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Cancellation of Class Meetings

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One or more scheduled class meetings may need to be canceled during some disruptions, such as those due to conditions on campus like power outages, in certain buildings or facilities or in general. Consider these recommendations when responding to class meeting cancellations.

Conditions may affect in-person class meetings, online class meetings, or both. In such cases, Stanford University will communicate what formats of instruction are to be canceled, for how long, and any associated scheduling adjustments instructors are asked to make. It is important to follow the guidance provided by the university so that students experience a clear and coordinated plan when a disruption occurs. In general, the goal will be to find ways to replace the learning and activities from any canceled class sessions with alternative, equivalent learning and interaction during the term or other specified time periods, depending on the situation.

To proactively plan for the possibility of class meeting cancellations, Stanford instructors have found the following strategies to be helpful.

Build flexible days into the course schedule from the start

During quarters with no disruptions, having some flexibility built into the course schedule can allow for reviewing key concepts that students find most challenging, adjusting when some topics or activities take longer than anticipated, and including student-selected or current events and issues in class discussions. During quarters with disruptions, catch-up days make it possible to adjust the schedule to account for any canceled class meetings. 

Have a backup plan for remote instruction with Zoom

For disruptions that temporarily prevent in-person teaching but leave internet access intact for instructors, TAs, and students, it can be helpful to prepare a general back-up plan for class sessions and forms of participation that can include everyone on Zoom. For example:

  • Create a recurring Zoom meeting within Canvas ahead of time, with your preferred settings, in case of emergency. A recurring Zoom meeting within Canvas can make it easier for students to join the meeting without needing to look for and save a direct Zoom link that is emailed.
  • In place of planned in-class interactions, identify and practice a few activities that you are comfortable using on Zoom for a variety of topics and settings, such as chatbox waterfall, Poll Everywhere class response questions, or online think-pair-share or breakout discussions.

Include out-of-class interaction in your course plan

Especially for smaller courses, scheduling time with students individually or in small groups outside of regular class times, such as during virtual office hours, can be easier to reschedule following disruptions than whole-class meetings. If required, these meetings should count toward the course's total instruction time.

Use Canvas to maintain continuity

Many useful tools are available within Canvas to help maintain continuity of student learning when in-person instruction is not possible. Consider some of the following ideas: 

  • Use Zoom for remote instruction: Creating a Zoom meeting from within Canvas can be easier for instructors and students to keep track of Zoom links and recordings.
  • Pre-record short instructional videos: Instructional videos can range from informal video messages to supplemental lecture presentations. Consider these strategies for pre-recording instructional videos.
  • Curate supplemental resources: such as additional readings, online videos, and so on. Post them on your Canvas course site.
  • Prepare asynchronous activities: such as discussion forums, practice quizzes, or supplemental writing assignments, that students could take advantage of during your absence.
    • The Discussion tool within Canvas facilitates communication and engagement outside of scheduled class time.  
    • In addition to Canvas Discussions, EdDiscussion is a separate tool that can be used to facilitate online discussions for Q&A, small group discussions, and more.

Find more information on designing and developing your Canvas course at GoCanvas.

Avoid rescheduling or extending class times

Because classroom spaces may be limited or scheduled in sequence, and students may have other classes before or after yours, it is usually best to avoid extending class time before the beginning or after the established end time of your class. Similarly, adding class sessions not otherwise scheduled may raise scheduling conflicts for students, including conflicts with other academic work, student activities, athletics, religious observances, and personal commitments. If you reschedule or add an unscheduled class, poll students for their availability when possible. It is also important to make sure that your flexibility policies, such as absence allowances, apply to rescheduled class sessions.