Back to Campus – planning for contingencies

As we look to creating positive learning and teaching conditions for 2022, our stated objective is to build a positive on campus experience. That being said, the last two-years have taught us to expect the unexpected and to our credit we’ve all learnt to do the ‘agile pivot’ when confronting new contingencies: “A future event or circumstance which is possible but cannot be predicted with certainty.”

There are some general principles that apply to contingency planning and to the best of our ability the ANU will do what it can to establish common support strategies that improve the likelihood of learning and teaching continuity in the face of disruption. When addressing an unexpected circumstance the best approach is to have a prepared plan that’s been communicated and to some extent practiced in readiness for the event when/if it arises. 

It would be rare that a disruptive event requires a brand new set of skills to meet the emerging challenge. In this respect a ‘contingency plan’ need not require atypical solutions outside of expectations. More typically, the plan will simply outline ‘reasonable adjustments’ that can be adopted as needs be.

  1. Some basics first. Start your contingency planning knowing “We are working towards a safe and vibrant campus in 2022 that delivers an excellent experience for staff and students.” Then, keep yourself informed of the latest campus-wide messaging as interpreted through your local area – as they will make decisions relevant to your work. The COVID-19 Advice page is a critical communication tool that provides an obvious reference point for timely information. Similarly, On Campus lands in your ANU inbox each Tuesday and provides a COVID wrap-up. And, download the ANUOK app and turn push notifications on to receive urgent updates.
  2. Learning and teaching is a partnership. The Code of practice for teaching and learning confirms the importance of two-way communication in working as partners to achieve the satisfaction that comes from building a positive course experience. The University also plays its role in ensuring coherently-structured learning activities are organised and delivered in a manner appropriate to the needs of students – helping them to make informed academic decisions by providing clear, timely, reliable and accessible information in advance of needs.  
  3. The formality of a ‘contingency plan’ will be appropriate to its need – sufficient enough to ensure our students have every chance of adapting to circumstances in a way that minimises disruptions to their learning. Continuity of teaching is the goal. The scale of a disruption will vary, from minor to major, and accordingly the contingency plan will accommodate the range of possibilities. 
  4. Already mentioned, the need to communicate with students is paramount to the success of a contingency plan. While there are alternative communication channels, the University-wide conduit is WATTLE. It is reasonable to think that students seeking course related information would look to WATTLE for the most specific information pertaining to their study arrangements, including assessment details that may have been altered through implementation of the contingency plan.

The refrain we’ve all appreciated over the past two years still plays loudly: we’re all in this together. Please reach out. Your support units (both College and Central) are here to help. For more specific details on developing your contingency plan please follow this link.

February 2022

Tim Grace, is the Manager of the Education Communities and Environments (ECE) team – one of the three teams within the ANU Centre for Learning & Teaching (CLT).