Pre-Course Planning

Instructors should speak with their department/division prior to the start of classes about policies and procedures governing the administration of courses (e.g. grading and grade reporting policies including important sessional dates, procedures relating to instructor absences, etc.).

Instructors should consider the following in designing resilient courses:


  • Be sure to have a course syllabus prepared in advance of your first class meeting.  CTSI staff members are available to assist in the development of course/instructor procedures that align with institutional policies.  Guidance on developing a course syllabus is available here. You may also wish to speak to your department/division as some units have developed syllabus templates which instructors are asked to use.
  • Post the syllabus on your course site (e.g. Portal) to ensure that students have ongoing access to this important document.
  • Provide a copy of your final syllabus to your department.


  • Instructors are asked to provide copies of their tests and exams to the department/division in advance of their scheduled date. This will allow departments/divisions to administer the tests or exams in the event that an instructor is absent due to any unforeseen circumstance.
  • Instructors are reminded of the University of Toronto Grading Practices Policy, which states that “Student performance in a course shall be assessed on more than one occasion. No one essay, test, examination, etc. should have a value of more than 80% of the grade. ” At the same time, it specifies that “At least one piece of term work which is a part of the evaluation of a student performance, whether essay, lab report, review, etc., shall be returned to the student prior to the last date for withdrawal from the course without academic penalty.”  The inclusion of multiple points of evaluation in the design of a course will make it possible to drop and re-weight assignments if required.
  • Please keep in mind that the U of T Grading Practices Policy states that “after the methods of evaluation have been made known the instructor may not change them or their relative weight without the consent of a simple majority of students attending the class, provided the vote is announced no later than in the previous class.  Any changes must be reported to the division or the department, or in the case of graduate courses, the graduate unit (B, 1.3). However, if a disruption is declared by the Provost or Academic Board more flexible procedures may be implemented. The full University Assessment and Grading Practices Policy is available online.
  • An important element of resiliency in course design is the capacity to administer class activities or assignments remotely. You may wish to consider designing your course so that a portion of assignments and activities can be or are delivered through alternative means such as the Portal. Further information on these tools can be found below.

Consider how you will communicate with the students in your class if you are ill or in the event of unexpected circumstances. This might be through email or the communication tools on the Portal. Identify the necessary information you or your students will need to be able to use these means of communication effectively (e.g. home access to a computer, email addresses, familiarity with the Portal, etc.) and ensure that there is a plan in place to discuss this information with students early on in the course.

Know who to contact in your department or division and what procedure to follow if you fall ill or in the case of other unforeseen events. Please also see “Resources” below for links to additional pedagogical and administrative support services.