Storm Watch: With classes canceled, some professors turn to online sessions

Photo courtesy of NOAA.

The University may have closed Monday, but that didn’t stop at least one undergraduate class from plowing through its lecture.

As Hurricane Sandy stormed into the District, about 50 students in professor Earl Skelton’s introductory astronomy class huddled around their laptops for an online version of Monday’s class through Blackboard Collaborate.

“It’s slick system and I like it. I think the students like it,” Skelton said. “At least the serious students. The ones who aren’t serious aren’t crazy about it.”

Half of the 108-student lecture watched an audio PowerPoint on the geology of planets.

Skelton said students could ask questions on the material by asking questions in a chat box. If they couldn’t log on during the normal class time, the PowerPoint and audio were saved on Blackboard.

Some professors, like biology professor Diana Lipscomb, held online versions of their classes during the 2010 Snowpocalypse. Skelton said he also held online versions of his classes during Snowpocalyse when he taught then at Georgetown University.

Other classes also might hold classes through Skype and Blackboard Monday.

Denis Cioffi, director of the Teaching and Learning Collaborative, said power outages could prevent more classes from doing so, but administrators discussed the upsides of switching online when classes needed to be canceled.

“I would say it’s not a major driver of online education, but it is a decided advantage,” he said.



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