Return to Learning After a Disruption

There are several things to consider as you return to your courses following an extended disruption like a hurricane. The information below is a guide to provide approaches and considerations for both yourself and your students as you adjust your semester plans.

Self Care

  • First, take a moment to evaluate your needs and ability to return to class. If you are unable to return as scheduled, notify your department chair and share your situation, needs and concerns.

  • For additional support, professional counselors for faculty and staff are available through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) by visiting Magellan Health Care Resources. We urge anyone who needs extra support to take advantage of these services. If you have questions about the program, please get in touch with USF Human Resources.

Adjusting the Semester: 

As you start planning on how best to return, consider the following to adjust for the lost time. 

  1. Review your content and assignment plans, keeping your focus on the overall Student Learning Outcomes for the course. Consider picking up where you left off before the disruption.
  2. Focus on the learning experiences, practices, and activities most important for student’s academic development. 
    1. This likely means reducing some of the content covered in the course. Remember, students often cannot recall all details of a prior course under the best of circumstances. Given the limits of finite cognitive load and limited hours of the day, students may struggle if required to complete all of the original planned content.
    2. Some content can be lightly explored, especially pieces that are reinforced in future courses.
    3. Consider how student learning outcomes can be most simply achieved and assessed. Assignments or smaller projects may be more useful than larger exams.
  3. Adjust due dates and assignment/exam dates, allowing time as necessary for students to return to learning.
    1.  You may elect to reduce or drop smaller assignments or condense multiple units into single exam. In condensing, focus on the major points and themes that students need to meet the learning outcomes of the course.
  4. Adjust the semester to reduce your own stress, and that of your students. Be mindful of the emotional stresses existing on you and your students as you adjust your semester. Remember students are adjusting all of their courses at the same time.
  5. Continue to be flexible with individual students that may be dealing with greater losses and challenges from the disruption.

Connect with Students

  1. Message students with expectations for the pending return so they can prepare as well. Specific details about changes can be shared during class sessions.
  2. As you meet again with your students, consider opening space to process the experiences of the disruption. Consider how these experiences or events relate to your specific discipline or course topics.
  3. Share resources such as USF Counseling Center available on Tampa/Sarasota-Manatee at 813-974-2831 24/7 by selecting option “3” after business hours and St. Pete Counseling Services:  727-873-4422 (Option 2). USF also provides students all day 24/7 free mental health services with professionals through the TalkNow service
  4. If a student reaches out and tells you they are impacted in a way that will make it impossible to continue classes, inform them of their options for incomplete or a withdrawal with cause.  You can submit a SOS referral or suggest they can contact the SOS office to discuss a withdrawal with cause.
  5. Students who are experiencing academic, financial, or personal hardships due to Hurricane Idalia should use this link to connect with the Dean of Students office.  

Submit Syllabus Changes

Note any significant changes to your syllabus, including major adjustments to course assignments and grading practices that benefit student success. Be sure to file an updated syllabus with your academic department, along with the original syllabus already on file.

Contact CITL

As you develop your plan or start putting it into practice, reach out to CITL for help, questions and advice at