Making Up for Cancelled Classes

Whether a class is canceled due to illness or a Polar Vortex, the resulting missed instructional time poses a very real challenge to the pedagogical flow set forth in your class outline. Fortunately, many resources exist at CMU which can help to provide alternative equivalent experiences, maintaining continuity and ensuring student learning outcomes continue to be met. The Office of Curriculum and Instructional Support staff is also available to support you.

Setting Expectations

In a perfect situation, advance planning will have prepared your students in the likelihood of a cancelled class session. A prudent first step is embedding language in your syllabus instructing students on a course of action for unplanned cancellations, such as those caused by inclement weather, sudden illness, or other unanticipated events. The faculty hub at Simmons University suggests the following text:  

If, due to weather or other unforeseen events, the campus is closed and/or face-to-face class cannot be held, please check your email and/or the announcement section of the course Blackboard shell for instructions on how class will be held. (Suggestion: Charge your phone when you hear of pending storms.) We may move the class online, or I will provide activities for you to complete. You are expected to keep up with the reading and assignments according to the designated schedule. You may email me your questions and papers by scheduled class time to get consideration for credit on the assignment. If you lose power or internet access, please check as soon as you are able.

Here is another, more structured example already in use by some CMU faculty, addressing planned and unplanned cancellations: 

What if Class is Cancelled? 

The unpredictable weather, among other factors, makes it important to plan for class cancellations. While every effort will be made to hold class as scheduled, it may be necessary to cancel. In the event of a cancelled class session, please be aware of the following plans of action:
  • Planned cancellation: If a cancellation is planned, an announcement will be made a week or more prior to the cancelled class meeting. The announcement will include any requirements – such as reading or other activities assigned in lieu of the class meeting. The information will also be posted online in Blackboard.
  • Unplanned cancellation: If a cancellation is unplanned, as in the case of weather or illness-related event, you will be notified by phone or CMU email as soon as possible. Within 24-hours of a cancelled class, information on how to proceed will be provided via email and posted online in Blackboard.  You will be held accountable for information distributed via email and posted online, along with any assignments provided therein. 

Creating Alternative Learning Experiences 

The following sections offer four possible avenues for maintaining instructional continuity, adapted from ideas offered by peer teaching and learning teams. Each idea can be used independently, added to, edited, and/or used in conjunction with elements from other suggestions. This small collection is not meant to address every possible scenario and we recognize that every instructional situation is unique. We are available to provide support and consultation to assist you in providing a quality experience to your students.

I. Online Resources Scavenger Hunt

(adapted from the Suffolk University Center for Teaching and Scholarly Excellence)

For your students: 
Complete each of the following tasks to build a resource repository addressing [INSERT TOPIC HERE] for yourself and your classmates. Once you have found an example of each item, share your findings on the Blackboard discussion forum named [INSERT FORUM TITLE HERE], so that we can all benefit from the resources.
  1. A YouTube or TED Talk video
  2. A diagram or infographic
  3. A Podcast or episode of a podcast with applicable content
  4. An academic (peer-reviewed journal) article from CMU Libraries
  5. A blog post
  6. A popular media/new article
Instructor “to do” items:

II. Readings Discussion & Video

For your students:

Please view the video [INSERT VIDEO TITLE AND LINK HERE]. As you watch, consider the following questions:
  1. List questions here…
  2. Additional question.
Login to Blackboard and locate the [INSERT FORUM TITLE HERE] discussion forum.  Share your answers to the questions. Note: You will not be able to see your classmates’ responses until you post your own answers.

Instructor “to do” items:

III. Synchronous (Real-time) Online Class Session

For your students:

At [INSERT TIME HERE] on [INSERT DATE HERE] we will meet online in my WebEx room* - Please join this session by accessing this URL:[YOURGLOBALIDHERE]

Before the session please be sure you have [INSERT PRE-ACTIVITIES HERE, e.g. required reading, viewing, etc.].  Arrive prepared to:
  • Share one point you believe you understand well.
  • Share one point you believe you and/or others may not understand well.
If you have not used WebEx before, it may be helpful to review this tutorial, beginning with the “After Joining” section. 
*Requires your WebEx account to be activated in advance, a one-time task accomplished by calling the IT Help Desk.  

Instructor “to do” items:

IV. Recorded Lecture

For your students:

In lieu of our recently cancelled class, I have prepared a recorded session which will address important material and provide guidance on your ‘next steps’ to complete [INSERT DETAILS OF TASKS, READINGS, etc.] prior to our next scheduled class meeting. The video is available here [INSERT LINK TO RECORDED LECTURE]. 

Instructor “to do” items:

  • Ensure you have appropriate equipment for recording (e.g. a working microphone)
  • Configure, download, and open Panopto recording software.  For guidance, review this tutorial 
  • Record your content, recognizing that the recording will not be perfect and that it will be better to provide students an imperfect product, than nothing at all. 
  • Distribute the video link by sending the students an email, including the information in the ‘for your students’ section above