Academic Continuity

Strategies to enhance academic continuity capabilities

  • Recognize that teaching and instruction is a primary mission of Northwestern University. As such, consideration should be given to creative solutions to maintaining the student learning environment as a principle priority. 
  • Develop academic continuity/recovery plans. Ensure individuals charged with implementing the plans receive thorough training and understand the roles, responsibilities, and activities laid out in the plans.
  • Develop mutual aid plans with alternate campus labs, other institutions, or third party agencies to temporarily house lab classrooms, research projects for the duration of the event.
  • Establish geographically diverse storage of electronic data, unique course related materials, critical paper files and other hard copy documents, etc.

Continuity planning considerations

Develop principles, policies, and procedures for resuming academic activities after an event. 

Note: Understanding that facilities and resources may be limited therefore functions and services may need to be restored based on priorities established within the NU Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

  • Determine critical and essential functions performed.
    • Critical: functions which have a direct and immediate effect on the general university in terms of the loss of life, personal injury, loss of property, and/or the ability of the University to maintain direction and control.  The loss of a critical function may either result in such losses or inhibit the University’s ability to preclude or minimize such losses.  Additionally, the institution could suffer serious financial, legal, or other damages or penalties.
    • Essential: functions that provide necessary university services to the institution and community which are not deemed “critical functions.”  These functions could cause a substantial service or operational disruption and/or a substantial financial loss to the university or have severe reputational consequences.
  • Identify each function’s upstream and downstream dependencies.
    • Upstream dependencies: units, systems, or equipment whose failure-to-perform will negatively affect this function.
    • Downstream dependencies: units, systems, or equipment that will be negatively affected by your unit’s failure-to-perform this function.
  • Consider and document alternate methods to perform this function in the event the usual space, equipment, systems, faculty/staff, and other dependencies are not available.
  • Consider how and if the academic time required for a course can be altered, i.e. can material be condensed and prioritized in the event teaching time is lost.
  • Consider alternatives for courses with laboratory, clinical, and/or research requirements.
  • Consider alternative mode of course delivery
    • Online / distance learning.
    • Alternative or flexible course schedule and location.
    • Blended courses that can share classroom time.
  • Considered the use of shared bio-storage, lab use arrangements, or other methods of mutual support such as agreements with other campuses, labs, universities, vendors, etc. to store specimens or other research materials and which could be used to continue research projects in the event your lab facilities are damaged.
  • Consider dividing valuable samples and implementing multiple storage methods, i.e. frozen and lyophilized.
  • Determine and document the minimum staff, space, supplies, equipment, etc. required to perform this function.

Establish continuity and recovery teams.

These teams assist management in prioritizing and conducting business and research continuity and recovery activities.

Designate qualified researchers and other staff to be part of these teams.

Develop emergency communications procedures.

This includes off hours contact information, with researchers, faculty, staff, stakeholders, and other key contacts in case of a disrupting event telecommunications break down.

  • Consider developing and implementing a cascading call tree to foster efficient notification.
  • Consider creating group email and text lists to assist with prompt and easy message distribution.
  • Document and maintain contact information for multiple communication avenues (i.e. business phone, home phone, mobile phone, business email, personal email).

Outline and quantify, where possible, potential impacts should academic pursuits, business activities and/or research efforts be interrupted by a crisis. 

This might include fines, loss of funding, destruction of samples or specimens particularly those developed over extended duration, non-compliance, or life-safety hazard.