The risk of school cancellations brought about by inclement weather has made schools to explore the effectiveness of virtual learning or eLearning days as an option for recovering lost instructional time. During snow days, most schools close down. But recently, there are different online infrastructures that make it possible to extend learning beyond the classroom in the event of inclement weather. This means students can participate in online learning activities from the comfort of their homes.
For this to be accomplished, the government through schools must have a solid distance learning policy in place, along with the required resources and equipment that allows students to work just as well from their homes as in their classrooms.
There are a number of success factors that contribute to the success of eLearning strategies such as technology, perceptions, and state-mandated policies.
How should this be done?
Each teacher should repurpose and post the material they would have covered in class that day to an online format and send to students. For example, a class chat on an assigned reading can be conducted all the way through, by students writing on an online interactive board. Students can also listen to recorded lectures. Teachers should also be available to answer student questions as they work on assignments.
The resources required for success in virtual learning are
The use of eBooks allows for greater tracking and customization, tailored to a specific student. This provides a better, more personalized learning environment for that student. Online books are just as effective as their traditional paper alternatives. An example is the use of Chrome books. Chrome books work by notifying teachers, parents, and students about school closure by a specific time, for instance, at 8 p.m. the night before, and teachers have until the next morning to e-mail lessons plans to students.
So, by 9 a.m. the next day, students open up their Chrome books, and log-on. Then, they will see an email from every teacher with the instructions on where their assignment is, where they can find resources and where they can click on attendance.
2. Learning Management Systems
Learning management systems (LMS) are web-based systems where schools create electronic learning (eLearning) environments for courses. For every given course, these systems incorporate student enrolment, file submission, test builders, communication tools, grading, and progress tracking. It is through these systems that schools create eLearning environments that will be used during virtual learning days. An LMS gives the student the ability to communicate with their instructors, as well as fellow students, from one central area. This is achieved through the use of chat rooms, wikis, blogs, and other discussion tools that are inherent in many LMS strategies. There are many LMS strategies available such as Blackboard, ANGEL, MyBigCampus, and Moodle. Each LMS is customizable to the desired learning environment and supports the expected features such as assessments, discussion boards, and attendance tracking.
There are many ways one can distribute this application. Skype Extra is a free version of the application that allows for Web conferencing for up to 10 participants at one time. So, for example, the teacher might have a PowerPoint presentation that wants the students to view while he narrates. First, the teacher would invite each student to attend the meeting Skype (joint meeting). Skype can give a real-time roster of who is attending by checking their current online status.
Therefore, despite harsh weather conditions on snow days, learning can still go on. However, the government and the school need to come up with excellent strategies that can make learning on such days successful.