Designing for Flexible Teaching

Designing for flexible teaching enables quick and easy pivots between different modalities and enables students who are unable to attend class to continue without the loss of continuity. Whether due to illness, a sudden opportunity to speak at an out of town conference, or something else, designing your course for flexible teaching enables confidence and freedom when unforeseen circumstances arise. If considered in the initial design, adapting to sudden changes often requires only minor adjustments and preserves the experience of the students.

This guide highlights some of the numerous considerations and practices that make flexible teaching possible, and provides additional resources for learning more.

Considerations in Designing for Flexible Teaching

  1. Is the Course Accessible From Anywhere?

Flexible teaching means having the ability to quickly pivot. When students can access key materials from anywhere, they are less likely to fall behind during sudden shifts, and are better able to catch up if they fall behind.

Every course offered at UNC Charlotte has a resource site in Canvas, which provides an excellent platform for making course materials available from anywhere.

For a flexible ready course, consider adding the following to your Canvas resource site:

See Teaching Online During University Closures for additional information.

  1. Are there Multiple Communication Channels in Place?

Having multiple ways of communicating with students is important. In face-to-face classes we often handle announcements and agenda items in quick conversations at the beginning of class. Moving these online using the announcements feature in Canvas is a great way to preserve class time and support students who can’t attend. It is also a great idea to have other means of contacting students in case we don’t hear from them for a while or something happens.

For a flexible ready course, consider establishing the following communication practices in your course:

  • Use the Announcements tool in Canvas for updates, reminders, and other general information.
  • Use the Message Students Who tool in the Canvas Gradebook to quickly reach out to students who miss assignments or to remind them of upcoming due dates.
  • Establish virtual office hours to promote consistency and be available from anywhere.
  • Pair students throughout the semester to provide support and accountability for each other.

See 5 Tools to Communicate and Engage Virtually for additional information.

  1. Do You Have a Plan for Contingencies?

Building plans at the beginning of class describing what will happen if a given situation arises is a great way to reduce stress and provide guidance to students in times of need. Students aren’t always able to tell us right away when they are struggling, so having these plans in place will provide support just when they need it.

For a flexible ready course, consider establishing the following contingency plans in your course:

  • What to do if you aren’t able to attend a live class
  • What to do if you have to miss class altogether
  • What to expect if the entire class needs to pivot to remote delivery
  • What to do if you or a family member become ill

See Instructional Continuity Planning and Niner Nation Cares for additional information. This Hybrid Course Syllabus resource may also be useful.

Canvas Course Template

The Center for Teaching and Learning has created a Canvas Template which provides a flexible framework with prompts, instructions, and resources to support you in developing your Canvas resource site. It is updated each semester, and facilitates everything shared in this list. You can use these step-by-step instructions to download and import a Canvas Course template. The template will be named as “Current Semester Year Canvas Course Template”, for example Fall 2023 Canvas Course template.

If you need help learning more or implementing anything in this list, please submit a help request by emailing!