Setting Up An eLearning Day
For students above a certain longitude, the pre-dawn huddle around the television (or radio, depending on your generational affiliation) tuned to the local news station is a winter ritual. However, as times change and education moves into the digital world, inclement weather may no longer be an excuse to avoid schoolwork.
Schools are experimenting with “cyber snow days”—or to be more inclusive of all regions, eLearning days. But are they really worth the trouble?
Why consider eLearning days?
When inclement weather prevents a session of school, that instructional time needs to be made up. Rather than tacking time on to the end of the school year (cue jokes about attending school well into summer, depending on the weather), offering an online alternative during the regular school day may be a viable option.
An online alternative may keep kids on track with their peers and prevent learning loss, especially in areas where one missed day quickly becomes two, three, or a whole week. It’s not only snow—disastrous flooding, hurricanes, and other warm-weather threats can have this effect as well.
How do schools set up an eLearning day?
The most important step to setting up an eLearning day is to okay it with the Department of Public Instruction first. If the DPI hasn’t approved the plan, the day might not count toward the instructional hours needed—wasting all the effort completely. The district would need to add a make-up day at the end of the year after all.
Beyond that crucial first step, school leaders must consider the following components of a cyber snow day.
Once you’ve decided to pursue the cyber snow day route, figure out what your end goal is going to be. Is it enough to provide a short assignment to promote a fraction of the engagement a normal school day offers? Manage expectations: it’s exciting to kick-off a new project, but the biggest snow sculpture once started as a tiny snowball.
Many schools are offering this option for middle- and high-school levels. Earlier grades may need to grow into the concept or explore a low-tech alternative.
How will students complete their assignments? Will they use an existing practice platform, or will they need a new system to use from home? Ensure every student has access to high-speed internet connections if creating a truly online experience. Otherwise, devise an alternative for students who may not have such access. Even reading and writing a short reaction essay is a low-tech practice alternative.
One idea to steal comes from Nekoosa, Wisconsin. The school district challenged students to spend their snow day serving neighbors and family by shoveling walks, doing household chores, and finding other ways to contribute to their community. Double check these service activities will count toward credit before suggesting them, though.
Explaining the premise
Although it might be met with some concern at first, keep families focused on the benefit of a cyber snow day: no make-up days at the end of the school year. Because inclement weather is an unexpected event, preparation will be key. Some schools have depended on social media to kick off the activities. Others may simply have an assignment in reserve or encourage students to take the assignment home and store it in a safe place in anticipation of a school cancellation.
Tracking the work
Not all students will choose to participate. Will this count against their attendance records, or simply as a missing assignment? Your answers to these questions may evolve as the process does. Once all the kinks are worked out, expectations may get a little more stringent.
We really can’t stress it enough: expectations should be kept low for the first few cyber snow days. Although the progress is a great thing, families are going to be adjusting to a very big cultural shift (goodbye, pjs-all-day and sugary cereal binges in front of cartoons). However, the payoff could be more than worth it.
And there might still be time for an afternoon snowball fight. ❄️
Originally posted on Skyward’s Advancing K12 Blog
WSIPC is a non-profit cooperative that provides technology solutions (including Skyward), services, and support to K-12 schools. WSIPC’s purpose is to help schools do more with every dollar and to empower them with the tools to work smarter.
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