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Here’s how it goes: You get up in the morning and find the world outside your windows white with snow or shaking in hurricane-force winds. You turn on the television, check your phone for updates. Your school district, in the face of inclement weather, has made the decision to close for the day.
Great news for students, who get to sleep in and enjoy an unscheduled day off. Bad news for educators, who find their structured academic schedule disrupted by lost time.
But things are now changing. More and more schools across the country experiment with e-learning days as a way to keep school going, even when the building closes for bad weather.
Goodbye to Lost Learning Time
The driving idea behind e-learning days: no matter how inclement the weather there’s no lost learning time. From Ohio or Chicago to Michigan or West Virginia, many school districts find their schedule disrupted by unexpected—and increasingly brutal—snowstorms.
These very same districts turn to e-learning days as a way to offer Internet-based instruction to students. With the increasing implementation of ed tech tools such as laptops and online resources, it’s easier (and efficient) for school districts to connect with students wherever they are, even if it’s outside the classroom. And this increased accessibility means the academic year isn’t as beholden to random weather as it once was.
According to EdScoop, in Indiana alone, 61 public school districts and 44 private schools employed e-learning days during the 2016-2017 school year. For this current academic year, there have already been 123 public school districts and 57 private schools approved for e-learning programs.
How E-learning Days Help Schools
What makes these programs increasingly popular with school districts constantly at the mercy of inclement weather are the short and long-term benefits.
- Ensures that students stay on track with their current lessons and assignments without the need to play catch-up once school resumes.
- Provides more instruction time, and in some cases even gives students the opportunity to expand their learning beyond traditional textbooks.
- Saves school districts (and students) from the hassle of make-up days tacked to the end of the school year due to inclement weather.
“Many states require standardized testing, often in March or April. If you tack on [make-up] days at the end of the school year, the students aren’t getting that instruction before the high-stakes testing.”
Holly Stachler, Director of Communications, Indiana Department of Education
- Gives students the chance to experience online learning tools and situations they’ll need when they go on to college and even the workforce.
- Helps prove to school districts on the fence about technology use in and out of the classroom just how essential mobile learning is to the future of education in America.
- Keeps learning going even on days when school is cancelled due to non-weather-related events, such as teacher workdays or federal holidays.
Prepping for E-learning Days
What do school districts need to know in order to future-proof themselves from the chaos of a tropical storm or a winter blizzard?
Several years back, Capterra’s school administration blog outlined the ways school districts could tap into the power of pre-existing technology to seamlessly integrate e-learning days into their traditional curriculum.
While technology changes in leaps and bounds in the space of just six months, these pointers still hold true for any school districts out there looking to benefit from e-learning.
- Make sure your schools have the technology needed for students to benefit from e-learning days, including laptops, tablet readers, and 24/7 broadband Internet access.
- Invest in proper learning management software (LMS), which you can also use on non-e-learning days and many of which are affordable—and some of which are even free.
- Develop a communications strategy for how students will receive e-learning-day assignments, whether it’s via an email delivered at a certain time, pre-planned handouts delivered in class, or the district LMS.
- Give teachers time to create e-learning lessons in advance (such as video lectures, online worksheets, or reading assignments) so they’re prepared when bad weather strikes.
- Practice an e-learning scenario with students and teachers to make sure there are no kinks—from faulty technology to broken links—and to ensure they’re ready for action.
E-Learning Live: Gurnee Elementary District 56
A Kajeet customer, Gurnee Elementary District 56, is already taking advantage of e-learning experiences.
This past February, heavy snow struck suburban Chicago, and while schools shut down, the students in this district spent the day as they would any other at school: learning with the help of video assignments on their iPads.
This was the school’s first e-learning attempt (given the fact there were no snow days the past two years). And the results? Pretty good, according to school superintendent John Hutton.
“We felt good about it," [he] said. "The staff did a terrific job of preparing the kids and made it as seamless as possible. They're the ones that made it a great day." Hutton said while he thinks students do their best learning in school with their teacher, the e-learning day was better than the alternative of making up a snow day at the end of the school year.
E-learning with Kajeet Education Broadband™
No e-learning experiment, however ambitious, is possible without ensuring students have access to broadband Internet outside the classroom. Many school districts eager and willing to tap into the power of e-learning are a part of communities that don’t always have reliable Internet access at home.
But the Kajeet SmartSpot® solution provides students with the anytime, anywhere Internet access they need to watch online lessons, chat with teachers, read PDF assignments, complete online worksheets, and stay on track when bad weather strikes.
One of the major e-learning benefits of a Kajeet SmartSpot: it’s built specifically with schools and students in mind. Our SmartSpot devices work with any Wi-Fi-compatible laptop or tablet your students use. Most importantly, the SmartSpot filters content specifically for school assignment use, so even when your students are off school grounds, they can safely complete their schoolwork without worry of unnecessary distractions or abuse.
Happier Teachers, Administrators
It used to be that school district administrators would watch the weather reports with fear, thinking of all those precious school days either lost or reshuffled to the summer thanks to blizzards and hurricanes. But e-learning promises to make those fears a thing of the past.
Which may mean unhappy students—but which certainly means happier teachers and administrators.