RAP ON: A Crisis Preparedness Kit for Educators

About the author: Sydney Tran is a Health Psychology PhD student studying the effects of objectification on women’s well-being. She is passionate about equity, diversity, and inclusivity in improving mental health and well-being. This is part of our series of Research Advancing Pedagogy (RAPblogs, designed to share the latest pedagogical research from across the disciplines in a pragmatic format.

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) provide individuals with new means of distributing and receiving content. The growing number of ICTs has been particularly popular in higher education institutions as instructors enhance students’ learning experience through the use of ICTs. A recent pedagogical trend has been to replace traditional face-to-face (F2F) learning strategies with “blended learning”, blending F2F learning with web-based activities (Garrison & Kanuka, 2004; Lopez-Perez, Perez-Lopez, & Rodriguez-Ariza, 2010). As ICT advancement continues and gains popularity in its relation to blended learning and e-learning, many researchers are reporting best practices for optimizing the use of ICTs in student learning (Azizan, 2010; Garrison & Kanuka, 2004; Qu, Wang, Liu, & Zhang, 2008). However, much of the current literature focuses on the long-term, systematic development of pedagogical tools and considerations associated with using ICTs for blended and online learning. Research on the implementation of blended learning and switch to online learning in times of emergencies and crises are sparse, and this becomes an issue when institutions, instructors, and students are ill- prepared when an emergency strikes (Mackey, Gilmore, Dabner, Breeze, & Buckley, 2012).

What did they do?

In 2010, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the Canterbury region of New Zealand and was followed by several large aftershocks throughout 2011. While no buildings collapsed and no serious injuries occurred on the University of Canterbury (UC) campus, the university was forced to close for several weeks. Many buildings were closed temporarily for reconstructions, while others were closed indefinitely. During this time, faculty members collaborated to revise and redesign current teaching methodologies to adapt F2F courses to be conducted online. In a time of uncertainty and panic, five educators from the UC gathered and employed a quick- response research (QRR) method to discuss, record, and reflect on their experiences as they were redesigning their teaching strategies. Quick-response research may be most useful in times of emergencies or crises because it focuses on “understanding the meaning of exceptional events or daily events in exceptional circumstances from the perspectives of those being studied” (Michaels, 2003). In the case of the Canterbury earthquake, implementation of the QRR method allowed the educators to actively record their experiences as the post-earthquake environment continued to change. A thematic analysis was then conducted to understand the common themes of the educators’ concerns and experiences.

What did they find?

The thematic analysis of the educators’ accounts indicated four common themes: communication, learning design, community, and teaching and learning spaces associated with four distinct phases of response. Phase 1 spanned three weeks, during which the university was closed, and was characterized by a preparation for the recommencement of teaching. During this phase, educators first experienced an initial reaction to the emergency situation and underwent a recovery process before beginning the process of redesigning the teaching and learning space.

Communication was the top priority and greatest challenge throughout this phase because although the university did not experience any infrastructural damage, major city damages left many staff and students without power (limiting telephone and Internet access). Phase 2 was said to last about one month and was characterized by the recommencement of teaching. Some educators launched courses to be completely online and others implemented blended learning by assigning web-based activities to complement on-campus F2F sessions in tents. Given the overwhelming post-earthquake circumstances, educators were met with the challenge of creating an environment conducive to learning, while being mindful of the diverse fears and experiences of the students. Phase 3 was characterized by continued adaptations and redesigns during times of greater uncertainty. The Canterbury region continued to experience large aftershocks throughout 2011 that further damaged some city infrastructures and led many students and their families to leave town. During this phase, the campus had reopened and many courses began F2F sessions again. To accommodate the diversity of circumstances each student was facing, the university did not mandate attendance, and instead, encouraged students to “manage their own blend of learning experiences by opting into campus or online classes depending on their circumstances and irrespective of their official course enrollment status” (Mackey et al., 2012).

Phase 4 of response to this particular emergency situation is characterized by a review and reflection of the experience of redesigning a course in a condensed time-frame. The authors describe this final stage to be on-going, in which faculty and staff interact with other institutions, organizations, and colleagues to collaboratively develop a resilient teaching program that is well- prepared for any future unplanned interruptions.

What does this mean for us?

 While the emergency situations are non-identical, the instructional challenges that many educators have faced and continue to face amid the current COVID-19 pandemic parallel those encountered by the educators of the UC, namely: the need to juggle several roles (e.g., parent, sibling, instructor, etc.), the inability to access office and teaching resources, establishing and/or maintaining supportive relationships with others, all while being mindful of students’ diverse needs and circumstances in relation to the emergency situation. In reflecting on the educational obstacles associated with the Canterbury earthquake, instructors at the UC found that willingness to collaboratively address the challenges and document the teaching changes made the institution, as a whole (i.e., instructors, staff, and students), more resilient to future academic adversity in times of crises.

Mackey et al. (2012) concluded their paper by highlighting several key questions to consider when preparing instructors and students for a switch to blended or remote learning in an emergency or crisis. These questions, complemented with the personal accounts of how UC educators addressed them, should be taken into consideration as department and institution heads address their own academic program challenges associated with the pandemic. In doing so, institutions will ensure that its educators are well-equipped to triage future academic interruptions.


Azizan, F. A. (2010). Blended learning in higher education institution in Malaysia. Proceedings of Regional Conference on Knowledge Integration in ICT. (Vol. 10, pp. 454-466).

Garrison, D. R. & Kanuka, H. (2004). Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education. Internet and Higher Education, 7(2), 95-105. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2004.02.001

Lopez-Perez, M. V., Perez-Lopez, M. C., & Rodriguez-Ariza, L. (2011). Blended learning in higher education: Students’ perceptions and their relation to outcomes. Computers & Education, 56(3), 818-826. doi:10.1016/j.compedu2010.10.023

Mackey, J., Gilmore, F., Dabner, N., Breeze, D., & Buckley, P. (2012). Blended learning for academic resilience in times of disaster or crisis. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 8(2), 35-48.

Qu, Y., Wang, C., Liu, F., & Zhang, X. (2008). Blended learning applying in university education. In International Conference on Hybrid Learning, Hong Kong.

I am a Health Psychology PhD student studying the effects of sexualization on women’s well-being. I am passionate about equity, diversity, and inclusivity in improving mental health and well-being.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Leave a Reply