How are you engaging with students in exceptional conditions?

A few staff made it to our campus today; me being one of them! This is not the first time this year that snow has disrupted the routines of education, but have those routines changed as a result?

I have noted the level of activity in our VLE, which appears to be relatively high and comparable to any other weekday. However, I am uncertain of the activities that students may be following whilst unable to get into college. I suspect that most are collecting resources from Moodle (exercises, reference materials, etc) and following some associated task. How many though, are engaging in learning activities together, online?

Of course, when it snows, it’s pretty likely that students of any age will be outside having some fun. However, the policy of most organisations (including the one I work for) is that learners should remain engaged and continue the learning process. Whether this actually is the case is very difficult to say. With regular disruption to education over brief periods this year, we should now be well equipped to prepare learners for the different approach we all need to take to our learning routines. We should be confident that even when not on campus, flexible and creative approaches to learning can be adopted should any exceptional situation come about.

Are you, or any of your colleagues using VLE facilities and other learning tools to engage with learners online? Do you schedule online activities at the same time you would normally be teaching the group? Do you make yourself accessible online at specific times for students to contact you, and if so, by what means?

I don’t teach, but I am intrigued to know how you are ensuring continued engagement with your classes.

4 Responses

  1. James Clay December 2, 2010 / 14:01

    “Doing none of that engagement stuff, I am sledging, having snowball fights and panic buying at local supermarket!”

    One of the problems that institutions do face is that closing because of snow impacts on staff in different ways.

    Some won’t be able to work, because as well as the college, the local schools are closed and as a result they have childcare issues that they need to take into account.

    Some who have internet at home, may have problems with bandwidth caps, slow upload speeds and slow internet speeds (because everyone is at home using the net).

    There are also a few staff who see the word closed and rightly see it as a day off. Other staff will then think, why should I work, as others are getting a free holiday!

    From past experience and talking to practitioners, most in fact did work when we were closed for snow, they were marking and doing preparation. Very few though were engaging direct with learners. Partly as the message from the college was that it was closed, so why would learners then check the website again or the VLE.

    Much of this is about culture rather than preparation, and about language of snow closures.

    James Clay

  2. @xlearn December 2, 2010 / 21:01

    Just as we have fire drills, it might be an idea to have ‘snow’ drills – days when the organisation practices working virtually. I think it’s worth getting this idea adopted by organisations, getting the plans in place and the next time snow hits, use the plans! Try it out! Everyone might really like it!

    • chri5grant December 3, 2010 / 11:27

      Snow drills; what a great idea! I can immediately envisage a drill taking place on an inset day when students are away but staff are on campus. You could therefore organise sessions between staff and learners with the benefit of having full support from technical staff. This technical support is often missing when ‘unexpected’ conditions like this occur, and the absence of technical advisors is perhaps one of the reasons why different approaches to online engagement are not adopted.

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