Virtual learning challenges “snow day” protocol during first week of classes

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Online learning platforms allow for some classes to continue during inclement weather. - Graphics Editor / Julia Quennessen

On Jan. 16, the spring semester commenced at Rowan University with icy roads and inclement weather. Some classes remained in person but other professors opted to use virtual meetings like Zoom to still have their first day. 

Later that day at 3:23 p.m. a Rowan Advisory email was sent out which read, “Due to the expected icing when temperatures drop later this evening, Rowan University will suspend all in-person classes and all in-person classes on all its campuses beginning at 4:45 p.m. today.”

Prior to 2020, students and professors would be sent home early due to predicted heavy snowfall and classes would be canceled for the day.  Since the pandemic and adjusting to remote learning, there are now virtual options for professors to still hold classes. 

For some students, it has been a challenge learning in a non-traditional setting, as technology advances. Students who commute to campus have a challenge driving in the harsh conditions as the weather worsens and the risk of potential road accidents could arise. This inclement weather could also create issues for students who walk to class if the paths are icy. With the advantage of virtual meeting platforms such as Zoom or Google Meetings, there’s a way for students to still attend class and professors to still engage with their students. 

“The advantage that the pandemic has helped us with is for everybody to be used to remote learning. It gives people the ability to quickly shift into a new way of learning and everyone can be comfortable with it. It gives students and professors the advantage not to lose time,” said Joe Cardona, vice president for University Relations.

The university alerted students beforehand that students are responsible for their decision to attend class, should it still be held during inclement weather. 

“The University has made it a practice to hold classes during inclement weather whenever possible. For those who have in-person courses, the Student Handbook states it is the student’s decision, based on their assessment of the situation, whether or not to attend class. Students will be penalized for missing classes because of inclement weather, but they contact their professors prior to class and make up any work assigned,” read an email sent out to Rowan students on Jan. 15.

Professor Mark Hale who specializes in Cognitive Psychology, noted that the new virtual learning settings are due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Necessity is the mother of invention. Covid made it quicker to have virtual platforms such as Zoom to utilize in events such as snow days,” said Hale.

Having in-person classes rather than virtual ones can make students pay attention more than on Zoom where it can be a bit distracting depending on the reason why the Zoom course is taking place. 

“Virtual learning is not for me because having ADHD makes it hard to focus on listening to a professor speak through a computer screen for over an hour,” said Artur Workstus, an accounting major who lives on campus. “There can be distractions around me at home that can affect my focus, and I wouldn’t be able to learn as much as I would in person. It’s good to have a snow day or two. The university has them for a reason due to inclement weather. A day break can also be needed for students who can have several classes a day.” 

Commuter student Nathaniel Cotto, a history education major believes otherwise, that having snow days can set students back.

“When it comes to snow days, I believe teachers should try their best to get virtual learning so that the class is not behind on their education. Virtual learning was made in order for us to keep our pace while being safe in our homes. I also believe if the school is open during snow days, they should make sure the sidewalks are properly salted so that there will not be any accidents or injuries,” said Cotto.

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