Benefits, barriers, and incentives for improved resilience to disruption in university teaching

Jacqueline Dohaney*, Mairéad de Róiste, Rhian A. Salmon, Kathryn Sutherland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pandemics, earthquakes, fire, war, and other disasters place universities at risk. Disasters can disrupt learning and teaching (L&T) for weeks to months or longer. Some institutions have developed business continuity plans to protect key organisational services and structures, allowing L&T to continue. However, little research touches on how academics, learners, and communities of practice might respond before, during, and after disasters and how their resilience to disruption can be fostered to reduce impacts on L&T. In this research, we investigated academics’ perceptions of building resilience to major L&T disruptions in the New Zealand context. Specifically, we explored how academics characterise a resilient academic and institution, and identified the benefits, barriers, and incentives to building resilience. We used a pragmatic theoretical approach with a mixed methods methodology, to categorise the results within three distinct levels (individual, school/department, and institution), supporting the design and implementation of resilience-building strategies for academics and institutional leaders. We found that support, community, leadership, and planning at universities are critical in building and inhibiting resilience. Participants reported several ‘high impact’ incentives, addressing multiple barriers, that could be used to kick-start resilience. Online and flexible learning are key opportunities for resilience-building, but universities should not underestimate the importance of face-to-face interactions between staff and learners. Our results provide a strong starting point for practitioners and researchers aiming to understand how universities can foster resilience to major disruptions and disasters on university teaching.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101691
JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
Early online date29 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • academic continuity
  • academic development
  • business continuity
  • disruption
  • resilience


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