Every Learner Everywhere

18 Academic Continuity Resources to Plan for Institutional Disruption

The growing number of climate-related emergencies that impact individual colleges and universities, following the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, are raising awareness about the need for emergency planning that accounts for academic continuity. Institutions, and the individual faculty within them, are thinking about how teaching and learning will be sustained when an unanticipated emergency cuts off access to their campus for days, weeks, or months.

Planning for Academic Continuity: A Guide for Academic Leaders is a new report from Every Learner Everywhere that reviews the academic continuity plans of over 100 colleges and universities to identify best practices in continuity planning. It particularly sought out examples of institutions that use digital learning from an equity-centered and student-care perspective. The report identifies essential topics that the majority of existing continuity plans include, and it provides case studies, a discussion of findings, and a set of assessment, audit, and planning tools.

The appendix of Planning for Academic Continuity, excerpted and annotated below, includes a list of essential academic continuity resources that influenced the report. They include white papers, academic studies, reports on surveys, and model plans.

Recommended academic continuity resources

Higher Education: Ensuring Continuity During a Disruption

This 2020 white paper from the IT vendor Citrix Systems outlines a strategy for continuity during planned or unplanned interruptions to higher education operations.

Disaster Resilient Universities (DRU) Network

The University of Oregon’s Office of Safety and Risk Services outlines its membership in the DRU, a peer-to-peer network of more than 800 institutions that share information, technical assistance, and resources.

The Transformation of Higher Education After the COVID Disruption: Emerging Challenges in an Online Learning Scenario

A 2021 paper in Frontiers in Psychology analyzes how institutions of higher education are managing the challenges of radical transformations driven by the need to digitize education.

Universities and Multiple Disaster Scenarios: A Transformative Framework for Disaster Resilient Universities

This 2022 paper in International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction makes the case for the growing need for continuity planning and proposes a framework to guide it.

30 U.S. Colleges That Are Prepared for Natural Disasters

A 2022 article from the college-ranking site Great Value Colleges uses its own methodology to identify institutions that are best prepared for natural disasters.

Resilient Campuses: Leveraging Resources Among Small- and Moderate-Sized Institutions of Higher Education

The Journal of Emergency Management profiles a consortium of three institutions that pooled resources for emergency preparedness.

Survey Results of Disaster-Resilient Universities

A 2010 presentation summarizing results from a 2009 U.S. Department of Education grant-funded study that recommends a model for and key characteristics of disaster-resilient universities.

Disaster Resiliency and Culture of Preparedness for University and College Campuses

This 2013 paper in Administration & Society extends the work of the 2009 Disaster-Resilient Universities survey to describe comprehensive all-hazards continuity plans and how institutions have incorporated the necessary elements.

Disparities in Disruptions to Postsecondary Education Plans During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A 2021 study in AERA Open that looks at U.S. Census Bureau survey data during the COVID-19 pandemic to investigate the causes and disparities in education disruption across different socio-demographic groups.

Disruption and the Future of Higher Education

The author of this 2022 opinion article in Community Colleges Daily argues for five strategic and operational transformations that institutions need to make to update their readiness to serve students.

Strategic Planning in the Age of Disruption 

This archived recording of a 2021 webinar presented by The Chronicle of Higher Education features a panel of university administrators discussing how to develop institutional visions that accommodate uncertainty.

The Future of Higher Education in a Disruptive World

The consulting firm KPMG produced this 2020 report analyzing the strategy, capabilities, building blocks, and technology needed by colleges and universities to adapt to emerging challenges ranging from demographic change to climate disasters.

Building a Disaster-Resistant University

This 2003 white paper from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security outlines emergency preparedness planning in the context of the September 11 attacks and prior to Hurricane Katrina.

Ready Campus

This page from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, last updated in May 2022, provides links to its emergency planning and response resources relevant to colleges, universities, and the individuals working and studying in them.

Recommended academic continuity plans

In reviewing over 100 academic continuity plans, Planning for Academic Continuity, identified several that are publicly available and that may provide helpful models for other institutions.

UMass Amherst Guide and UMass Amherst Planning Tool

These comprehensive resources cover a variety of disruption scenarios while centering care and equity for students. They offer academic leaders guide questions and screenshots to help navigate the UMass Amherst online planning tool.

Minnesota State Technical and Community College

This five-step plan covers considerations and processes in academic planning, including a faculty checklist to gauge the level of preparedness before transitioning to remote learning.

Elon University

The six sections of this plan include useful content for faculty to use digital learning to continue teaching during times of disruption. Its framing particularly emphasizes student support and student care.

Download Planning for Academic Continuity: A Guide for Academic Leaders

This article is excerpted and adapted from Planning for Academic Continuity: A Guide for Academic Leaders, published by Every Learner Everywhere and produced by Patricia O’Sullivan.