Classes cancelled due to the Polar Vortex? Ideas of what to do next (Teaching Tip)

Has one or more of your classes been impacted by Iowa State University’s recent closures due to weather? Here are some ideas to help you navigate the missed class days. Weather (and other emergencies) that cause class cancellations can impact your plan for the whole semester. When this happens, consider these suggestions to account for class disruptions:

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

  • Inform students of course plans or expectations during weather cancellations or other emergencies. Be sure to communicate in more than one way what is happening (for example an email and a Canvas announcement) in conjunction with the University’s notification. Learn more about the process from ISU’s Closings and Cancellations webpage.
  • If you do post an announcement in Canvas, know that students might have opted out of receiving notifications. See more on setting notifications within the How do I set my Canvas notification preferences as a student? web guide.

Update critical course information

  • If there are student work-days built into the syllabus, consider how these might be best used. Perhaps students need those work days later in the semester or it could be an opportunity to host a drop-in office or class hour to answer student questions.
  • If you do make any changes within the class, be sure to revise your syllabus and due dates on Canvas in a timely fashion so that students can prepare.

Consider finding and posting online videos on missed content

  • For content and days that you have missed, consider recording yourself and posting additional readings to Canvas. A creative re-tooling of face-to-face lecture and in-class assignments can be re-positioned with concise voice-over recordings and assignments. There are a number of tools for recording. Arc is a Canvas tool that you can use to post a screencast or video. Learn more from the following CELT resources:
    • Lecture Capture webpage
    • To learn about creating engaging and accessible media interactions around your subject matter attend the Video Instruction and Learning in Canvas workshop. Choose from one of the following offerings: Feb. 19 (1-2:30 p.m.), Mar. 12 (10-11:30 a.m.), Apr. 16 (9:30-11 a.m.), or May 7 (2-3:30 p.m.). Register via the Learn@ISU website.
  • If you are using a new technology in your class don’t assume students will know how to access or use the technology. Include how-to videos and/or links to guides to assist with assignments requiring new to the class technology.

Other things to consider:

  • Don’t radically alter the expectations for your course because of 1 or 2 missed days.
  • Be aware that not all students have Internet access at home during inclement weather. Plan to provide accommodations on assignment submissions and due dates when necessary for such students.
  • Missing a day or two of classes is a wonderful opportunity to carefully examine your syllabus. Are there topics that do not align with your overall student learning outcomes? Does everything on your syllabus, including assessments, have a place within what you want the students to know?
  • Collaborate with your colleagues in order to ensure uniformity across the curriculum in multi-section or sequential courses.
  • Finally, begin the next class session with a 5-10 minute review on key concepts not covered due to the inclement weather. A small quiz worth a minimum number of points can help the students and you as the instructor determine knowledge acquisition and any gaps due to the missed class time.

Hope to see you in 3024 Morrill Hall (all CELT staff are now centrally located!),

Sara Marcketti, Director
Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching


Full Teaching Tip

View the published CELT Teaching Tip: Classes cancelled due to the Polar Vortex? Ideas of what to do next (February 7, 2019 – Constant Contact) website.

Prefer a Print version?

To view the Teaching Tip as a printable document with web addresses, download the CELT Teaching Tip for February 7, 2019 (PDF)