University of Southern California

Learning Design & Technology

Advancing USC's strategic vision for teaching with technology

Plan B Assignments

The purpose of a “Plan B assignment” is to enable courses to continue online in the event of a crisis that necessitates campus closure and prohibits faculty and students from meeting face to face. The C3 (Course Continuity in a Crisis) program, funded by the Office of the Provost, awarded grants to faculty for the development and testing of Plan B assignments.

Plan B Assignment Video

To help you get started, LD&T created a video overview of Plan B assignments:

Preferred Assignment Types and Features

The following guidelines and assignment types are based on the collective experience of C3 grantees and their students. If you would like assistance in preparing a Plan B assignment, please email us at

Engaging assignment types

  • Project-based tasks that students create, build, or author
  • Group projects in which students work in teams of two to six and receive peer feedback
  • Projects driven by student choice, initiative, curiosity, and interest
  • Projects thematically related to a possible emergency

Successful and effective assignments

  • include student feedback structured by the instructor and consistently used throughout the course
  • leverage existing online media (videos, blog posts, data sets) that students can critique, replicate, and build upon
  • simulate a professional activity related to the discipline
  • include formative assessments by requiring timely and periodic feedback by both peers and instructors to help offsite students achieve academic goals
  • engage students by providing tangible benefits to the larger community, promising a real-world value in the case of an actual emergency, and offering students a situated and authentic learning experience

Guidelines for Implementing a Plan B Assignment

  • Before an emergency happens, activate your Blackboard course.
  • Describe the Plan B assignment to students at the beginning of the semester and consider adding information about it to your syllabus.
  • Familiarize yourself and your students with the technologies to be used for the Plan B assignment.
  • Provide clear expectations for student participation in synchronous online meetings and completion of asynchronous online activities.
  • Provide timely feedback.
  • Hold virtual office hours via such options as Skype or Google+ Hangouts to provide opportunities for student contact.
  • When classes resume on campus, debrief with students to understand what worked and what did not work about the online/offsite Plan B assignment.


Faculty have used the following technologies to implement Plan B assignments:

  • synchronous, live audio teleconferencing over phone systems and/or Internet-based videoconferencing (e.g., Adobe Connect, Skype, Google+ Hangouts, etc.)
  • collaboration, document and file sharing, online discussion and peer review tools (e.g., Google Docs, Blackboard Groups and Discussion Boards, VoiceThread, etc.)
  • a publishing platform (e.g.,, Twitter, etc.)
  • video and multimedia hosting platforms (e.g., YouTube, Flickr, etc.).