Need to Cancel Class? Try These 4 Online Alternatives Instead!

Posted on: April 9, 2018 | By: Elizabeth Kirkhorn | Filed under: Instructional Technologies, Teaching & Learning

Photo of an empty classroomWhether you have a planned absence on the calendar, or inclement weather suddenly threatens to cancel your lecture, there are several ways to hold an effective class digitally. Read on to learn about online tools that can help keep your class on track when holding class isn’t possible.


1. Utilize Moodle’s impressive array of features.

Todd Lee, a Professor of Mathematics and and Faculty Fellow for Technology, is no stranger to conducting classes remotely. While conferences and the occasional illness sometimes keep him from class, Lee has not shied away from using digital tools like Moodle to keep his classes on schedule despite absence. The ability to embed videos, articles, and quizzes into Moodle courses can be very helpful for designing an online equivalent to lecture. One way to gauge students as they follow a remote class is to assign relevant readings and/or videos, and then a subsequent benchmark quiz.

“You want to plan ahead. If you know you can’t be there, great, or if you find out the snow is coming in you can write up some questions,” Lee says. “You can even post hints to Moodle if you’re looking for students to find something in a video or on a page.”

Directing students to follow through content posted to Moodle, and then answer a handful of follow-up questions, gets students engaged from outside of the classroom and helps drive critical knowledge home. Although one may be skeptical that students will rush this type of assignment and neglect to absorb any material, Todd Lee says this is not true of his experience.

“You may have some students who do their best to zap through it, but I don’t think that’s the general case,” Lee comments.


2. Conduct conference calls with students using WebEx.

Elon faculty have easy access to WebEx, a video-conferencing software that will allow you to meet and collaborate with students online. If you’ve caught the flu and can’t be present for lecture, plan to check in with your students during the class period via a WebEx discussion. It can be much more comprehensive than an email correspondence if you’re looking to keep students on track amidst a cancellation.

“I try and push students to use microphone and video because it is a lot easier to have a high level discussion,” says Todd Lee.

Lee also affirms the value of setting up “digital office hours” on WebEx, or a call that the professor keeps online for a certain window while students drop in and out. WebEx can be complementary to aforementioned Moodle activities, in case students have questions while completing a module and would benefit from a face-to-face chat.  


3. Create screencasts so that your students can follow along with a digital lecture.

If you’re going to miss a lesson crucial to understanding of your course overall, but don’t want to misalign your class with the syllabus, screencasts can be helpful in designing a lecture students can follow at home. Record short examples or tutorials using Screencast-O-Matic. Then, post the miniature lessons to Moodle and trust students to listen along.

A class composed of screencasts can be augmented by a Moodle quiz emphasizing key takeaways.


4. Point your class towards LinkedIn Learning (formerly

Linkedin Learning is an online learning platform, providing training to help students and professionals learn business, technology, and creative skills. Cheri Schauer-Crabb with Teaching and Learning Technologies attests that assigning a Linkedin Learning training as a result of class cancellation can “refresh ideas” or “introduce a skill that’s coming down the pike.”

Linkedin Learning offers an extensive library of tutorials that can teach you how to score a film, how to network as a sales professional, and many skills in between. Professors can likely find a training that aligns with any syllabus in the case of a class cancellation.

While one or all of these tools can be used to support an efficient online equivalent to class, it is important to be conscious of common pitfalls associated with remote teaching. As Todd Lee comments, “It’s important to not overweight what you ask [students] to do because you’re missing the class. You should think about what is accomplished in a normal class period and try to fairly match that.”

Additionally, Lee attests that it can be easy to assign “throwaway” assignments or busy work that will not have any value in the scheme of the class. Although any type of assignment will be helpful in keeping students thinking on an off-day, proper planning before an online session can mitigate the delegation of busy work.


Have you ever held a remote class? What tools do you use to make it run smoothly? Let us know in the comments below!



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