One-on-one laptop computers, broadband networking and advance planning have allowed the spread of e-learning programs in more school districts across the country, rendering the snow day obsolete.
For students and teachers alike, one of the joys of living in snow country is to wake up in the morning to a news alert that school is closed for a snow day. But in an increasing number of states, e-learning days have become the alternative to snow days — no doubt to the chagrin of those who prefer sledding.
E-learning days allow students to complete online assignments from home, typically on school-issued laptops. These make good sense on lots of levels, especially as climate change renders polar vortices and snow cyclones the new normal, and mild weather states such as South Carolina are now having snow days.
Most states pad their schools’ number of required instructional days with supplemental days to account for temporary school closures. However, when schools exceed those extra days they must schedule makeup days — which are usually tacked on at the end of the school year and are often poorly attended.
Thanks to the growing number of schools now issuing take-home laptops to their students, e-learning days have become possible. And in the states that allow them, they’re proving to be popular.
Illinois and Indiana (which has a good e-learning day toolkit and resources for schools) have been at the forefront of the trend for several years. And Colorado now grants allowances for districts that want to go the e-learning day route.
It takes some real preparation for schools to successfully implement e-learning days district-wide. Due to a challenging list of requirements, most of the districts using e-learning days are currently smaller, non-urban school systems where the implementation of such programs is more feasible. The requirements include:
The reviews are in from many districts that have implemented e-learning days in their schools, and they’re generally positive. Reports range from the benefits for districts that don't incur the cost and hassle of scheduling makeup days, to the value for students learning to effectively telecommute like so many adult professionals now do. And for rural school districts, some of which are already on four-day-a-week schedules to cut transportation costs, e-learning days are a huge benefit.
As weather phenomena continue to disrupt school schedules — districts in hurricane-prone regions take note — one expects the demand for e-learning days will continue to grow, especially for schools that have the technology infrastructure in place to support them. So it’s incumbent on state departments of education to work with their legislators and school districts to develop reasonable and effective e-learning day implementation procedures.
For those bemoaning the loss of snow days, chalk this one up to the steady march of progress. But please, teachers, go easy on those e-learning day assignments so kids still have time to get outside and make some snowpeople.