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How to Snow-Proof Your Course

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The snow we had early in January could just be the beginning of our winter weather this semester…

So, what steps can you take to ensure that you won’t lose valuable time? If the university has canceled classes, you have two main options; hold class online synchronously during your normal time, or provide resources for your students to take the place of your class. Which one is best for you?

There are several tools available for you to hold your class online rather than in-person. These tools can allow for direct instructions, discussion and small group work:

  • Blackboard Collaborate is our most powerful tool for online synchronous learning. It can allow more than 50 participants to be connected and small group “rooms” can be created. If your typical class revolves around direct instruction and then discussion, this tool can easily meet your needs. You can even upload your PowerPoint and have whiteboarding tools available.
  • Google Hangouts is a great tool for small groups (less than 15 participants) primarily based on discussion. Google Hangouts is easy to use, quick to get running, and it allows for a more “in-person feel” that can be important to your class. Google Hangouts relies heavily on your webcam and unless you’re using “Hangouts-On-Air,” it does not record your session.

Sometimes during bad weather everyone can’t be online at the same time. Utilize these tools to still generate discussion and disseminate information to your students:

  • Voicethread is a great tool to get audio responses from your students to discussion questions. You can even upload your entire Powerpoint or just some slides/images that evoke your question and students can respond to you or each other.  We have Voicethread accounts available at the college (here), however, accounts have to be created ahead of time. Since you may need to make a last minute decision during snow days, you and your students can still make free accounts at ​Voicethread and they can be transferred to our server later.
  • Using tools like Screencast-o-matic or Quicktime, you can record your instruction for students to watch while snowed in. Try to keep your videos to less than 10 minutes and don’t worry about what you sound like! These are quick and simple videos that are created just-in-time. Post them to Moodle and follow up with a discussion board posting.

Remember, context is important and some classes may prefer one style of teaching over another. Think about these possibilities before winter weather hits and you can enjoy your snow day without worrying about keeping your class on track. 

Bethany V. Smith is the Director of METRC: Media and Education Technology Resource Center for the College of Education. As Director of METRC, Bethany facilitates workshops in the college, teaches an undergraduate class on on technology integration as well as works with faculty and staff on their teaching practices.