Our 21st-Century Snow Day
Published: Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 01:02
Provost Robert Groves quietly introduced a major change to intellectual life at Georgetown last week: the potential to hold class during campus closures. Though the sentiment elicits groans from students across campus, in the long term, it represents a smart use of technology to counter an age-old problem.
Groves’ memorandum, which was approved by the Main Campus Executive Faculty last week, encourages professors to hold class, virtually or otherwise, to compensate for missed sessions in the case of inclement weather or at other times when the university ceases operating. Though some faculty members have already taken such steps, the memorandum’s potential to prompt wider adoption of these policies will benefit students and faculty alike.
Even though the momentary joy from a snow day is uplifting, it is more important for students and faculty to keep the obligations they make to each other at the beginning of the semester to follow the guidelines set out for a course. Cancelling class because of bad weather disrupts these expectations and creates confusion for both students and professors. Especially for lengthy seminars that meet only once per week, missing even one class session represents a loss of a significant portion of course content.
To effectively combat these problems, the university must ensure all faculty members are able to access the resources available to them during campus closures. For those who have not integrated technology like lecture capture or Blackboard into their courses, using technology suggested for academic continuity for the first time will likely be confusing and time consuming. In such situations, University Information Services should be obligated to help professors who request assistance.
The loss of snowball fights and unexpected extended weekends will be an adjustment for the campus community, but the benefits of holding class in inclement conditions are sure to pay off come final exam time.