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Teaching During Campus Closure

The University's official site guiding all instructors on course continuity during disruptions to on-campus learning can be found at

An overview of contingency plans for on-site courses can be found in this linked PDF
Please also see our FAQ for When On-site Classes Can't Meet Face-to-Face and, specific to JHSPH's response to COVID-19: Resources for the Virtual Classroom Approach on (login required).


Regardless of course format, campus closure does not equate to putting the brakes on learning. With the ubiquity of digital connectivity, access to CoursePlus, and, optionally, a variety of complementary tools, you have several synchronous and asynchronous options to offer continuity for your students.

On-Site (Face-to-Face) and Blended Courses


Planning for campus closures can be covered in your syllabus. If you expect students to be available to meet online if campus is closed during a regularly scheduled class time, communicate these expectations in your Course Overview. Learn how to add a custom section to your syllabus in the CoursePlus Guide. Sample statements are provided below.

Sample syllabus statement for an on-campus and blended course:
Campus Closures
Students who opt-in will receive automated texts regarding University delays and closings. JHU emergency notices are also posted online:
In the event of a campus closure due to inclement weather or other event, please ensure your safety but also be prepared to continue learning. This is especially important due to the compressed nature of our academic terms. Thanks to the ubiquitous nature of digital communications, announcements for such contingencies will be made by course faculty on CoursePlus as well as sent via email. The fact that there will be internet and electricity outages that may impact students and faculty off-campus is recognized. If a student is not able to "attend" a virtual class or complete an alternative activity as announced, the student must contact faculty and/or TA as soon as possible to discuss extensions or other possible arrangements. Similarly, if the faculty or TAs are not able to send or receive communications while campus is closed, they will communicate this obstacle and its resolve to students as soon as they are able. 

Sample syllabus statement for an online course:
Campus Closures
Students who opt-in will receive automated texts regarding University delays and closings. JHU emergency notices are also posted online:
In the event of a campus closure due to inclement weather or other event, online learning is NOT cancelled; however, there may be synchronous sessions (such as LiveTalks) that may be adversely effected. In addition, there may be internet and electricity outages that may impact students and faculty off-campus. Announcements for any contingencies will be made by course faculty on CoursePlus as well as sent via email. If a student is not able to attend a LiveTalk or other required synchronous session, the student must contact faculty and/or TA as soon as possible to discuss other arrangements or alternatives. Similarly, if the faculty or TAs are not able to send or receive communications, they will communicate this obstacle and its resolve to students as soon as they are able.


Announce Contingency Plans - Presumably students enrolled in on-site courses have already committed their week to a scheduled time for class. If there is any change to this schedule, it is in your and their best interest to broadcast what, if any, alternate plans have been made as soon as the campus has announced a closure. For good measure, send this communication as an email to the entire class and also display it as an announcement on the course home page. (See “Display Announcement on Home Page” of the CoursePlus Guide).

For example, if you plan on holding a live, virtual class at the same time as your face-to-face class, give students enough notice so it’s reasonable for them to have checked announcements, logged in and checked their set up (audio, video, connection speed, etc.) before the scheduled class time. If at all possible, record this virtual class meeting. We recommend using the Zoom web conferencing platform, which is what is used for the JHSPH LiveTalksPaid Zoom licensed (formerly called pro-level) accounts are provisioned through the JHU IT Service Catalog. You can also sign up for a free, basic personal Zoom account (limited to 40 min for group meetings) under the JHU enterprise license using the link to the Service Catalog. (If you must use a free account, this option is recommended.) See the JHU Zoom FAQ site for more information on the accounts. Note that students don't need to be logged into Zoom to join a Zoom meeting, but all students have access to licensed Zoom accounts through the JHU Enterprise license.

Example email/announcement:
Due to the campus closure, we will be meeting tomorrow via Zoom at our regular course time: 1:30 PM. The first thing you will want to do is join the quick test meeting to make sure your computer and network connections are properly configured so you can participate. Please take the time to do this quick connection test well before our meeting time so there aren't any last minute unexpected required updates or downloads for your computer!

The link for for our online session will be coming in a separate email & it will also appear as an announcement on our CoursePlus home page. As long as you click on the link and have already performed the test meeting, you should be good to go. If you haven't participated in a Zoom session before or would simply like some helpful reminders, you can follow the tips that are shared with students joining in a LiveTalk session.


All Courses (Face-to-face and Online)

Remember that in the event of a weather-related closure, there may likely be students who do not have power or Internet connection. If you choose to hold a live, virtual class, the best practice would be to send an announcement that the virtual class is still being held (include a reminder of the meeting time), but also to record and then upload a link to the recording onto your CoursePlus site. Zoom is one option that allows you to record a meeting to the cloud, whose link can later be shared on the course site.


Digital Repositories

With the CoursePlus Online Library, Drop Box, and Microsoft's OneDrive there are several options to share and exchange documents and media. In addition, students can work collaboratively in other cloud storage services such as Google Drive.

As you share your resources, it is very important to try and make sure they are accessible. Please review our guidance for authoring accessible materials as a first step for sharing yoru own resources. In addition, if you have a student with a documented accommodation, make certain to reach out to Disability Support Services (DSS) in advance for further assistance.

Online Library

When faculty want to distribute files (including links and uploaded media) to students, the CoursePlus Online Library is the perfect repository.  NOTE that the Online Library inside the course site is not a replacement for eReserves. In addition, the Sheridan Libraries Online Services for Teaching, Learning, and Research page provides valuable information on online resources and services such as access to ebooks, full text articles, remote consultations with Librarians and more. 
On-campus Courses: Files that have been uploaded to the online library can be linked inside a class session, even if there is nothing else in that session. This is a nice option especially for face-to-face courses in either the case of campus closure or as a “best practice” for when a student might miss a session or otherwise not have access to something distributed in class.

online library files linked to an on-campus class session

Online courses & Blended Courses: Files in the online library can be linked to course lecture or activity pages.
online library files inside a lecture page


Drop Box

The CoursePlus Drop Box tool is a digital in-box that can be used when faculty want to collect files from students (i.e., student assignment submissions). Students upload the documents from their computer to the drop box and receive email confirmation that they have done so. Faculty and TAs can then download the documents. The Drop Box can be associated with a class session for on-site (face-to-face) courses or a scheduled event for online and blended courses. This feature can be used at any time, but is especially convenient if an assignment is due but campus is closed.
drop box in face-to-face CoursePlus session


All JHU faculty, staff, and current students have access to Microsoft Office 365 with their JHed ID and password when logging in through or through the portal. (If logging in directly through Microsoft, make sure you use your JHU email in the format JHedID @ with no spaces.) This subscription provides both web apps (online) and full versions of the Microsoft Office Education Suite (MS Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote -- downloadable on up to 5 devices, including macs, PCs, and mobile devices) as well as 5TB of cloud storage in OneDrive for Business. Office 365 also allows each user to define levels of sharing toward collaboration on individual documents or file directories. Sharing is made easy for JHSPH students and faculty by the built-in address book tied to the Johns Hopkins accounts. When students and faculty need to collaborate on a project or other course resource, their JHU OneDrive account is an appropriate and readily available option to exchange documents with eachother. CER (The Center for Educational Resources) also has created a ncie overview of OneDrive, including how to share files.


Recorded Lectures

Using new or archived recordings, class can continue even when the campus is closed. The recorded lectures can be uploaded or linked to the online library and then linked to the class session on CoursePlus site. If this is not a normal occurrence (e.g., normally your lectures are only face-to-face) you should announce the availability of this lecture via an email and CoursePlus announcement. In addition, it's worth noting that on-campus courses with an online section in CoursePlus can pull lectures from the online section into the on-campus CoursePlus page

If you are sharing any audio or video -- files or synchronous sessions -- with students, it is very important to keep accessibility in mind. If the media doesn't already have closed captioning or a transcript, for instance, it's up to you to make certain to provide the option for all your students. In addition, if you have a student with a documented accommodation, make certain to reach out to Disability Support Services (DSS) in advance of sharing the files or sessions.

Archived Lecture Recordings

If a recording for a lecture was posted to one of your classes in CoursePlus in the past year, the archived lecture can be retrieved and then posted to the current course site in the online library or in a lecture materials section. Directions for doing this yourself are located on this page.

If you teach an on-campus section where you've made a Panopto recording for a previous offering, you can make certain you've set up Panopto for the current on-campus course offering and then copy the recording into the Panopto folder shared with the current course. Any time you share Panopto video links with your students, please make sure to import the captions for your videos using Panopto’s automatic captioning featureNote that as of May 2020, this setting must be made on each individual recording. If you need assistance, contact JHSPH Classroom Support.
Another option is to contact your instructional designer to request a link to your current or archived online presentation. This link can be placed in a CoursePlus  class session and email/announcements. Your face-to-face students can view the lecture with audio and slides similar to those in an online class.

Faculty should announce the availability of this lecture via an email and CoursePlus announcement, directing students to listen and/or view the lecture.

If you are the faculty of record for an online course, you can actually link your lecture materials to a class session for an on-campus course without any help from CTL.

Create New Recordings

Another option is to record something from your desk using Panopto, VoiceThread, Audacity, Zoom, or another software or app and then post this on your CoursePlus site. (The Teaching Toolkit has a comprehensive overview of all recording options available to faculty, including professionally produced recordings, available on the Recording Options page.) To use any of these, it is best to use a USB headset microphone. Which is best for you? Use this table to help you decide:
  VoiceThread Audio-Only (MP3) Tools Zoom Other Screencasting Tools
(including Panopto)
easy to add slides, complete and post  x    x  x
requires more technical ability    x  x  x
record narration separately for each slide in lecture
record lecture in a single recording (all at once; one take or stop-and-start)
 x  x
record virtual whiteboards or desktop applications (i.e., screencast)      x  x
edit after recording
 x  x x (see Note, below)  x (depends on tool)
update slides and/or slide-by-slide narration easily from year to year
stream live to students as well as record archive
record audio MP3 only; optionally, provide slides in separate digital file
requires broadband internet connection (best practice)
 x    x  
Note: Zoom does allow some very basic, rudimentary editing of the recordings. Basically the ability to trim, i.e. remove, the recording's beginning and end segments.


A VoiceThread is a collaborative, interactive, multimedia slide show that holds images, documents, and videos. It allows people to navigate through the slides and leave comments in several ways: using voice, text, or video. It can be used as an online lecture (information primarily from faculty to students) or a collaborative activity. Learn more about the VoiceThread tool on this site.
As a lecture, faculty can upload a set of slides (PowerPoint, images, or PDF format) into a VoiceThread. Then, starting with the first slide, record audio narration for each separate slide. The individual slides (with their attached audio comments) can be reordered or even edited with a different image or PowerPoint slide. When students engage with the final VoiceThread, they step through it, hearing the lecture’s accompanying audio with each slide.

Audio-Only (MP3) Tools

If a lecture’s audio narration can stand alone or apart from other artifacts (e.g., a PDF or PowerPoint slides), then Audacity was historically the go-to audio-only option. Audacity is an opensource (free) audio recording and editing software that had been a standard tool for non-professionals and professionals alike. Recording your voice and completing some basic editing (such as trimming awkward moments of silence) before saving the narration as an MP3 audio file is the program's main draw. We still have a guide to get started using Audacity to record audio presentations and then posting them online.

However, since Audacity requires you download and install multiple programs plus it doesn't seem to very well supported any longer, we are now recommending some other free online tools that you can use right inside of your browser. You may want to consider using either one of these other easy-to-use tools:

Zoom (Pre-recorded)

While you can have your own free or paid Zoom account, the University offers both fee-based professional (licensed) and free, basic accounts, provisioned through the JHU IT Service Catalog. With Zoom it is possible to both hold a real-time, interactive virtual class as well as pre-record a stand-alone presentation right from your computer. You can show any application on your desktop (screencasting) as well as use a webcam to record yourself talking. One option for a stand-alone Zoom recording that will be used as a lecture is to focus first on yourself (with the webcam) giving an intro to students and then switching the focus over to your computer’s desktop where you continue to narrate (using your microphone) as you show them the slides you might normally be showing them in a face-to-face class. We recommend saving your recording to the cloud, where the link to stream the recording can easily be shared with your students through CoursePlus. (If your Zoom account will not allow you to the cloud, please transfer the local recording -- saved to your computer -- to OneDrive or another cloud storage site. Then share an accessible link to the stored location with your students. The Center for Educational Resources has a nice overview of sharing through OneDrive.) Zoom has an optional rudimentary editing function to cut out portions you don't want to keep from a cloud recording. There is more information on the Zoom support siteThe final video’s link can then be shared to students in an email as well as uploaded to the CoursePlus online library and linked in the class session. Please read our page on using Zoom to make a recorded lecture.

Screencasting (Screencast-o-matic, Loom, etc.)

Screencast-o-matic is a free and very easy-to-use option for recording your voice while you share your screen. The free version of the software limits your recording to 15 minutes (a good length for a lecture section!) and includes a watermark of the company in the lower-left corner of the recording. This free version also allows you to record from your webcam at the same time as your screen. If you splurge for the "Pro" account, you also have the option to edit your recordings.

With the free version, you can upload your MP4 (video) output that is saved to your computer into your CoursePlus Online Library or directly to YouTube, Vimeo, or Google Drive.

Loom is another free and easy-to-use tool for screencasting. This is a Google Chrome add-in (extension). The free version limits you at first to five minute videos and stores your videos online (in a limited storage space). This is fine for shorter recordings whose hyperlink (to where they're stored on the service) can be put in your online library. FYI: Longer recordings and more storage become available when you get more people to sign up for the tool/service.

Camtasia is video editing software offered by TechSmith that allows for screencasting and even has a PowerPoint add-in. This software is not free and there is a bit of a learning curve, but it allows you to create projects from and to several different media types plus it has several "polished" options including title pages, transitions, audio leveling, call outs (annotations), etc.

JHSPH faculty have the option of using Panopto as a screencasting option. For more information about this option, including where to download it from, please see our page on Panopto Screencast & Lecture Capture as a Recorded Lecture.

While not quite the same as screencasting, an updated version of Microsoft PowerPoint can capture real-time annotations and narrations that can be exported as a video. For more information about using this as a lecture alternative, see our page on Narrated PowerPoint as a Recorded Lecture

Zoom can also be used for screencasting. See our page on Using Zoom to Make a Recorded Lecture.


Live Virtual Class Sessions

A live, virtual class can happen using a webcasting tool such as Skype for Business or Zoom. Whether or not you schedule a live, virtual class at the same time as your face-to-face class, it’s important to give students enough advanced notice so they can be near a connected computer and check the necessary system requirements. So in the event of inclement weather or other reason for campus closure, announce your scheduled virtual class to your students via an email and CoursePlus announcement as soon as you are able. It is also recommended that you make a recording of the live session to offer as a link for students who are unable to connect.

Don't forget accessibility! If there are any students in your class with a documented accommodation for auditory or visual needs, you have the responsibility to reach out to DSS in advance of your scheduled live class session. They will work with you to coordinate any necessary captioning or other services. Of course, you are responsible for providing a text version (transcription or captioning) and the session's recording to all students after its completion. Panopto and Zoom stored in their respective cloud services will allow for auto transcription (that should be reviewed and edited as appropriate); otherwise you may need to seek alternate methods for getting this.

Zoom (Live Streaming)

Zoom allows any faculty, student or staff with an account to log in and create, manage and record meetings/sessions. (There are free (basic) and fee-based (licensed) JHU enterprise accounts available from JHU IT Service Catalog, but you can also sign up directly from Zoom.) This means faculty can also use this tool to stream live and/or record presentations on their own. PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE IS A LIMITED NUMBER OF CONCURRENT USERS (ATTENDEES) ON A ZOOM MEETING according to the plan you are using as a host. (The University licensed accounts limit the number of participants to 300. This is different from special service-level accounts used in LiveTalks.)  
With Zoom you have three basic options: (1) stream a live session allowing you to interact with students in real time (synchronous lecture/class); (2) stream a synchronous lecture and record it so the activity can be shared as an artifact at a later date; and (3) record a one-way lecture (no student participation) to be shared as an artifact at a later date. In each of these options, the meeting facilitator can moderate the session including controlling what is being shared from his/her computer at all times. You can share slides, a video, or anything on your screen with students, talk to students “face-to-face” (virtually) using webcams, and even give students control of a session so they can share their own screens.  Zoom even has a whiteboard built into it that works fantastic with a stylus or a touch-enabled device. 

Note that while the host can control what is being shared from their computer, in synchronous Zoom sessions it is always the decision of the end-user whether or not to display the active speaker or gallery view of the meeting participants' video shares. (The recording will save the active speaker view.) Offering a small amount of control over the session beyond the screen share, the meeting host has the option to mute or unmute all the participants. As host, you can also stop video for individual participants
See this section of our page on Using Zoom to Make a Recorded Lecture to familiarize with yourself with recording tips. And, on the same page, we also have a section on how you can share your recording, only you will probably be sharing it directly with your students instead of an instructional designer. Please refer to Zoom's video tutorials and Zoom's Help Center for more information.
A caveat: if you use audio for live, synchronous sessions, we recommend everyone should use USB headphones, or at least ear buds - not external speakers. Use of external speakers is highly likely to create endless and frustrating echo. Please try to use a headset as the ear bud microphones often brush against clothing, etc. It is also highly advisable for the instructor and/or TA to monitor which students have microphones enabled, and if they are not muting themselves, to disable audio for students when it is not needed. Students should be instructed how to mute and un-mute their microphone in the app in order to reduce unintended noises. Be sure to allot extra time at the beginning to work through audio issues.
Here is a sample of text* you may want to include in an email to your students:
We will have an upcoming meeting online via Zoom. The first thing you will want to do is make sure your computer and network connections are properly configured so you can participate. Please consider checking your connections using the Zoom Test Meeting site. Please take the time to do this quick connection test in advance of our meeting time!
If you haven't participated in a Zoom meeting before or would simply like some helpful reminders, there are helpful reminders on this document.  You are encouraged to participate with video and audio. This works best if you have and use a headset or earbuds with microphone. USB headsets are preferred. (External speakers often lead to a frustrating echo.) When you aren't speaking, mute your microphone to reduce feedback & extraneous noise. 
Using Zoom in place of LiveTalks
At its root, a LiveTalk is an upgraded Zoom Meeting. But a LiveTalk is scheduled through CTL right on the CoursePlus page, requiring slides to be uploaded and made ready in advance, so coordination of appropriate technologies and personal tech support are available. All the presenter needs to be concerned with is the actual content of the virtual meeting. A LiveTalk makes certain the highest quality virtual meeting is delivered and recorded. In addition, CTL links the recording of the LiveTalk to the CoursePlus page. At least one TA or faculty member should be present in the studio during a LiveTalk.
If a LiveTalk has to be canceled due to a university closing or inclement weather, faculty may choose to run a Zoom Meeting on their own. Keep in mind that you will be responsible for giving students instructions, creating your own recording of the session, and posting the link to the recording on the course site after the session, since a Zoom session outside of the studio is unsupported. Likewise, there will be no stats for attendance recorded on the course site, so the faculty will be responsible for taking attendance during the session. If you opt to use Zoom in place of a LiveTalk, make sure to review Zoom's "Getting Started" resources.

Panopto (Webcast)

You can live stream a lecture (or meeting) with Panopto. Panopto refers to this as a webcast. Note that during a webcast, there may be a slight delay (15 to 30 seconds) between your live broadcast and what the remote viewers are seeing.

JHU faculty can download the software to their personal computers from the Hopkins-hosted Panopto website: (JHSPH faculty should sign in using the "JHU Prod Shibboleth" sign-in option.)  

To set up your webcast in advance so you can share the link with your students, log into Panopto and from the Home page, select Create --> Webcast. Give your session a name and description and make sure it's being saved in the right folder. After you create it, still in the pop-up window, go to the Share options and decide who will have access before saving your changes. COPY THE SHARE LINK from this screen. This is the URL you will pass along to your students, ideally inside of CoursePlus.

Next, when you are ready to begin your webcast, open the Panopto program on your computer. Go to the "Create New Recording" screen. Select your primary (audio and video) sources plus your secondary sources as you would for any other recording. Click the drop-down menu for "Join Session" and select the webcast you created earlier. To begin the webcast, simply click Record. Students who have opened the URL (the "Share link") you shared with them will be able to start streaming your session.

You can also start an impromptu webcast from the installed program by creating a new recording and checking the "Webcast" box at the top right of the Panopto window. (This option is right under the link to sign out of the program.) If you choose this impromptu option, you will need to copy the share link from the Panopto program's open window only after you start to record the session. 

Learn more inside Panopto's documentation for how to share a live webcast from a Windows computer or stream a webcast from a Mac computer


Toolkit Workshop Recording

December 2019
In this workshop, we discussed options for keeping the classroom conversation and learning going regardless of weather, unexpected travel, or other interruption to our routines. This included an overview of how best to implement these contingency plans, beginning with a clear communication of expectations to students.  Several options for making an asynchronous, impromptu recorded lecture were provided. Plus we discussed how to use Zoom for a synchronous, “live streaming" option. The session's presentation is available as a PDF

Please also see the University's official site guiding all instructors on course continuity during disruptions to on-campus learning:
C. Greene,
Feb 28, 2020, 7:11 AM