Ensuring continuity of learning during enforced absence

Practical tips to maintain teaching, learning and business operations during circumstances where staff or learners are unable to physically spend time on campus.


In an increasingly uncertain world, it pays for universities and colleges to give serious consideration to preparing for circumstances where either staff or learners (or both) are unable to physically spend time on campus. This extends to those providers of transnational education, where restrictions on mobility or other concerns may encourage the use of blended and online learning.

Wherever you are on your journey towards digital transformation, there will still be some practical, ‘common sense' steps that you can take to ensure you are able to provide support and a meaningful level of teaching and learning, regardless of where your staff or students may find themselves at little or no notice.

This guidance is for the planning of UK delivery of operations; further country specific guidance pertaining to transnational education delivery is currently being developed. Please contact in relation to this aspect of the guidance.

It is important that this guidance is seen as an evolving document; we would welcome your feedback and further discussion. Please contact

Read our maintaining access to internal services during a continuity event quickguide for tips to ensure remote users can access your services.

Summary of key considerations

How online resources can ensure continuity

  • Ask all teaching staff to ensure they can access and know the basics of how to use the VLE
  • Ensure all teaching staff have access to support for using the VLE
  • Ensure the accessibility of all content you provide to learners online
  • Make the most of your Jisc digital content subscriptions

Lecture capture

  • Assess and promote existing platforms for broadcasting and/or capturing lectures
  • Ensure your policies allow you to extend the scope of your lecture capture activity or take necessary extraordinary measures to give you the ability to do so
  • Consider what hardware staff might need to effectively capture or broadcast lecture content

Assessment and feedback

  • Ensure you offer clear and supportive messages to students, reassuring them that mitigating circumstances will be taken into account and that it is highly unlikely that they will be penalised for circumstances outside of their control when it comes to assessment
  • Ensure your VLE is enabled to manage online assessment 
  • Support teaching staff to create robust, meaningful and accessible online assessments


  • Depending on the time of year, you may need to start planning how you can replicate key aspects of your regular summer induction programme remotely

Student wellbeing

  • Think about the platforms and communication channels you already have and how they can be used to broadcast information to either all or specific groups of students 
  • Don’t rely on a single communication channel 
  • Think about how messages are going to be approved and sent, and by whom, to ensure a consistency of information
  • Pay particular attention to vulnerable students and what additional contact needs they may have 
  • Consider creating a helpdesk to pull information together and provide a means for students to speak to someone 

Keeping in contact with staff 

  • Don’t forget that your staff will also have their own needs and anxieties, which may overlap with those faced by your students, but which will require separate consideration and treatment  
  • Consider using platforms such as Yammer to encourage informal communication between staff to create a continued sense of community and connectivity  

Effective remote working for staff  

  • Encourage staff to make their home environment as conducive as possible to effective remote working. Depending on the duration of the remote working it may be necessary to conduct a DSE assessment on their working environment 
  • Start with any existing disaster recovery or business continuity plans to help identify core systems and vital information and records 
  • Use the collaboration features on platforms such as Office365 or Google G-Suite to enable teams and individuals to plan and work effectively while working remotely 
  • Encourage regular use of video alongside audio and chat collaboration to enhance presence and support team spirit
  • Ensure you provide appropriate support and guidance for such platforms so as not to exclude less confident users 
  • Encourage a management culture which is built around trust, flexibility and outputs, rather than one which leaves staff feeling the need to account for every minute of their working day 
  • Schedule regular team meetings and one-to-ones to ensure the wellbeing of your staff, and that priorities are clear 

Post-incident closure and review 

  • Consider the criteria for ending the incident and who will make that decision 
  • Consider a phased return to normal operations, rather than assuming an immediate and blanket reversion  
  • Review your response to the incident, looking for lessons that can be learnt to improve future planning and incident response 
  • Review any ‘emergency’ measures undertaken during the incident, looking to ensure a managed return to normal operations 

How online resources can ensure continuity

You are likely to have platforms at your disposal which can help ensure the continuity of teaching and learning in situations where staff and/or learners find themselves unable to physically attend campus.   

It is common to find pockets of good practice in universities and colleges for making teaching resources available remotely as part of a blended or flipped learning model. The challenge is therefore how to extend these approaches at short notice across all areas, regardless of previous engagement or enthusiasm for online delivery.

Realistically it’s likely that teaching staff will need to adopt a ‘just in time’ model – looking to the week(s) ahead to ensure that learners continue to have access to the content required at that moment.   

Providing access to resources  

Your virtual learning environment (VLE) will have a pivotal role to play in delivering online content to your learners. Depending on its current status and level of use across teaching staff, you may wish to send reminders to all teaching staff covering: 

  • Usernames and passwords 
  • Basic user functionality (creating modules, managing content etc) 
  • Sources of further help 

Where the VLE could become the primary source of contact your students have with their learning, it is a good idea to ensure the pages are kept relevant to the current topic/week/project. This will encourage students to revisit the pages more and give them the confidence that the information they are seeing is correct and up to date. Stale pages give a bad experience at the best of times and could be concerning for a student unable to physically connect with your institution. 

You might also want to consider creating online opportunities for teaching staff to share knowledge and experiences of using the VLE and foster an environment where staff, who haven’t previously engaged, feel comfortable with asking basic questions. 

Ensuring inclusion with accessible resources

In the rush to host teaching resources online, it is important not to overlook the importance of inclusion.

Learners with disabilities or other additional support needs may feel especially vulnerable if separated from the sources of support they rely on. Creating resources in inaccessible formats such as screen grabs or PDFs could risk increasing their sense of isolation and anxiety.   

The good practice emerging as a result of the EU accessibility regulations (The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018) may be useful here.   

Providing staff with accessible document templates would make it easier for them.  If your institution does not already use templates with accessibility elements built in, the University of Sussex has produced a quick guide [CC-BY-4.0] to creating accessible content - its key messages are available as a downloadable poster. SCULPT [CC-BY-NC-SA-4.0] by Worcestershire County Council is a useful resource for understanding the basics and also has downloadable posters available. For more detail, see the LexDis staff guides [CC-BY-4.0].  

Creating accessible content is creating clear content and will benefit all learners and any steps that can practically be taken in this direction and within the circumstances and scenario in which you are operating are likely to be useful.

Using digital content

Don’t forget that all the digital content you licence from Jisc, be they books, journals or multimedia resources can all be accessed off campus. 

You can check online your current subscriptions, or view the catalogue for all the content that is available from Jisc via, or speak to your relationship manager 

Useful resources 

Key messages

  • Ensure all teaching staff can access and know the basics of how to use the VLE 
  • Ensure all teaching staff have access to support in using the VLE 
  • Ensure the accessibility of all content you make available to learners online 

Lecture capture and livestreaming

You are likely to already have access to technology that enables teaching staff to either live tream and/or capture lecture content, which can then be shared with learners on your VLE. 

Microsoft’s video streaming service Stream enables you to livestream to other users within the Office 365 suite. Stream also has functionality which auto-transcribes audio content to aid with accessibility and will also autotag content to help with searching afterwards. 

Alternative technologies include Microsoft Teams (also part of the Office 365 suite) and Google Hangouts, both of which also allow you to record content for later viewing. There are also systems such as Panopto and Echo360, which are used by many HE and FE institutions.

Empowering staff

Livestreaming content offers the potential to maintain the normal teaching timetable as much as possible, helping to retain a sense of continuity to learners. 

It’s important that staff are empowered to deliver content online. Some are likely to be confident and experienced doing this, but for others it could be their first time and will need support accordingly.

It’s wise to ensure that all staff have access to appropriate, practical guidance on the pedagogic implications of online delivery, and the opportunity to ask questions and learn from others. You could consider creating short, ‘how to’ videos to guide staff through some of the most important aspects.

Practicalities to consider

On a practical note, it is worth checking that teaching staff have access to the hardware at home to enable them to broadcast or capture lecture content.

The webcams on most laptops are likely to be sufficient for video capture, but inbuilt microphones are rarely up to the job and are likely to lead to poor audio, distortion and echo. This may mean that you need to consider purchasing headsets with dedicated microphones or use noise cancelling omnidirectional microphone / speaker units (such as those available from Plantronics, Sennheiser and Jabra) for all affected staff. 

If you are unable to purchase and distribute these in bulk, perhaps consider empowering staff to purchase their own from online retailers and claim back the expense.  

It is also worth checking any existing policies you may have which govern, and possibly restrict, lecture capture and its use. If it’s deemed extenuating circumstances, you may decide to override such policies to increase the scope of lecture capture and broadcasts. If so, it is important that a formal record is kept of this decision and the reasoning behind it. 

As soon as these extenuating circumstances are deemed to no longer apply, it is important that the policy situation is reviewed and a decision taken on if and when to return to the previous regime.   

Useful resources 

Key messages 

  • Assess and promote existing platforms for broadcasting and/or capturing lectures 
  • Ensure your policies allow you to extend the scope of your lecture capture activity or take necessary extraordinary measures to give you the ability to do so 
  • Consider what hardware staff might need to effectively capture or broadcast lecture content 

Assessment and feedback

The impact on assessment

Regardless of when disruption occurs during the academic year, it is highly likely that staff and students not being able to physically attend campus will have an impact on assessment processes.   

Potential or actual problems with submitting work for assessment is likely to be one of the main concerns for learners.

It’s worth ensuring that clear reassuring statements are given to learners which clarify what measures are being put in place and, where appropriate, what mitigations and flexibility will be introduced to ensure that no student feels at risk of being penalised as a result of circumstances outside of their control.

Using online submissions

You should consider turning on any online submission features for assignments within your VLE if they have not been already.

Attention should then be given to supporting teaching staff in setting online assignments that are appropriate and accessible to all learners.   

Blackboard has some useful guidance for setting up assignments on its platform. Moodle also offers similar guidance.  

Where possible it might be worth focusing on formative (self) assessment and group tasks, for example making use of the evaluation features in the VLE such as quizzes and polls.  

Useful resources 

Key messages

  • Ensure you offer clear and supportive messages to students, reassuring them that they will not be penalised for circumstances outside of their control when it comes to assessment 
  • Ensure your VLE is enabled to manage online assessment 
  • Support teaching staff to create robust, meaningful and accessible online assessments


Depending on when in the academic year the incident takes place, you may need to prepare for how you replace the kind of induction activities which typically take place on campus during the summer months, especially in relation to preparing foreign students for joining in the autumn term.   

Aspects of this could potentially be delivered remotely – OpenLearn, for example, offers a range of free pre-study courses such as English and Maths, student life, plagiarism and study skills that could help students prepare for study and student life.  

Further guidance on transnational education and pre-course learning will be available from Jisc shortly.  

Useful resources 

Key message

Depending on the time of year, you may need to start planning for how you can replicate key aspects of your regular summer induction programme remotely.

Student wellbeing

Keeping in contact with learners

Any unexpected and/or prolonged enforced absence from campus is likely to have a significant impact on the wellbeing of your learners. They may feel isolated, cut off from regular sources of information such as direct access to their tutors, and social ties and informal support they routinely get from interaction with their peers.

Clear, consistent and constant messaging is critical to help fill that void and ensure learners feel as supported and informed as possible.

Without this regular contact you are at risk of creating an environment for rumours and gossip, and learners seeking other, less reliable, sources of information. It is sensible to anticipate and prepare for increased online contact. Some more vulnerable students will need direct support, human contact, and personalised answers.

Contact and communications with students

What are your usual communication lines with students? At the best of times, notifying students of key news, room changes and timetable changes is not easy.

The culture of too many messages seen at many institutions can blunt the importance of a notification or email in the student’s inbox. Being able to deliver an important message straight to the student is an effective tool that enables you to be responsive and agile when required.

From timetable changes for specific groups of students to organisation-wide emergency directions, how do you develop a robust and effective method of communication that both staff and students believe in?

Tools to consider

It is worth looking at the tools you have available to use in ‘out of the ordinary’ circumstances.

Instant messaging

Platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts may already be used in teaching and learning contexts. If you haven’t already, now may be the time to consider opening up your Office 365 tenancy to students as well as staff. Students are often setup to receive notifications on their own devices when they have new messages or content to read. Key to keeping this effective, is to limit the posts you send from the institution - use other channels for more mundane messaging like events.

Virtual learning environments

The VLE is an effective platform for delivering session and teaching and learning content, but students rarely check it for live information updates. Being able to post emergency notifications in a highly visible box within the layout or a ‘pop-up’ can attract a user’s attention.


Email accounts are widely used at institutions. Although inboxes can soon get out of control and become less effective if students check them less frequently, clearly written subject lines will help get important information noticed.

Institution mobile apps

These can bring all the institution’s services to a student’s device but also provide a channel for important communications. It is wise to clearly define the use of the app during induction sessions to encourage all students to install it and allow notifications on their devices. These messages should be kept to a minimum to stop students getting annoyed by too many notifications and switching them off.

SMS text messaging

Services such as Janet txt provide a secure SMS messaging service to manage and distribute messages to individuals or groups. This means you can send bulk messages either to all students, or particular cohorts, ensuring timely and consistent messaging to a student’s own devices. This does assume you have up-to-date mobile phone numbers for your students so this is something that may be timely to check.

Social media

Your existing social media channels may also offer a direct conduit to your learners. However, it is worth bearing in mind that these will also be followed by non-students, thereby potentially broadcasting any messages to a wider, public audience.

Emergency notification tools

Another alternative might be to invest in dedicated emergency notification tools such as Everbridge, RapidReach, and PageOne. These can have the benefit of controlling who can send communications and so allowing for greater consistency of message.

Choosing and reviewing an approach

There may well be wisdom in deciding to adopt more than one of the above.

It can be risky to assume that adopting one channel, regardless of which, will provide the means to reach all students – whatever the expectation of management and staff may be of the reach of ‘official’ communication channels. 

Regardless of the channels you adopt, it is also worth reviewing and clarifying the decision-making processes when it comes to who has authority to draft and send messages to students. There is a balance to be struck between ensuring consistent messaging emanating from a small and closely controlled central ‘corporate’ function, versus retaining flexibility, timeliness and the ‘human touch’ by allowing individual teaching staff to transmit their own anxieties out to their students. There will likely be a need for both, but there needs to be recognition of this; what platforms can be used for each and a consistent underlying message across all communications. 

Depending on the scale and likely longevity of the incident it may be worth considering setting up a virtual ‘incident room’ with clear authority to both make decisions and to coordinate information flows and messaging.  

Plans for how urgent messages will be agreed and disseminated in the event of an emergency or high-pressured environment should be made in advance. This will help ensure that the message is broadcast across all the agreed channels and that no area of cohort is missed out. 

Keeping in contact with vulnerable students 

In addition to the above, it is worth paying particular attention to the needs of any students who could be particularly vulnerable or at risk during an enforced absence from campus.

This might include: 

  • Students with disabilities who may not now have direct access to the support workers they rely on when on campus
  • Students with known mental health issues or conditions which may mean that they are likely to be more susceptible to anxiety and stress due to enforced isolation and/or changes to their regular routine 

It is important that relevant staff have online access to the sources of data on students who may fall into the categories above and that the communication channels being used are able to distinguish these students. Constant attention should then be given to whether additional information needs to be provided to these students, either to respond to their specific needs or to more generally allay any likely anxieties.   

Where students have been assigned 1:1 study support or mental health mentoring, perhaps through Disabled Students Allowance, explore whether this could continue to be provided remotely using the student’s preferred mode of communication, eg phone, FaceTime, Skype, the VLE.  

If you already have an online 24/7 student support service it is worth making sure that they are primed with the latest information regarding the incident and that this source of support is highlighted to students. 

Establish a student services remote helpdesk

You might find it useful to set up a dedicated online helpdesk for the duration of the incident.

This can include up-to-date FAQs based on the kinds of questions that students are asking and provide links to relevant internal or external sources of information, eg to local or central government guidance on travel, personal safety or public health. 

Providing a number for students to phone to speak to someone directly can help retain direct lines of communication with students above and beyond the provision of ‘self-service’ sources of information. The responder could signpost them to relevant source of advice, reinstate(reiterate) official statements, correct or rebuff rumours or forward their question to another relevant member of staff to respond to.

Key messages

  • Think about the platforms and communication channels you already have and how they can be used to deliver information to either all or specific groups of students 
  • Don’t rely on a single communication channel
  • Think about how messages are going to be approved and sent and by whom to ensure a consistency of information 
  • Pay particular attention to vulnerable students and what additional contact needs they may have
  • Consider creating a helpdesk to pull information together and to provide a means for students to speak to someone

Keeping in contact with staff

It is not only students who may suffer from feelings of isolation, confusion and anxiety when finding themselves unable to access campus for a prolonged period of time. Staff will also be subject to the same stresses and concerns.

As well as having a duty of care to your staff, it is also worth remembering that you will not be able to fulfil your obligations to support your learners if you are not doing likewise with your staff.

Addressing staff concerns

You may well be able to use the same communication channels we considered for students, but clearly there will be times when the messages themselves will need to be different.   

Similarly, consideration should be given to creating a similar, but separate, remote helpdesk for staff, providing the opportunity to pre-empt likely sources of concern around: 

  • Will I lose pay if I cannot access campus? 
  • Will we still get paid on time this month? 
  • What messages should I be giving to my students about this incident?
  • I need to access campus because of the nature of my research, how can I do this? 
  • I’ve not used the VLE before, how do I start? 

Virtual coffee breaks

Depending on the length of the enforced absence from campus, it may be worth instigating additional measures above and beyond regular online business meetings to provide opportunities for teams and staff to come together, albeit virtually, on a semi-social basis. For example, you could put time in people’s diaries for ‘virtual coffee breaks’ where available staff are encouraged to join a shared online space with a drink and a biscuit to just chat, share experiences and talk to friends and colleagues.

Platforms such as Slack and Yammer in the Office 365 suite lend themselves well to ‘informal’ communication between staff. You could consider setting up specific groups to encourage mutual support (eg a ‘new to working from home’ group, or ‘watercooler group’ for more general informal chat) while also empowering staff to create their own groups around the issues which are most important to them. 

Promoting sources of support 

Don’t forget to provide, and keep up to date, links to official sources of information in what is likely to be a fast-paced and constantly changing situation. It may also be a good idea to remind staff of any existing sources of internal support, eg counselling and wellbeing services that they are eligible for, but which might get overlooked. 

Useful resources 

Key messages

  • Don’t forget that your staff will also have their own needs and anxieties which may on occasion overlap with those faced by your students, but which will also require separate consideration and treatment
  • Consider using platforms such as Yammer to encourage informal communication between staff to encourage a continued sense of community and connectivity

Effective remote working for staff

Encouraging a suitable remote working environment 

Given the likely unforeseen nature of an enforced period of remote working and the uncertain length of time it may be required, a sense of proportionality is required when creating suitable homeworking environments.

Tips for effective homeworking

Some general guidelines which may provide a useful starting point for staff include: 

  • Make yourself as comfortable as you can. Sitting at a desk or table on a sensible chair is likely to be far more productive than slumped on the sofa with the laptop perched on your lap! 
  • Try to have a clear boundary between work and home by creating a designated workspace, even if this is simply the corner of a room
  • Many people benefit from having a clear structure and routine. It allows them to complete work during working hours and focus on home life at the end of the working day
  • Encourage regular use of video alongside audio and chat collaboration to enhance presence and support team spirit
  • If you feel isolated, or believe that you may become isolated, set up regular contact with colleagues and discuss any concerns with your line manager or a member of human resources team
  • Do not try to be both a full-time carer and a homeworker: if there are dependants in the home, then separate provisions must be made to ensure that they are looked after during working hours
  • Friends and family may need to be reminded that you are working during your contracted hours and you do not have the capacity to complete additional duties
  • Take regular breaks - you’d be amazed how many times your working day is broken up in an office environment. While ‘undisturbed’ working time can often be a blessing, it can also be all too easy to ‘burn out’ towards the end of the day without regular self-imposed ‘interruptions’ 

Access to core systems  

Most universities and colleges will already have existing business continuity and disaster recovery plans in place. It is well worth starting with these to identify which core systems are needed to continue safe, legal and effective operation of the organisation.   

Once these systems have been identified, you should consider how access will be maintained, and by whom, particularly if staff are having to work remotely.

In many organisations access to core corporate systems such as finance, payroll, HR and student record systems may not routinely be available offsite for valid security reasons.   

In the event of the kind of extenuating circumstances which mean staff are not able to access campus for an indeterminant period of time, careful consideration needs to be given as to whether additional (temporary) access regimes need to be put in place to ensure business continuity.   

If so, it is important that you continue to ensure your overall security posture is maintained and, as soon as it is safe to do so, return to your pre-existing configuration.  

Practical steps to consider for ensuring remote access to core systems 

  • Ensure key staff have a secure point-to-point connection to the campus via a VPN to access core systems. (This assumes you have already identified who the ‘key staff’ are for each core system – something which is hopefully addressed in your existing business continuity planning, but if not this will need to be defined)
  • Provide relevant staff with access to encrypted corporately managed devices so they can safely access core systems from home, where possible
  • Ensure that your IT support staff are prepared for the likely increase in demand and are equipped to provide help remotely, eg by utilising remote desktop access systems such as Bomgar (BeyondTrust)

Access to core information 

Again, any pre-existing business continuity and disaster recovery plans should be your starting point for determining which information or records it is imperative you retain access to in all circumstances. 

Any corporate records management programme should likewise have undertaken work to identify your ‘vital records’ - categories of record which are required by the organisation to be able to carry out its essential core functions in a legally compliant manner.

Once identified and located, it is important to establish that the right people - and only the right people - will be able to continue to access them if working remotely, potentially via domestic hardware and their domestic broadband provider. 

Using VPN access

As with core systems, virtual private network (VPN) access may well be the best way to provide access to the necessary users.

Should a VPN connection be made to a privately owned computer, note that this computer may not have the same level of software and operating system security patching and antivirus protection that a corporately managed computer would. This could create a substantive risk of compromise or data loss.

In order to guard against this, a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) could be accessed from the personally-owned computer that in effect opens a full desktop that is hosted on the organisation’s servers. The user merely has a web browser window open on their computer that connects to the remotely managed virtual machine. This approach will greatly reduce the chance of information being lost or systems otherwise being compromised as corporate data will only reside on the organisations severs and not on the privately-owned local computer. 

If a corporate VPN is left running after core work has been completed that traffic will continue to traverse the corporate network. This may have an adverse impact on network bandwidth, should a large number of users do this simultaneously. Should a user continue to use their computer for non-work purposes, such as watching video streaming services then the traffic will continue to traverse the organisations network, if the VPN remains active. This traffic routing into and out of a network is known as ‘tromboning’. It is suggested that users who have local control of their corporate VPN should turn it off once core work has been completed to avoid unnecessary use of resources at their home organisation.

For those users who do not have control of their corporate VPN, they may wish to limit their use of the corporate device to direct core work only. Many FE organisations use Direct Access, to ensure compliance with web filtering, monitoring, reporting and alerting best practice expectation. In this situation the traffic is routed back into the corporate network on purpose, to ensure that web filtering is applied. The ‘tromboning’ of traffic in this case is by design, and in most cases cannot be switched off.

Alternatively, if it is available but not already being utilised, you may consider using SharePoint sites and/or file storage areas within Microsoft Teams channels or Google G-Suite to transfer the required information for the duration of the incident. In such circumstances, it is important that such records are restored to their permanent location as soon as possible after the incident is deemed to be over. 

Remote collaboration

Platforms such as Office 365 and Google Hangouts can be used to hold effective virtual meetings.

Using their collaboration and productivity tools (eg video capability) will help people to continue to feel connected to their teams and colleagues.

Once again, it is worth checking that all staff likely to participate in virtual meetings have access to the hardware required.

  • Do they have mics and/or headsets which work?
  • Is it necessary for them to have webcams and, if so, do they?
  • If not, how are you going to source them for affected staff?
  • Is it easier to empower individuals to source their own through online retailers and reclaim the expense afterwards?
  • Are there policies which may need to be amended to enable this to happen?  
  • If you are introducing new platforms – or even just promoting existing ones to new users – do they have access to the level of guidance and support they will need to be able to use them to a base level of effectiveness, or are you assuming such skills already exist or can be otherwise acquired?

Here, as with earlier guidance around use of the VLE, it may be worth creating shared spaces – perhaps in Yammer, Google Hangouts or Microsoft Teams – where staff can share tips and ask questions in a supportive and open environment.

Managing remote teams 

Encouraging (or mandating) use of online calendars, such as Outlook if using the Office365 suite, helps to ensure appropriate visibility of staff activity and availability when working remotely.

This can help managers to plan tasks and team members to coordinate collaborative activity. If required, it can also help staff to account for their activity during periods of absence from campus – though it is recommended that work diaries are not used as a source of evidence of ‘busy-ness’. Far better, especially during stressful times, is to create a culture which is built on flexibility and trust. If necessary, this should look to monitor results and outputs, rather than surveillance and ‘clock watching’ with all the suspicion and discord that this can bring.  

It is also worth considering how frequently and in what groupings you wish to be in contact with the teams that you manage. You may find that in the absence of regular face-to-face contact with staff that you want to arrange more regular catchups and meetings.

An ‘all team’ remote meeting on a Monday morning can help everyone begin the working week with a clear understanding of the shared priorities for the week ahead and to agree the actions and resources required to deliver them. In addition, think about how regularly you want to schedule meetings with your direct reports. There may well be ad hoc reasons to talk in between, but pre-arranging regular ‘keep in touch’ meetings will always ensure a minimum level of regular contact. This will also give you the opportunity to take a step back from day-to-day operational considerations to check in on how people are faring in testing times. 

Remote technical support 

As staff start using unfamiliar applications it is expected that there would be an influx of support requests from staff using institutional laptops as well as personal ones.

Many institutions already have some sort of IT helpdesk function to prioritise and serve as a request que. However, it should be considered if this would suffice as a remote technical support function. 

There are applications available (such as Bomgar) that enable technical support staff to remotely control workstations to resolve problems. These applications such should be evaluated for institutional appropriateness before they are required. 

The staffing of the technical support function should be carefully considered, especially during exceptional circumstances many more helpdesk support staff could be required than normal.

Key messages

  • Encourage staff to make their home environment as conducive as possible to effective remote working 
  • Start with any existing disaster recovery or business continuity plans to help you identify core systems and vital information and records 
  • Make use of the collaboration features within platforms such as Office365 to enable teams and individuals to plan and work effectively whilst working remotely 
  • Ensure you provide appropriate support and guidance around the use of such platforms so as not to exclude less confident users 
  • Try to encourage a management culture which is built around trust, flexibility and outputs, rather than one which leaves staff feeling the need to account for every minute of their working day 
  • Proactively plan a regular schedule of both team and individual one to one meetings to both ensure clarity regarding priorities and activities and the wellbeing of your staff 

Post-incident closure and review

What to do once the incident is closed

Once the incident has been officially declared closed, it will be important to communicate this to all affected staff and students as quickly as possible using the communication channels and processes previously outlined

It may be worth considering how, and how quickly, you look to return to normal after the official closure. While it may be tempting to assume that everything can flip back to normal operations instantly and at the same time, a more phased approach may be wise.

It may be that you choose to continue running some newly planned online assessments until the end of the current term, for example, to avoid further disruption and stress to students.

Taking a flexible approach to expectations of a return to onsite working may also help staff adjust back to the new reality and make necessary domestic arrangements in situations where other employers or schools may still be working on an ‘emergency footing’. 

Reviewing the event

As soon after the end of the incident as possible, undertake a review of the event and the measures taken, considering:

  • What worked well
  • What mistakes may have been made
  • What can be learned from for the future

It may be that this experience influences strategic thinking and direction, accelerating and prioritising plans for digital transformation across the organisation.

Finally, any extraordinary measures taken to cope with the incident need to be assessed and decisions taken as to if, when and how they need to be repealed. For example:

  • Any changes to the organisation’s security position
  • Suspension of existing, or introduction of new emergency policies
  • Reconciling data back-ups outside of normal operating procedures

Key messages

  • Think about the criteria by which an end to the incident will be determined and by whom
  • Consider a phased return to normal operations, rather than assuming an immediate and blanket reversion  
  • As soon as the dust has settled, consider reviewing your response to the incident, looking for lessons that can be learnt to inform and improve future planning and incident response;
  • Review any ‘emergency’ measures undertaken during the incident, looking to ensure a managed return to normal operations

COVID-19 organisational response review checklist

Due to the restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, many of you needed to make sweeping changes to how you operate. These changes were critical in meeting the challenges you faced, ensuring where possible the continuity of teaching, learning, assessment and day-to-day business operations during the lockdown.

Many of you are now taking stock and reflecting on the steps you took in response to the crisis. We know you want to ensure the appropriateness and sustainability of these measures for the rest of this academic year and the immediate future, preparing your staff and learners for a return to campus when it is safe and appropriate to do so. This checklist is intended to provide a starting point for any such reflections.

A flexible, free template

Not all the aspects it covers, nor the criteria each contains, will be relevant for all Jisc members. There may be some aspects that are important to your specific context that aren’t represented here. That is why we have delivered this as a template which you are free to download, adapt and use as you see fit to best meet your individual needs.

If you have a central group or team that has been tasked with reviewing your response to COVID-19 or another disaster recovery situation, we hope this resource will provide a good starting point and possible vehicle for considering which areas to review and what questions you may need to ask yourself. However, its contents can also be used locally by individuals wishing to consider the effectiveness of the measures that they, or the teams they lead, have put into place.

Download the checklist (.xls)

How to use the checklist

The checklist template is structured around the following areas:

  • Use of online resources for teaching and learning
  • Teaching in an online environment
  • Assessment and feedback
  • Safeguarding and student wellbeing
  • Ensuring staff wellbeing
  • IT and business operations

And it includes the following columns:

  • Objective
  • Criteria
  • Assessment rating
  • Priority
  • Evidence
  • Suggested next steps

We have provided some guidance on how you may wish to use the template in the document itself, but - as with all other aspects of this resource - the intention is that you can take and adapt it as you see fit and to meet your situation and needs. 


We welcome feedback on the checklist as it currently stands and will look to release updated versions based on the experience and recommendations received from our members. To give feedback or if you'd like any further information, contact

This guide is made available under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND).