Strategies for addressing missing classes during the pandemic


As we prepare to return to campus and face-to-face (F2F) classes, some students will need to be away due to illness. This term may have more students away as a result of COVID, or the need to isolate following exposure.

First and foremost, you and your colleagues have experience helping students learn from the previous two years of the pandemic, as well as throughout your teaching career, and these experiences will be useful in our current context. Consider, what strategies have worked in previous years for a particular course? What can students do to learn the content outside of class?

Each course will have slightly different contexts that they are addressing, so no single solution will be appropriate for everyone. It may be helpful to explain the rationale for your strategies. Some initial ideas shared by other instructors are summarized below so that you can evaluate them for your circumstances and adapt ideas that are relevant to your course context, content, methods, and goals. Each option will have pros and cons to consider.

Ideas that do not require recording this term:

  • Those who recorded lectures in one of the previous terms could share the older pre-recorded lecture with students who are sick. They may not be quite the same as the in-person lesson, and will miss any interaction, but may help if it will cover the same core content. Check if any student contributions were recorded – ensure it is acceptable to share the video. Confirm the content is still appropriate for this term.
  • Share slides or class notes. This could be shared with all students, or just with those who are sick, depending on instructor policy.
  • Share recommended readings that address the missed content. This could be available to all students who wish to engage in further reading and could be accompanied with questions to help guide students, so they know what to pay attention to.
  • Ask for student volunteers to take notes/share their notes on a common site, such as Blackboard Discussion.
  • If there is a GA/TA you might ask them to document the essential points and share with the class.
  • Invite students to form small groups early in the course if there are activities, so they can reach out to peers for notes.  As they are online, they may not have had an opportunity to meet as they did in F2F courses.
  • Consider having a dedicated catch-up during your office hours or a drop-in session targeted for a group who have missed a common lecture.
  • Organize a special online study group or review class with the GA/TA for those who have missed a set of classes. This could be only when needed or regularly booked as a review to help people connect the readings to the larger theories/content of the course.
  • If no options seem possible, or the duration away will not be possible to accommodate, a formal program coordinator or student advisor could see if there might be alternative courses (sometimes called DARS exception). There might be other courses that are available online or in another term that would be acceptable alternatives, but ensure that any changes are approved and accepted formally by the program!

For those who are considering recording:

  • Record a video during the F2F class that is shared with those who are sick. This may be more effective for courses that are primarily lecture and the instructor does not move, as it is easier to capture the lecture with a simple laptop. The quality of recording for moving instructors and for active discussions is usually not high enough for the recording capacities in our rooms. Be careful if the type of course being recorded captures students, to ensure that they have given their permission to be recorded.
  • Record voice-only during class with access to any course materials (like a POD cast) where the focus is on vocal content and the privacy of other students is protected.
  • Record a separate video or a voice-over with slides. This requires extra time, but for some instructors it is a learning tool they share with all students that might be beneficial in future offerings as well.
  • Provide students with questions to direct their reading and/or video viewing to make the process active and engaging. These questions could be provided to all students, as this approach can help generate more learning. The students could also discuss the questions online or F2F.

As instructors, also plan for flexibility in assessments. Some departments and faculties have met to discuss approaches together as units. 

  • Consider alternative types of assessments that might have extended submission times.
  • Consider alternative periods of exams, perhaps with a larger number of students that need to write in a deferred time.

Instructors have also shared strategies they are considering in case they face illness or the need to isolate for longer than a class. These strategies are best discussed with a Head or Dean, or in a departmental meeting.

  • If previous term recordings were created, it may be possible to make them available.
  • Consider if a replacement instructor is possible. 
  • The Faculty of Nursing has set up buddy system so at least one other person can access each LMS course site and connect with students if someone becomes ill.
  • Invite a GA or TA, or a graduate student from a relevant research area, to take a lecture. This might be beneficial for their career development as well.
  • Invite a relevant guest lecture if there is enough time.  Or if you have a recording of a guest lecture that is relevant, you might share that.
  • Share a relevant reading with discussion questions shared online that can be reviewed later.
  • Move a set of classes online if feeling well, but unable to attend campus due to quarantine.
  • Record and share an asynchronous recording if well enough.
  • Share a set of slides with a voice over.

If you would be interested in meeting with someone to discuss ideas that might be better connected to your situation, please feel welcome to reach out to the Centre for Teaching and Learning or the Office of Open Learning.

Did we miss something? Do you have additional ideas? Please add them in the comments section below!

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