Why Cancel Class, Ever?

Here in Texas we’re wrapping up a second “inclement weather” day for many area school districts and universities. The K-12 kids soon will learn that nothing comes without a cost and that they’ll be in class two extra days in June.

But what about college students? A course that carries 3 credit hours requires 45 hours of instructional contact to be valid — hence the standard 15-16 week semester and 3 hours per week in a classroom. When an hour or two gets consumed by days off, how do colleges make up the difference? Cut into a vacation? Extend the semester and shift the whole final exam schedule?


Thanks to social media and computer technology, as long as the power is on, there’s no need to cancel a university class. Even if the lights ARE out, you can pull together 50-80 minutes of lecture / activities to be completed some time in order to fulfill the contact hour requirement:

  • If you’re like me, you don’t often teach in a computer classroom. Here’s a chance to do your usual lesson with every student sitting in front of an Internet-capable device! Studying mitosis? Ask students to find five different resources on the topic and to rank them from least to most accurate / helpful, with explanations. Examining different Baroque musicians? Have students get on YouTube to find performances by several selected artists; after they listen to each one, they can pick their favorite and explain why. Create a webquest. Pull together a set of web pages for students to read and respond to.
  • Download free audio editing software like Audacity, turn on the computer microphone, and start lecturing! Don’t worry about pauses or throat clearing; those things happen in your live lectures, too. Export the file as an mp3 and load it into the class LMS. Students can download and listen at their own pace, and you have a precise time, down to the second, for the length of your “lecture.”
  • Add an audio track to the PowerPoint presentation you were going to use anyway. The University of Central Florida has great step-by-step directions for creating a narrated PPT experience, and for presentations that are constructed with lectures in mind — presentations that just have a handful of bullet points to remind you of your talking points — audio probably is a necessity for students to make much sense of the file.
  • Use your LMS to put together a reading quiz (I say “quiz” because that gets more attention and seems less optional than “activity” or “discussion”). A single open-ended question based on the audio track or PowerPoint reinforces the information presented, adds incentive for students to actually download and listen to / watch your lecture, and demands some level of critical thinking with the right prompt.
  • If the LMS isn’t phone-friendly, use an alternate quiz source like SurveyMonkey or a Google form. Mix things up by creating a flash card set in Quizlet and asking students to review the terms.
  • Hold discussion on Twitter with a specific hashtag. Yes, I know there are all these great forums in the LMS, but even on a (supposedly smart)phone, they’re awkward, slow, and not fun to use, especially if you’re on the move. Tweets are short. The feed in the app loads and updates quickly. You can track your hashtag and have a record of the class “discussion” for later reference.

When I’m away at a conference or stuck at home with a sick child, I don’t cancel class. I just move it online!


2 thoughts on “Why Cancel Class, Ever?

  1. Kate

    technology did change the way of studying & learning. More and more institutions are going online where students are. it doesn’t matter whether we are talking about cancelling classes by teachers or missing the classes by students. Implementing LMS helps to fill the gaps in student’s knowledge due to cancelled or missed classes.
    A great solution is flipped learning (our school practice video lecturing by means of JoomlaLMS)
    You record a lecture, put it online for students who didn’t visit the class, they watch it and next lesson they are ready for discussions.
    technology is great! and there is no way it is going to bring changes into education process

    1. swakefield Post author

      I definitely am trying out the flipped classroom model. It takes time to do videos (I don’t record the actual class session and end up doing a voiceover on a Prezi or PowerPoint) but students can go back and experience the “lecture” as many times as they want and at their own pace.


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