What kid doesn’t love a snow day? School is canceled, so you get to stay home and play, with no homework to catch up on. Maybe Mom or Dad will even stay home with you if they can’t get to work, or if they want to keep an eye on you. If your best friend lives down the block, all the better!
According to an Associations Now article by Ernie Smith (So Long, Snow Days? School Groups Say Telecommuting Works for Students, Too), though, kids may still be held to educational expectations, even when the snow won’t stop or temperatures linger below zero. I don’t think I’m putting words in the mouths of babes (and, truth be told, many of their teachers) when I say: Sad face.
eLearning may take the place of snow days, and already has begun to do so in some school districts across the country. In fact, a law passed in Ohio that allows school districts to replace days off with online instruction and activities. Notably, the measure also calls for extra time to complete assignments, a move added to help students without technology resources at home. The Pascack Valley Regional High School in New Jersey began offering online education in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
After the winter we’ve had here in Wisconsin, which may still have a rough day or two up its sleeve, a plan like this could be beneficial. As a former teacher, I can tell you from experience—It’s a real drag to have so many snow and cold days that the school year has to be extended into the summer break. Students respond better to lessons and engage more fully in learning when they are happy to be in school, than when they know they could be outside enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. It takes every teaching tool you’ve got available to be more attractive than summer.
So in some ways, including eLearning as an alternative to traditional school, as a last resort, solves problems. Instructor-led, in-person training is always best. In times when that model is untenable, though, eLearning can be a viable alternative.
At least, for some subjects. I can see a history or English class working well virtually. Discussions could take a place via chat or Skype and material could be covered. But what about gym, chemistry, or choir? Some classes require participation of a different sort to be most effective.
Most teachers I know have a few rainy-day lesson plans ready in case of disruption, through school assembly, weather delay, or some other factor beyond their control. Even the most participatory class (I taught middle school band—not a great fit for eLearning) can find something to do in a pinch.
My suggestion, then, is for schools to use the snow days they have built into the schedule and employ eLearning programs if schools are closed beyond those few days. It’s not a perfect solution, but it keeps the fun of snow days and the necessity of a continuing, comprehensive education for children.
What are your thoughts? Are eLearning options a good idea for adult continuing education? It’s not just kids that miss out on learning opportunities when snow falls, after all. Omnipress offers blended learning materials for your association’s learners, so class can still take place, even if Mother Nature decides it’s time to wreak some havoc.