to Zoom

If you or your students are unable to access campus, synchronous class meetings on Zoom may be your best solution. Here are some things to consider:

  • Be sure to ask students about their capacities and needs at the beginning of the quarter. (We have a survey template or you can make your own using Google Forms.)

  • Some students may not have a reliable internet connection where they live.

  • Some students may not be able to turn their cameras on for technical or personal reasons.


Utilizing Canvas to distribute course materials or collect digital assignments

Canvas is a centralized place for students to access course materials. You may be using Canvas to some degree already or you may start using it more to make course materials available to students. Here’s how to upload PDFs, lecture files, or homework assignments to Canvas.

You can also use Canvas Assignments to have students submit work digitally. Students can submit papers, coding programs, or pictures of handwritten homework; many file types are supported (from .docx to .js to .jpg). You can download submissions or view and grade them directly within Canvas SpeedGrader (for certain file types).


Including Emergency Remote Attendance in your in-person course

Emergency remote attendance in an in-person course is when a student(s), due to an emergency situation, attend(s) remotely while the majority of students attend in person.

Facilitating the inclusion of remote students in an in-person course can be challenging, but it may be the most appropriate option for an instructor to voluntarily allow due to an emergency. If you think this may be the right solution for your class, see this document on emergency remote attendance.

Support is available at online@ucsc.edu.

Making your course asynchronous

Asynchronous instruction includes any activity that students do on their own time (e.g., watching pre-recorded lectures, participating in a discussion forum). If you or your students need temporal flexibility, perhaps because they need to catch up after illness or a power outage, asynchronous may be the right solution. See this page on the differences between synchronous and asynchronous instruction.

If you would like help with asynchronous instruction, Online Education can support you. Email online@ucsc.edu for a consultation.

Setting a colleague up for success in taking over some sessions of your course

If you need another instructor to take over from you in a course, the first thing to do is to work with your department or program manager or college provost to identify an appropriate substitute. Setting that person up for success involves sharing as many of the course materials with them as you can, including lecture notes for any lectures they may give.

Take a moment, if possible, to alert your class that someone will be taking over from you for some or all remaining sections of your course. Ideally, introduce the person taking over from you to your students, and convey why they are a good choice to substitute for you.

If you work with a teaching team, including TAs, tutors, and other instructional support personnel, make sure you alert the teaching team to the change in instructor and introduce your colleague to the teaching team as soon as possible.

If the person taking over from you needs an orientation to any of the technologies associated with the course, encourage them to reach out to online@ucsc.edu to get oriented.

To give a colleague access to your Canvas course:

  • Go to your course.

  • Go to “People.”

  • Click on “+People.”

  • Enter your colleague’s UCSC email address, select “Guest Instructor” from the “Role” dropdown menu, and click “Next,” then “Add Users.”

Teaching outdoors

Teaching outdoors might be right for the particular situation that you and your students are in. If you are thinking about teaching outdoors, consider the following:

  • Outdoor spaces may not be accessible to students with disabilities or existing medical conditions. Invite students to communicate with you if an outdoor class or the location you have chosen presents a barrier to their participation in the class.

  • Power outlets for laptops may not be available.

  • The weather may change without warning.

  • Sprinklers may engage at any moment.

  • Lecture Capture is not available outdoors.

  • Natural hazards like ticks, poison oak, and turkeys may be present.