Distance and hybrid learning | Education insights

How to write an effective education continuity plan

For hundreds of years, school was a physical place where learning followed a common formula that didn’t change much from decade to decade. But since the COVID-19 pandemic began, educators have been asked to adapt their traditional approaches rapidly and, for many, on the fly.  

When the need for distance learning education became a sudden and shocking reality for K-12 schools this year, some teachers and administrators were already prepared for at-home learning. Results from the spring semester varied, but everyone made it to the other side with new lessons in hand.   

Now as the new school year ramps up, school leaders are hoping to move out of reactive mode and into a more pro-active, strategic management style that ensures learning continues seamlessly and students achieve the best possible outcomes. 

Recently, Lenovo Software General Manager Coby Gurr and Bark CMO Titania Jordan sat down for a virtual discussion on educators’ biggest challenges for this school year and how LanSchool can help solve them. Gurr shared that he believes creating an Education Continuity Plan (ECP) is administrators’ most pressing task this year.  

What is an ECP? 

An ECP provides all of the key stakeholders in a student’s education — school admins and staff, teachers, parents, and the students themselves — with the guidelines they need to ensure learning continues when routines are disrupted due to an emergency, crisis, inclement weather, or other unusual event. Its job is to eliminate uncertainty and set clear expectations in order to support the safety of all parties and continued learning regardless of the format. 

Without an ECP, schools are likely to stay in reactive mode with every obstacle they encounter, and student learning may suffer. 

What should an education continuity plan include?  

Not all schools have written an ECP, so you may not know what type of information to include. Here are a few guidelines for fleshing out your school or district’s plan: 

  1. Lead your plan with a rallying cry. 

In the same way corporations start with a mission statement or core values, schools should provide a written standard by which teachers and students can measure their decisions and performance.  

Set the stage for all parties to be actively involved in maintaining students’ physical and emotional health and wellbeing as they deal with unusual circumstances. When talking about distance learning, lay out the school’s goals for its students and share how effective distance learning can support those goals. Your introduction should be empathetic, encouraging, and inspirational to set your team on the right course. 

  1. Map out your emergency response and recovery strategy. 

Depending on the type of disruption you’re facing, you may need to activate personnel to ensure students, teachers, and school property and IT are kept safe. Define the different types of disruptions you might encounter — for example, emergency (urgent but small scale), disaster (urgent and widespread), and crisis (potentially overwhelming to existing resources) — and the response protocol and communication hierarchy for each category. 

This part of the plan should include a succession strategy for key roles. It should also include operational procedures for assessing and reporting the disruption, communicating about the event, and recovering systems. See an example of a thorough emergency response ECP here

  1. Familiarize everyone with the distance learning tools at hand. 

Your ECP should include a list of teaching software solutions and other technology that will be used if/when students are learning remotely. This may include your: 

  • Classroom management software 
  • Safety solutions 
  • Approved video conferencing platform(s) 
  • Online discussion board or assignment hub 
  • Digital content platform 
  • Any other tools teachers and students will be using 

Along with a quick description of each tool’s uses, it’s a great idea to also include links to each technology’s knowledge base and tutorials so users can quickly get up to speed. To avoid any potential privacy issues, schools should also include detailed disclosures on how the technology will be used, especially for programs that are capable of recording or monitoring students as they work. 

  1. Set clear roles and expectations for all stakeholders. 

Your plan should break down the school’s expectations for each important group: 

  • Admin and staff: Define your expectations for members of the staff, including not only principals and vice principals, but librarians, counselors, and technology team members. These expectations might cover things like how to communicate with faculty, parents, and students; how often they should be meeting with their superiors; and any other unusual responsibilities they’ll be granted in the event of a disruption. 
  • Teachers: Apart from continuing to teach remotely during a disruption, explain that teachers should be responsible for understanding each of their students’ distance learning conditions and potential challenges. They will also need clear guidelines as to how you want them to balance synchronous and asynchronous learning. Just like in the classroom, educators should aim toward personalizing lessons and expectations where possible while distance learning. It’s also helpful to provide teachers with guidelines for altering their curriculum or teaching style (e.g. simplifying assignments), how to administer and grade tests, and guidelines for safe and appropriate online engagement with students and parents. 
  • Parents: Parents are new to distance learning, too, which is why the plan should offer best practices like establishing routines and physical working spaces, keeping up with teacher communications, checking in with students regularly to support their learning and emotional well-being, and monitoring learning vs. social time to make sure there’s a good balance happening. 
  • Students: Provide students with a mini code of conduct geared toward disaster response and online instruction, including digital citizenship guidelines for interacting with teachers and other students online. This may include dress code and communication rules as well as expectations for class participation.  
  1. Organize a list of communication channels for distance learning. 

There will be a variety of communications flowing among all these groups while distance learning is happening, so make it easy by providing clear guidelines on when to use each channel. Channels may include: 

  • Email 
  • Text / phone 
  • GSuite, Teams, Zoom, or other conferencing tools 
  • Classroom management software messaging 
  • Digital bulletin and discussion boards 
  • And others 

If students and parents should be checking one or more of these channels regularly, spell out those expectations for learning continuity as well. 

  1. Provide general daily schedules by grade level. 

Finally, include the daily schedules for each grade level so parents and students are clear on what to expect. It’s much easier to balance student’s emotional and learning needs when you know what’s expected of them throughout the day. 

  1. Tailor your plan to your school’s needs and culture 

Each school has its own culture, so if possible, make sure yours shines through. This will keep teams engaged and morale higher during a disruption. 

For example, if your teachers are highly social, include scheduled events like Faculty Virtual Social Hours or Administrator Q&As to keep the team engaged. Some schools that are engaging in hybrid learning may want to clearly detail how expectations change based on the learning format.  

The bottom line is that your Education Continuity Plan should be as comprehensive as possible and tailored to your school. 

LanSchool is here to help 

If you are a LanSchool customer, you’ll find all the technical resources you need for distance learning on our Customer Resource Center, as well as a wealth of advice and guidance on our blog.  

This school year will look different from every other before it, which is why your leadership is so important. Lead effectively by giving your staff the guidance and tools they need to succeed — and the inspiration to make meaningful learning experiences happen. 

Looking to implement a cloud-based classroom management software to support your education continuity plan? Try LanSchool Air free for 30 days.

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