This past week, my doctoral course was cancelled due to incredible snowfall – practically five inches! (Readers from northern areas, feel free to snicker at this point). The challenge was compounded in my case because I had to schedule an online class for the following class session due to conference travel. This meant that I wouldn’t see my students for two weeks. I needed a plan to keep the students moving forward on schedule.
Some options to consider
Fortunately, a number of possibilities occurred to me:
1. Record and share a lecture – This can be great for lecture-heavy courses. New tools enable you to capture audio with slides, or even embedded video clips of the professor along with the slides.
2. Structure additional readings and online discussion prompts – When students can do some additional reading in lieu of meeting for class, this approach can be the simplest to implement.
3. Offer a seminar-style audio or videoconference via Skype or Google Hangout – When “meeting” with your students is critical, common interactive tools can serve as an effective proxy for face-to-face discussion. This of course only works with a relatively small class.
4. Design an independent learning experience with some sort of product (paper, reflection, essay) as a culminating activity – This approach is similar to #2, but can include a variety of sources and potential “deliverables.” When studying copyright and fair use policies, I once had my students create a handout that they could distribute to their own students that hit the salient points of fair use.
5. Offer individual check-in sessions via Skype or Google Hangouts – In some cases - particularly if students are working on long-term projects during the semester – individual check-ins with students can be very productive. Again, this is more realistic for smaller classes. One variation of this is “virtual office hours” in a Google Hangout where students can drop in if they need to talk with you.
Any of these options would have enabled me to move things forward and preserve my “precious” schedule. In my case, recording and sharing a lecture or offering a seminar-style videoconference would have worked best given my relatively small class size (12 students). In order to choose between the two, I had to think about what would help me to cover the selected topics with the most fidelity.
In this case, the topic was one I had planned to introduce and build on in future sessions. Therefore, I’m not sure a seminar style class would have been as productive for this particular session compared with the later follow-up session. For this reason, I chose to do a screencast recording of my slides to introduce the topic.
To record a presentation in this style, I had three primary tools to choose from: QuickTime Recorder, Screenflow, or a new offering from Microsoft called Office Mix. Screenflow offers great options for screen sharing, recording video, editing, and a variety of ways to share the resulting video. In this case, however, my presentation was relatively short, so I was able to get away with doing a simple recording with QuickTime. It took me probably 15 minutes longer than the duration of my presentation to prepare, record, and share the completed video in BlackBoard.
Office Mix is a really interesting (and easy) new possibility. It allows you to do either voice or video over your PowerPoint slides. In addition, however, you can also embed multiple choice or true/false questions, along with links to other materials, polls, and other features. I’ve enjoyed using it for another project that I’ll share down the road. In my next post, I’ll walk you through Office Mix, so you can see if it might work for you.
To sum, there are a number of ways and tools to help you to continue moving the class forward, even when classes are canceled. The key thing is to select the approach and tool that best fits the content and learning objectives for the class.
How do you keep things moving forward when classes are canceled?
Please post your comments below.