Situations beyond the control of a department or program can occur where finding coverage for a faculty member who falls ill, or is otherwise no longer able to fulfill their teaching obligations during the semester becomes a necessity. For example, a faculty member may become sick during an infectious disease outbreak or have other health conditions for which teaching coverage plans are needed to allow time for recovery, and enable students to continue learning. In the event that there is time to plan, departments and programs can use various proactive approaches to ensure teaching coverage. 

Sample Coverage Strategies

Coverage strategies typically involve identifying colleagues who can serve as substitute instructors for the course.  Several examples are listed below. Departments and programs may choose variations or combinations of these approaches as appropriate.

Similar or Multi-Section Courses 

Faculty teaching such courses may pair up, or work collaboratively to cover teaching responsibilities for one another in the event that one member of the group becomes too ill to fulfill teaching obligations. In this situation it may be beneficial to norm to the extent possible what each section is doing so that faculty can easily substitute. 

Courses Differing in Content

Faculty teaching courses that involve topics for which their departmental or program colleagues do not have overlapping expertise can pair up with colleagues who have experience teaching courses with similar formats (e.g. lecture, discussion, laboratory, studio) regardless of content so that there is a substitute instructor. Faculty teaching specialized topics can examine course syllabi and propose current or modifications of learning activities that could still take place for the rest of the semester if the faculty member were to become ill, regardless of the expertise of the substitute faculty member. For example, students may still be able to finish course readings and responses, group projects, and writing assignments that were already discussed in class or are in process.   

If the original faculty member recovers prior to the end of the semester, they may still be able to grade assignments and submit final grades. 

Independent and Advanced Study Courses, Honors Theses

Faculty mentoring students in such experiences are advised to work with their mentees to develop alternate plans for finishing their projects in the event of illness, and identify another faculty mentor who could serve as a substitute mentor. 

Coverage Outside of the Department or Program 

For some programs or departments it may be preferable for faculty to pair with colleagues outside of the department or program who teach similar courses or have relevant expertise. 


For department heads and program chairs or appropriate designees:

  • Use a collaborative document and ask faculty to impute coverage information. See Google Sheet example and feel free to use or adapt. 
  • Ensure coverage for each course taught by all faculty, including full-time faculty and those with adjunct appointments. 
  • Provide all faculty access to the substitute instructor list in the event that the administrator or designee becomes ill.
  • Gather syllabi in a shared Google Drive folder as relevant or encourage faculty pairs to share syllabi and course materials with one another as soon as possible.

For faculty: 

  • Grant the substitute faculty member access to the all relevant course materials and sites such as:
  • Debrief with the substitute instructor and provide an overview of the course syllabus including remaining learning activities and assessments.

In the event that a faculty member does become ill and can no longer fulfill teaching obligations, please be advised that the department head or program chair should also inform the Dean of the Faculty. The Office of the Registrar should also be notified to ensure that the substitute instructor is listed for the course in Banner.