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Supporting Instructional Continuity in Challenging Times

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, higher education institutions across the U.S. were recently urged to prioritize the safety and well-being of their academic communities by practicing social distancing. In a setting of classrooms, cafeterias, libraries, door rooms, labs, and sports facilities, that means closing up shop and rethinking the academic experience.

shutterstock_343972766Colleges and universities rushed to implement academic continuity plans that would ensure the practice of teaching and learning could continue, though it wouldn’t be business as usual. Nearly all academic continuity plans enacted across the nation leveraged virtual and online learning tools, like Zoom and the Learning Management System (LMS), to minimize the potential for a deeper disruption to campus-based operations and student lives.

In late February, following the CDC’s recommendation for social distancing, SHSU Online developed the Instructional Continuity Guide, designed to provide straightforward guidelines in the event of a rapid transition from face-to-face classes to online courses. Just a few weeks later, in mid-March, the plan became quickly relevant as SHSU announced remote delivery of instruction for the remainder of the spring semester.

In addition to implementing the continuity plan, SHSU Online developed an operational strategy to provide virtual, round-the-clock services to the academic community, including faculty, students, and staff as they made the transition from on-ground to remote.  

  • Support teams, comprised of instructional designers, video producers, tech analysts, and other staff were assigned to each college to provide hands-on, one-on-one support. Over 2,000 hours of individualized assistance was clocked-in by these support teams within the first two weeks of transition.
  • The SHSU Online Support Desk, which already operates 24/7, increased the number of available technicians, as well as the number of phone lines at their call center to manage the expected increase in call volume.
  • 106 webinars designed to provide a crash course on tools like Zoom, Bb Collaborate, and Kaltura were spun up. Over 430 enrollments in these webinars were recorded within the first two weeks of delivery.

There was also significant, widespread adoption of virtual tools as faculty substituted typical classroom tasks with remote alternatives. Within the first week of fully remote instruction, usage statistics spiked across Blackboard and other licensed technologies.

  • Live classroom lectures were replaced with tools like Zoom, Bb Collaborate, and videos streamed through Kaltura:

Tool Usage Statistics

03/23/2020- 03/29/2020


Session Launched: 1,630

Attendees: 13,717

Bb Collaborate

Sessions Launched:   3,107

Session Attendees:    9,073


Video Plays: 54,087

Unique Viewers: 9,657

Minutes Viewed: 730,718

Hours Viewed: 12,179

  • Class dialogues were replaced with Blackboard tools as were homework assignments, announcements, and tests:

Tool Usage Statistics

03/23/2020- 03/29/2020

Blackboard Discussions

Faculty using tool: 697

Students participating in Discussions in Bb: 12,583

Blackboard Assignments

Faculty using tool: 747

Students completing assignments in Bb: 15,644

Blackboard Announcements

Faculty using tool: 515

Students reading announcement in Bb: 16,893

Blackboard Tests

Faculty using tool: 422

Students completing a test in Bb: 14,572

In general, there was a significant increase in traffic across Blackboard, with 659,486 logins recorded in the first week of fully remote instruction.

While there is a lot more to teaching and learning remotely than simply substituting face-to-face activities with virtual tools, such tools allow for a continuation of the academic experience in unprecedented times. SHSU Online will continue to provide support services, including instructional design, faculty development (via webinars and one-on-one remote sessions), and a 24/7 technical support desk.