Teaching Tips

Have a backup plan

As I’ve moved to a remote platform, I’ve been reminded of the importance of having at least one backup lesson plan available for my students. 

If my internet goes down . . . if my platform becomes unstable . . . if an individual student can’t participate remotely, I want to have a pertinent activity ready for my students. That way, class can keep moving until I (or they) can rejoin.

Here are some guidelines I’ve found useful:

  • Integrate the lesson with the current activity and outcome.

For example, students in one of my writing classes are working on transitions, so I’ve prepared two exercises for practicing transitions that support the essay they’re writing for the class. In addition, I’m developing a guided small-group discussion plan that supports the current reading assignment.

  • Communicate the purpose.

Students reasonably want to avoid anything that looks (remotely) like busy work, and especially if I have to be offline, they need to know how the backup activity relates to their coursework.

  • Provide parameters.

How long should the lesson take? How will students share the results of the activity? Can they work in teams?

  • Assign responsibility—to everyone.

When the class regroups, everyone should have something to contribute. If students have responsibility for reporting back, they’ll be much more likely to make productive use of the activity—and to maintain the class momentum.

Do you have suggestions for backup lesson plans? Please share your ideas in the comments section.

Anne is a writing specialist in the Center for Teaching and Learning.

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One thought on “Have a backup plan

  1. Thank you, Anne! I’ve been over-preparing with a real variety of types of activities (especially for my 75 minute Spanish course). By having more than enough options, it allows me to be more flexible, too — taking the temperature of the class, to see if they need a fun, group whiteboard activity or breaking out into rooms where they have more opportunity to talk than just listen. I record the whole class, in case a student misses a portion of an activity or wonders what we were doing while they were in the break-out room. And I’m careful to save my files in several places in case they don’t open from a link or appear in the the “windows” when I go to share my screen. When a student asked me to “share” (on-screen) some documents that he had left in an airport, I told him that I couldn’t put them in the cloud, due to copywrite. Before I knew it, another student had somehow shared them with him. Not having the materials is yet another factor that can affect your learning, just like audio or video going out!

    I also have their phone numbers or contact info next to me but have only needed to call individuals thus far (not the whole class). To avoid internet issues at home, I got permission to teach from my office. The speed of the internet probably how long it takes to “process” the recording and be able to put the link in Canvas, too.

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