If you are preparing for Fall 2021, please refer to the Flexible Teaching website, which features a series of guides for course design, delivery, and materials. Flexible Teaching is an approach to course design and delivery that helps students learn and succeed in any mode – face to face, online, or hybrid. Learn more and get started at

At Duke University, we value the community of learning we create with and among our students. In a crisis, we can come together to maintain quality and continuity of the learning experience with planning, communication, and mutual support. As you make plans for remote learning during an emergency, focus on what tasks you are trying to accomplish:

Developing a plan

Where are your students and what is their situation?

Create a poll using Qualtrics where students can post their locations, timezones, technology accessible to them, and any other information needed to clarify how students will be able to participate in the course online. Ideally this information should be posted in a way students can see it too, so they can reference this when trying to work with or communicate with their peers in your course. Are some of your students in different time zones? Are any non-communicative or reporting issues that impact their ability to participate in the course? Think creatively about how you might reach them to check in, and to get them connected to your course activities. Your department/division and the Deans may have more information to guide on accommodations you may need to make for students in the course and ways the university might help.

Be realistic about your students and yourself

When outlining a new course syllabus or revising a course that is currently running, think about what will need to change to accommodate remote teaching. Will you need to extend deadlines or simplify an assignment or task to allow for extra time required for differing student situations or logistics of working electronically?  How will you manage your own time in running different aspects of the course?

Use familiar tools

In times of disruption, emergency or crisis, you and your students are already stressed. Plan to use tools and technologies that are readily available, supported by Duke, and easy to use or learn.

Encourage students to get help and join communities

As You cannot solve all of the students’ problems remotely. Be aware of tutoring, counseling, and support resources offered by the university that you can point students to when they need them. Use forums and other tools to encourage students to communicate with each other to informally check-in or form study groups. Build in group activities so students are required to connect with their peers throughout the course, to mitigate any feelings of disconnection or loneliness.

Communicate your plan

After you’ve assessed the situation, availability of students and made a plan, convey your expectations to students. We recommend asking every student to acknowledge they understand and are ready to participate (via individual messages or email for a small class; perhaps via a survey for a large class). Highlight changes to the syllabus and schedule.