Thursday, December 15, 2005
My adopted home state isn’t quite as severe, but it still gets walloped from time to time. One grad school winter, when I lived in an apartment where the only parking was on the street, we had 15 snowstorms. For each one, we had to move our cars under threat of being towed. After about a dozen storms, I figured out that to tow my car, they’d have to dig it out first. I decided to let them. Liars!
As a cc, we don’t have dorms, so all of our students commute. Faculty and staff also live hither and yon. Our President is blessedly enlightened about prioritizing life and limb over classes, so we have our share of snow days. During the semester, snow days are a blessing.
But then finals hit.
What do you do if you have a snow day (or worse, two) during finals week?
On the one hand, you don’t really want thousands of 19-year-old drivers hurriedly negotiating icy hills while stressing about exams. On the other, you can really throw a monkey wrench into semester reporting, fairness, etc. This year, finals week is right before the Christmas break, so we really can’t add days. Friday the 23rd is the makeup day, which could probably absorb some (but not all) of the fallout of one snow day. Two snow days, and we’re completely SOL.
Can we really reschedule exams into January? Is it reasonable to move exams online, if the courses themselves weren’t online? Is it fair to ask faculty to calculate grades without finals? Is it fair to give some classes (but not all) extra weeks to study?
“Let’s hope it doesn’t snow” doesn’t strike me as a policy.
What does your school do?
I've always thought that students earn their grades all semester and it's further reinforced by the registrar's demand that we have grades in only two working hours after the last final is given. (Yes, there is a weekend in there and we know what we spend the weekend doing ...).
I have seen too many students blow off assignments thinking they can make it all up on a final and, on the other hand, I've seen students who have earned As and Bs through CONSISTENT WORK all semester blow it because of nerves on the final.
In your situation, I would not make them make it up. I have been teaching online since 2000 and even students who have been in an online class all semester still have trouble with following directions exactly (since computers don't compute "almost right" on file submission, etc.).
To be fair to other students in different sections of the same class, an instructor could always look and compare to see if their grade would be different without the final for those who did take it and then take into account relevant factors like attendance and consistency of work.
After experiencing my own wreck on the ice (trying to get home BEFORE a storm but not calculating the icy rain), I'm much more understanding of no one risking life and limb just to get to my class for any reason.
Here in the Northwoods, state school schedules seem to be somewhat legislated. We can't start before a certain date in the fall, and such. That always seems to push our finals to the 22nd or 23rd (though we have about four days more to turn in grades). So calling a snow day during finals would really mess things up.
We don't tend to call many snow days, in fact, I've only seen one since I've been here. First, folks (other than myself) in the Northwoods seem to be amazingly adept at dealing with snow: roads get cleared with rather surprising rapidity and most people seem to drive sanely and well, especially on icy roads.
Most of our students are either residential or live in a few tightly clustered areas near campus.
Let's hope for a few days of clear weather!
(In my classes, I'd probably change to a take home final if I could, but I'd have to work out the details and make sure everyone had access.)
I wish that there was a better snow policy. Heck, a better emergency policy, in general! I was caught by a bomb threat, once, that meant a December exam was rescheduled for a weekend in January. The students performed horribly on that make-up, not because the test was more difficult, but because they'd moved on to the new term and were still a bit rattled from the whole experience.
Previously, the exam period had ended at 1:00, so at least some students will now need to change travel plans. (Probably not that big a deal, since about 99% of our students live within a 2 hour drive of campus.)
Snow doesn't stop anything in NYC, but a transit strike sure will.
A good back-up policy might be to have "online exams"--if a snow day is called, students are emailed the exam at a designated time and must email it back by a designated time. Of course such exams would end up being open book. Or, if you use WebCT or similar system, exams can be done through the software. Such a policy, naturally, would require faculty to design exams that could accomodate it, which might get some people's backs up. Perhaps one could institute a policy where faculty who *want* to have the option of backup snow day exams can design exams accordingly; those who do not, will have to reschedule exams on their own / next semester / whenever.
The only problem I forsee with this is that some of my students don't have the technology. ANy suggestions for that?