Contingency plans for teaching in the midst of UK snow

UK snow

UK snow

The University is formally closed again today because of the snow. This is just as well as I’m pretty well snowed in, the only cars getting out of our road are 4x4s.  This is the first time I can remember the University being formally closed.  We do seem to have had large amounts of snow fall, the buses aren’t running today and the roads are a mess.

So far this week our students will have lost two and a half days of teaching, for our 3rd year medical students that’s half of their week long block on aging.  With more snow forecast we could lose another day tomorrow and, if this keeps up, possibly almost a full week.

It’s yet to be seen how much more snow and disruption to teaching we’ll see this winter, but this current dose of UK snow has made me think about whether we should have some sort of contingency plans to ease the disruption to teaching.  I know that some medical schools along with other schools across Universities are already recording lectures and so students can access these easily online and via hand held devices.  At the moment we don’t record our lectures, but maybe we should record the ones that were due to be delivered this week with Camtasia so that students can at least receive some of their timetabled teaching.  Or perhaps it’s at times like this that we should be capitalising on our Adobe Connect licence and delivering the teaching online so that students can still be taught whilst at home.  These sessions can also be recorded for students who don’t have access to the internet from home.  It would be more difficult to run virtual clinical skills and ward based teaching sessions online, but there are other small group teaching session which could be delivered virtually.

What do you think?  Do you have contingencies for delivering teaching in the midst of closures due to UK snow?


  1. Until a few years ago I always had an “emergency lecture” in reserve just in case a colleague was ill or something happened to prevent a session going ahead.

    The problem is I gave it one year and it went down so well I added it to my standard programme and never replaced it.
    It’s similar to how orchestras have certain pieces they can play at a moment’s notice but rarely, if ever, programme, just in case a soloist fails to turn up or something…

    Recently I’ve been thinking I need to do this again, and probably online for situations like this. But I also realise I could just as easily have a reading ready for students to engage with – it doesn’t need to be an overly technological approach.
    I’ve been experimenting with creating ePub documents in Apple’s Pages, and using Screensteps to produce open learning materials. I’ve also been looking at the OU’s recent ePubs released on iTunes – some really interesting ones using video and audio.

    But I also think a good module should have redundancy built in and that’s what I try to do. It’s not that there’s anything in my course that is unnecessary, just that nothing is so vital that missing it means someone misses out. This week I had to cancel a seminar but the students can get the same support from each other (they’ve been trained well!) and I offered Skype tutorials if anyone wanted one (they didn’t).

    I suspect that’s not so easy in some subjects – I’d hate to be operated on by someone who missed that all-important session on where the appendix is… 😉

    I think my history as an OU graduate has broadened my approach to what makes good teaching – it doesn’t have to be face to face, and a mixed approach can reap rewards, particularly in weeks like this one. But the OU’s approach (tutorials are optional, it’s understood not everyone will complete every unit or assignment, the assessment scheme is built to compensate for unavoidable problems) is a really good one to look at.

    1. I’ve not heard of Screensteps, so thanks for mentioning this, might be quite handy for some of the resources I want to create to support staff development. I’ll be taking a further look at this. The eLearning Forum is setting up a Hot Team to look at creating ePub documents, would you be interested in being involved?

      I agree with you about mixed or blended approach to teaching and perhaps we’ll see this being increasingly adopted over the next few years. With medicine the timetable is so full and there’s so much to teach so it’s not necessarily easy to reschedule almost a whole week’s teaching, which is why I was wondering about making more use of technology during the shut down time. Interestingly I heard from one of my clinical colleagues that “loads” of students have been turning up on the wards and taking advantage of there being no lectures to get some more teaching on the wards. Good to see they’re keen 🙂

  2. I like the idea of a “hot team” so yes, count me in 🙂
    It took me a while to get the “point” of screensteps – it’s sold as a way of doing software tutorials but I’ve found it handy for creating learning materials like the tutorials and lecture notes over at
    It has a really interesting integration with hosted WordPress installations too. Looks quite handy as a team-based online learning dev tool. Happy to give a demo.

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