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Melt Away Snow Days with Online Learning
Mia Major

Tell your students to cover their ears — online learning could bring an end to snow days. The highly anticipated long weekends, mid-week breaks, and extra study days in the winter months could be replaced with what schools across the country are calling "e-learning days." E-learning days are moving classroom lessons, which would have otherwise been missed, online until inclement weather passes.

Looking to trump the effects of Mother Nature, there are hundreds of schools from Minnesota to Pennsylvania who have implemented e-learning days as a solution to constant inclement weather. For example, schools in Indiana are allotted an average of five inclement weather days for the entire winter season, but are averaging double-digit snow days — meaning without e-learning days, students would be making up in-classroom days far into June, or important learning lessons would take a back seat.

Although e-learning days are catching on in public and independent schools alike, the majority of schools across the country still close their doors during winter's worst for one reason or another. However, if your school is interested in using online learning as an antidote for excessive snow days, here's what you'll need.

Enable push notifications.

Safety first! Holding e-learning days in place of snow days is a huge step in the right direction. But this shift will take some getting used to. Enabling push notifications via Alerts and PagePops will ensure your constituents are getting the message about what's happening on campus during inclement weather. And if your school uses a mobile app, sending push notifications is even easier.

Here's a plus: push notifications are great even if your school can't implement e-learning days. Making students, faculty and parents aware of a snow day, early dismissal, or cancelled classes will help them prepare and find safe transportation.


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Use an online learning management system.

Successful e-learning days are hosted in an online learning environment. While social media, Skype, and email can add to the online learning experience, they are no replacement for an online classroom.

When you have a Learning Management System (LMS) you'll be able to track attendance, post bulletins, share assignments, collaborate in discussions, and share resources — meaning you can mirror your entire in-class lecture in an online environment. Here's how you can use each piece of an LMS to your advantage to make the most of an e-leaning day:

Attendance: In the Finalsite LMS specifically, teachers can mark students as present, absent, or late right online.

Bulletins: Post assignments, due dates, and important information right online for students to see.

Assignments: Ask students to submit their work for the e-learning day online by a certain time to prove they were engaged with the day's lecture.

Media: Teachers can upload an audio or video file of their lecture to their online classroom to mirror a classroom experience.

Discussions: Part of the in-class experience is engaging with peers and asking questions. Using online discussion boards, parents and teachers can engage in thought-provoking discussions related to the lecture topic.

Resources: Teachers can post links, videos, and PDFs in online resource folders for students to access to successfully complete their assignment.

Training, training, training!

Do your students know how to submit assignments via DropBox? Do parents know how to send a teacher a message in regards to the online assignment? Can faculty record and upload a video lecture without help?

Whether you already have an LMS in place (or plan on launching one in the near future), ensuring that all constituents are aware of the tools available to them and how to use them will ensure a successful e-learning day.

At the beginning of the semester host separate training events for students, faculty, and parents to show how your school's LMS will be used in the event of an e-learning day. That way, when an e-learning day occurs — spontaneously or planned — all your constituents will know what to do to stay connected.


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