Record cold and the dreaded “polar vortex” resulted in several campus closures in early 2014. Many teachers were caught off guard when they lost a significant chunk of teaching time to the frigid weather; while almost everyone was affected, it especially impacted those who taught one-night-a-week courses.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to preparing for campus closures. But, as you mull over your teaching plans for spring, it might be helpful to consider these questions.
How will you communicate with students in the event of a campus closure?
You can’t assume students will drop everything and check their email or ReggieNet as soon as they hear that campus has closed. Select the best communication channel for you and be explicit both in your syllabus and in class about your expectations during official campus closures.
Should students continue to read and do assignments as scheduled?
For most, the default answer is probably, “yes.” But don’t expect your students to think along the same lines. Again, be explicit when crafting your course’s campus closure policy.
How should students contact YOU in the event of a campus closure?
If you’re going to expect students keep learning while campus is closed, isn’t it only fair to expect you to keep teaching? Consider how you will stay in contact with students when you’re stuck at home. Should students call you with questions, email, text? What will work best for you?
Can you “pre-package” one or two lessons, recorded lectures, or supplemental readings in the event of a campus closure?
This might require some “heavy lifting” ahead of time, in terms of preparation, but having these on the metaphorical shelf may make effort now worth it in the long run.
How will you deliver these lessons to your students?
Is this something that can be emailed? Or do you need to prepare something ahead of time on ReggieNet?
Can you build one or two work days into your lesson plan?
Working a little “wiggle room” into your semester plan of study is often recommended; you might want to schedule some of that cushion of time for later in the semester, to give you more options.
Can you identify one or two lessons scheduled for later in the semester that you can cut?
This is a painful one to consider, but it may be necessary to keep this in mind as a worst case scenario.
Can you plan one or more optional sessions when the class can interact and questions can be answered?
If you’re determined to stick with your initial lesson plan no matter what, you might consider scheduling extra time, sort of an “office hours plus,” where you and students can work in groups to make sure material is being covered and comprehended.
Again, there’s no cookie cutter answer to the problem of planning for weather-related closures. The team here at the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology can help you explore answers to these questions and discover unique solutions. Email CTLT@ilstu.edu to arrange a consultation with one of our coordinators or instructional designers.