On snowy days when campus is closed, your class doesn’t have to fall behind schedule; instead, use one of these alternative options to connect with your students and stay on track.
Hold a live class discussion or deliver a lecture during a synchronous class meeting using Zoom, the university’s web conferencing platform. Zoom works on either a computer or mobile device, and it’s accessible at slower Internet speeds than Google Hangouts, so most students should be able to join you in an online session with no issues.
However, if some students are unable to join your online meeting, you can record it and add it to your Blackboard course for later viewing. Just make sure that you link your Zoom and Kaltura accounts, then record your meeting as a “cloud recording.” It’ll automatically be added to your Kaltura account, and from there, you can add it to your course.
Zoom provides some advanced features you might find useful, like sharing your screen, which allows you to show documents or webpages to your students. You can also create breakout rooms, so your students will be able to work in small groups during your meeting.
Record yourself delivering a lecture for your students, and add it to your Blackboard course. If you want to record a video, you can upload it to either YouTube or Kaltura, the UMS’s video hosting platform, which is integrated with Blackboard.
If you prefer to record your lecture as a narrated presentation, consider using VoiceThread, which has the added benefit of allowing students to post audio- or video-based comments on your slides. VoiceThread allows students to view your presentation online rather than having to download it first, which can cause myriad issues.
Also, you can find streaming videos that address the topic you were going to work on in class and add them to your Blackboard course. The USM Libraries provide instructions on finding streaming videos that are available in its catalog, as well as a list of free streaming video websites.
Set up asynchronous discussions
Post discussion questions or prompts, and ask students to respond to them within a set timeframe. Blackboard discussion forums are one option for hosting your class discussion, but VoiceThread is an alternative that allows students to record their responses as audio or video.
In addition, some faculty have reported good results hosting discussions through social media channels like Google Chat or Twitter, while others prefer to use collaborative document applications like Google Docs or the web-hosted version of Microsoft Word (i.e., Office 365, which anyone with a Maine.edu account can access for free).
To prepare to provide alternative snow-day activities for your students, we recommend the following:
- Adopt a plan at the beginning of the term, and list it in your syllabus so students know what to expect and have an opportunity to test out the technologies you’ll be using before they’re needed.
- Remember that if campus is closed, the Help Desk is unavailable; therefore, you and your students won’t be able to call on it for technical support. To help bridge this gap, CTEL has created student guides for VoiceThread and Zoom, which you can share if you decide to use either of these applications.
- Keep in mind that communities around our state often experience power and/or Internet outages. If conditions are exceptionally severe or persist for many days, consider providing flexible due dates or alternative assignment options.
Don’t hesitate to consult with one of CTEL’s learning designers if you want to experiment with new technologies for snow-day alternatives or if you’d like advice on how to integrate them into your course.