If you are snowbound and need to move some of your instruction out of class, the Center for Teaching & Learning Instructional Technologists are here to help you strategize and get started. There is a plethora of activities you and your students can engage in outside of class to help fill in the gaps left by the missed face-to-face periods. These activities break down into two distinct categories: synchronous (you and the students working together at the same time), and asynchronous (working together — or individually — on your own time). Below are some tool categories and examples to help you start developing such catch-up activities:
Discussion boards: These are a great way to get students discussing a topic in writing. They work best for open-ended discussions rather than for content delivery. The Blackboard discussion board is a versatile tool, and a great choice if you already use Blackboard, since you can integrate a rubric and link directly to your course’s grade book.
If you have a small class, conduct a discussion by email. Assign a reading and have students discuss via “reply all.” This might be useful on those occasions when Blackboard is offline.
Instructor guides for creating and managing discussion boards.
Online collaborative writing: Blogs (like QWriting) and wikis (like Blackboard’s Wiki Tool) are great ways to get students to write collaboratively about a topic related to your course. You can also unleash your students on the collaborative spaces available through Google Docs or Google Slides, which permit some of the most sophisticated real-time collaboration tools we have seen.
Prepare back-up plans for any type of (not just weather-related) cancellation. Include them in your syllabus as “Contingency plan I, II, and III” etc. They could be as simple as “the research bibliography search gets moved to an earlier date;” a specific questionnaire on an article; or “share your favorite subject-author or theory and contest it or explain it.”
Blackboard Collaborate is a video conferencing tool that you can use to record lectures. See below for its use as a virtual classroom.
Online real-time class sessions can be run with any of the following:
Blackboard Collaborate (within Blackboard, best for classes, no limit on participants, linked to courses). For best results, have practice sessions early in the semester: have students bring their devices to class and test the system during class time.
Moderator (aka Faculty) Guides
Guides for Participants (Student Users)
What about a low-tech plan?
Maybe you’re not ready to try one of the strategies above. You should still plan ahead, and specify in your syllabus and discuss in class what students should do in the event of a cancellation, planned or unplanned.
According to the Queens College policy on missed classes, your department chair must approve planned absences in advance, and you should notify your department chair as soon as possible regarding an unplanned cancellation. You are responsible for arranging a makeup class (which must be different from the date of the final examination), so pick a makeup day in advance and put it on your syllabus as a placeholder. Then consider what a change in the schedule could mean for assignments coming up later in the semester: you will need to adjust due dates.
Also be sure that you tell your students where to look for information about emergencies: encourage them to sign up for CUNY A!ert, and remind them that the QC website will post updates on the front page and on its Emergency Preparedness page, as well as via QC Facebook and QC Twitter.
Where to go for help:
Don’t feel you need to have the most sophisticated plan in place: try something you are familiar with. But if you want to try something new and want some advice, contact us. CTL’s Instructional Technologists have the following expertise:
Blogs and wikis, Google, Blackboard: Rob Garfield (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lecture capturing and podcasting: Jean Kelly (email@example.com)
Google Tools for Education (GSuite): Rachel Stern (firstname.lastname@example.org)