Business Continuity Planning for Academics


Writing about business continuity planning in light of avian flu scares for Between the Lines made me think about the same subject in the context of what I'm doing now: teaching classes, doing research, and interacting with students. I came to the conclusion that we could actually manage fairly well.

  • My students are already using email and instant messaging to contact me. Naturally, we still meet face to face a good deal as well, using IM mainly for quick discussions, setting up appointments and so on, but in an emergency we could move more to IM and email.
  • My classes already have most of the material online and my students use wikis for collaborating on everything from research projects to course notes.
  • I've got a good podcasting set-up and could easily record lectures and post them online along with slides and other material.
  • I give quizzes and other assignments online and much of the grading happens with online grading tools.
  • I've not done online discussion sections using IRC for a decade, but that wouldn't be hard to get going.
  • I've got high speed Internet in my home and most of my students have it at home as well.
  • I have a nice, private office at home (in fact it's really much better than my office at work) where I could work.

Would it be as good as traditional course delivery? Probably not, but in an emergency it would be good enough.

I suspect other CS profs would do about as well. Even if they haven't done much podcasting, turning on the mic and editing down sound is something they could easily figure out. Other, less technically inclined, faculty, might do with some training on these tools and non-technical students are probably less likely to be familiar with them.