College of DuPage is located in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Our weather patterns are unusual and that is putting it mildly. For example, last weekend we were hit with a number of mini-snow showers throughout the day — in April. The tulips are trying to push through the earth as snow blankets their petals. But again, we live in Illinois, a prime area to experience roller coaster style weather forecasts.
Some of my favorite seasons living in the Midwest are Fall and Summer, but even when November rolls around, the skies can turn a gloomy gray and cover us with cold for the next six months. Thomas Hood’s (1799-1845) poem “No!” may not have been about Chicago (he is actually describing the dismal weather in Britain), but it certainly resonates with braving a Chicago winter:
No sun, no moon,
no morn, no noon;
No dawn, no dusk,
no proper time of day;
No warmth, no cheerfulness,
no healthful ease.
No comfortable feel in any member;
No shade, no shine,
no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers,
no leaves, no birds—November!
The weather conditions in Chicago can be fickle, but the good weather is worth waiting for. If the temperature hovers around 56 degrees, you can often spot hearty Chicagoans in shorts and flip flops. But in online instruction, there are no bad weather days because despite what is going on outside, it does not effect the open online classroom inside — all day, everyday access.
In fact, some schools are now exploring online learning as an alternative to shutting down schools on snow days. According Frank Smith in “Online Learning Options Combat Snow Day Closures Across Country,” in addition to schools in Illinois, online learning alternatives to snow days have spread across the country:
- In St. Louis, Miss., school districts have been experimenting with a policy since 2013.
- In Logan County, Ohio, if more than five days at a participating school are missed due to weather events, e-learning days will be used.
- In Pennsylvania, participating schools can use up to five “flexible instructional days” each year, before requesting permission from the Department of Education to use additional days.
- In Bunker Hill, Ind., during the 2014 school year, four consecutive e-learning days were used in the Maconaquah School Corp., during which 75-80 percent of students completed their assignments online — a percentage equal to a regular school day.
Perhaps we’re headed in a direction of less sledding and more screen time? I’m not sure, but I know our daughters still love hearing the magical phrase, “Snow Day!” when unexpected blizzard-like conditions pass through and school is cancelled.