More weathuh, less class time

If classes are delayed or canceled, do you have contingency plans using Blackboard or any online tools? Do you compensate ‘seat time’ with online engagement? My guess is that a few of you are, but most of us aren’t.

What have we learned about our preparedness and our response to environmental extremes? How would we hold classes if there was, say, an avian flu outbreak? How would you conduct your courses? Could you?

I ask not to provoke but to think. Many of us in administrative roles spend a lot of time preparing for a wide range of emergencies. We do many ‘what if’ scenarios. Emergency and disaster planning are now core to what we do.

What is your classroom 'what if?'.

This year, I’m afraid all we did was cancel classes. If I was a PSU student or parent, I might be asking for more. They’re paying for it and we have the tools.

16 thoughts on “More weathuh, less class time

  1. My approach to the "'what if' classes don't meet", for reasons of weather or whatever, is to "press on - regardless (POR)". This requires a prior semester "lesson plan" (on the web, of course) with links to the course material. Any student who feels like they're getting short-changed can still find plenty of reading to keep the flow going. Besides, much of the function of the lecture is simply to bring the material to life and to show it's connection with relevant contemporary issues, but missing a lecture (or 4!) does not have to bring the course to a stand-still. This POR approach does not achieve perfection, but it maintains the forward inertia.

  2. I have a note in my syllabi: if class is cancelled, please go to Blackboard for an assignment. Thus, while I've had to revise my schedules quite a bit, I do not feel students have missed much material.

    This is a good example of the problem of measuring class time by seat time. So much teaching occurs outside of the classroom and can be taught using Blackboard. I've had students engage in the readings in new ways, take on new assignments, write articles for the Clock, etc. At least in teaching history, seat time isn't a measure of learning.

  3. I've been preparing assignments & activtites that must be completed prior to the next class and sending these assignments to my students via email. It's required more reading on my part to correct & grade written assignments, but at least it's keeping them on-track with the content I hope to cover, and forcing them to demonstrate their understanding of materials. It's also allows me to modify subsequent lectures, focusing on points that need reinforcement, as demonstrated by their written responses.

  4. I have been luck enough not to be impacted by cancellations this year. I put all my lecture notes on-line in Blackboard, timed to be released right before class. I could then take questions via email or other means.

  5. I emailed my class with lecture notes. I will catch up with them--seat time does not necessarily equate with "less than what they paid for" that is a model which needs to be put to rest already. Lecture time does not equate with learning!

  6. I don't know about anyone else, but I have been able to increase my practice and composing time tenfold this semester. I am one productive dude!

    I love New Hampshire!!!


    Rik P

  7. I've been wondering the same thing, Dwight. My classes (both literature) are in the afternoon, so I haven't lost as much class time as some of my colleagues. When my classes were canceled, I sent an email to all students notifying them that I had posted a discussion question in Blackboard with a deadline a couple of hours prior to next class. I try to come up with a question that will test their knowledge and understanding of the day's assignment. When appropriate, I might also use the Learning Module section of Blackboard to post some additional content.

    In the case of an avian flu epidemic or some other disaster, I would transfer as much course content as I possibly could to Blackboard. If it happened once the semester got underway it would be a difficult task, but that is the best alternative I can see for my classes.

  8. After Spring of 2005, when we missed several class days, I started putting a line on my syllabus saying that if classes were cancelled for any reason, students should check Blackboard (then WebCT) for an assignment. I talk this up when I review the syllabus and remind them of it when a storm is coming. This semester I've used it to good effect on several occasions. I send an email on, put a pop-up announcement on Blackboard, and post an assignment. I've had about 2/3 compliance, I'd say. I don't post an assignment in every case, but I always write. Although I'm hardly a techie, I really appreciate the ability to contact and direct my classes remotely. --Becky Noel

  9. I have been fortunate to only teach a one credit lab, which meets at 11am on Thursdays. I have missed all of the weather related delays and cancellations (knock on wood!). It seems as though most of the delays have happened on a Tuesday or Wednesday... strange.

    Unfortunately, my class being a lab is almost completely hands-on. The students must be in class in order to take the class. There is a lecture part to my section. That can be on-line or blended. I wouldn't know what to do if my class was suspended for an extended amount of time.


  10. Thanks for posting this important topic. I do tell students at the start of the semester to check their email and Blackboard if class is cancelled due to weather. However, I am often disappointed with the outcome of such a "plan." At our next class meeting, many students tell me that either Blackboard or Myplymouth "were down," or that they didn't get the email from me in time to do the assignment, etc., which is frustrating for me to hear. (There is also a decent number of students who actually *do* the assignment). I have even started posting messages to students on Facebook because I want to eliminate legit and illegit excuses for not getting work done when class doesn't meet. So, I do have a plan in place, but I need to find a way to feel empowered to enforce completion of the assignments that I develop in lieu of class meeting. I have found that relying on technology simply produces more excuses rather than more productivity.

  11. Hello,
    I write to provoke. I'm irritated that every time we get a little weather that we cheat our students out of what they are entitled to. If not everyone can get here because of weather, it hardly follows that the vast majority should be locked out of class. Today, I cannot understand the cancellation. I drove around all morning and then came forty minutes to Plymouth with no problem at all. We work very hard to teach responsibility to students, to encourage them to attend class, to complete assignments, to meet deadlines, and then the institution makes it as difficult as possible.
    Bob Egbert

  12. I have supplemented the course content with additional readings and a great deal more required threaded discussions on BlackBoard! These additional electronic discussions have resulted in more thoughtful submissions and included those students who are reluctant to contribute in a live classroom discussion. The lost seat time has also forced me to be more creative and efficient with the time we do have together.

    Thanks for the chance to share!
    Holly O.

  13. Since I started at PSU in 2001 (then PSC), Blackboard and WebCT have saved my curriculum time and time again. Snow days, migraines, funerals, flat tires, and having a baby no longer pose such a threat to my courses. I can post my lecture notes, upload a quiz, facilitate a discussion, moderate a chat, or transfer an assignment to my online course component.

    Barring a blackout or a hostile take-over, I can think of no circumstance under which we can't offer our students a valuable learning experience when classes are canceled. The key is to being familiar with what Blackboard has to offer before the snow falls.

  14. I have asked a few colleagues about this and they don't really know what to make of the situation either. I thought that a discussion at a Faculty meeting might be in order.
    Bryon Middlekauff

  15. As much as possible, I have tried to update students after cancellations and make additional reading/writing assignments via email. I know this sounds a bit "old fashioned," but the only way I have used Blackboard so far is for reserved reading assignments (particularly for FYS). The other classes that I teach are studio classes; pretty unrealistic to do hands on projects via the web!

  16. I just shift it all online. I haven't had to change my syllabus a bit - thanks to the folks in IT! 🙂

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