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Teach During Inclement Weather

Regardless of course format, campus closure does not equate to putting the brakes on learning. With the ubiquity of digital connectivity, access to CoursePlus, and, optionally, a variety of complementary tools, you have several synchronous and asynchronous options to offer continuity for your students.

On-Site (Face-to-Face) and Blended Courses

An overview of contingency plans for on-site courses can be found in the PDF linked on this page.

Syllabus

Planning for campus closures can be covered in your syllabus. If you expect students to be available to meet online if campus is closed during a regularly scheduled class time, communicate these expectations in your Course Overview. Learn how to add a custom section to your syllabus in the CoursePlus Guide. Sample statements are provided below.

Sample syllabus statement for an on-campus and blended course:
Campus Closures
Students who opt-in will receive automated texts regarding University delays and closings. JHU emergency notices are also posted online: https://www.jhu.edu/alert/.
In the event of a campus closure due to inclement weather or other event, please ensure your safety but also be prepared to continue learning. This is especially important due to the compressed nature of our academic terms. Thanks to the ubiquitous nature of digital communications, announcements for such contingencies will be made by course faculty on CoursePlus as well as sent via email. The fact that there will be internet and electricity outages that may impact students and faculty off-campus is recognized. If a student is not able to "attend" a virtual class or complete an alternative activity as announced, the student must contact faculty and/or TA as soon as possible to discuss extensions or other possible arrangements. Similarly, if the faculty or TAs are not able to send or receive communications while campus is closed, they will communicate this obstacle and its resolve to students as soon as they are able. 

Sample syllabus statement for an online course:
Campus Closures
Students who opt-in will receive automated texts regarding University delays and closings. JHU emergency notices are also posted online: https://www.jhu.edu/alert/.
In the event of a campus closure due to inclement weather or other event, online learning is NOT cancelled; however, there may be synchronous sessions (such as LiveTalks) that may be adversely effected. In addition, there may be internet and electricity outages that may impact students and faculty off-campus. Announcements for any contingencies will be made by course faculty on CoursePlus as well as sent via email. If a student is not able to attend a LiveTalk or other required synchronous session, the student must contact faculty and/or TA as soon as possible to discuss other arrangements or alternatives. Similarly, if the faculty or TAs are not able to send or receive communications, they will communicate this obstacle and its resolve to students as soon as they are able.

Announcements

Announce Contingency Plans - Presumably students enrolled in on-site courses have already committed their week to a scheduled time for class. If there is any change to this schedule, it is in your and their best interest to broadcast what, if any, alternate plans have been made as soon as the campus has announced a closure. For good measure, send this communication as an email to the entire class and also display it as an announcement on the course home page. (See “Display Announcement on Home Page” of the CoursePlus Guide).
For example, if you plan on holding a live, virtual class at the same time as your face-to-face class, give students enough notice so it’s reasonable for them to have checked announcements, logged in and checked their set up (audio, video, connection speed, etc.) before the scheduled class time.

Example email/announcement:
Due to the campus closure, we will be meeting tomorrow via Adobe Connect at our regular course time: 1:30 PM. The first thing you will want to do is to take the quick diagnostics test to make sure your computer and network connections are properly configured so you can participate. From the JHU Adobe Connect home page (https://connect.johnshopkins.edu/welcome/), click on the link for "Connection Test" under the sign-in button. Please take the time to do this quick connection test well before our meeting time so there aren't any last minute unexpected required updates or downloads for your computer!
The link for for our online session will be coming in a separate email & it will also appear as an announcement on our CoursePlus home page. As long as you click on the link and have already performed the connection test, you should be good to go. (Note: you will not need to worry about Signing In for this Adobe Connect session.) If you haven't participated in an Adobe Connect session before or would simply like some helpful reminders, there is a Visual Quick Start Guide available at https://seminars.adobeconnect.com/_a227210/vqs-participants/ .

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All Courses (Face-to-face and Online)

Remember that in the event of a weather-related closure, there may likely be students who do not have power or Internet connection. If you choose to hold a live, virtual class, the best practice would be to send an announcement that the virtual class is still being held (include a reminder of the meeting time) but also to record and then upload the recording to CoursePlus.

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Digital Repositories

With the CoursePlus Online Library, Drop Box, and JHBox there are several options to share and exchange documents and media.  In addition, students can work collaboratively in other cloud storage services such as Google Drive and Microsoft’s OneDrive.
 

Online Library

When faculty want to distribute files (including links and uploaded media) to students, the CoursePlus Online Library is the perfect repository.
 
On-campus Courses: Files that have been uploaded to the online library can be linked inside a class session, even if there is nothing else in that session. This is a nice option especially for face-to-face courses in either the case of inclement weather or as a “best practice” for when a student might miss a session or otherwise not have access to something distributed in class.

online library files linked to an on-campus class session


Online courses & Blended Courses: Files in the online library can be linked to course lecture or activity pages.
online library files inside a lecture page

 

Drop Box

The CoursePlus Drop Box tool is a digital in-box that can be used when faculty want to collect files from students (i.e., student assignment submissions). Students upload the documents from their computer to the drop box and receive email confirmation that they have done so. Faculty and TAs can then download the documents. The Drop Box can be associated with a class session for on-site (face-to-face) courses or a scheduled event for online and blended courses. This feature can be used at any time, but is especially convenient if an assignment is due but campus is closed due to inclement weather.
drop box in face-to-face CoursePlus session

JHBox

JHBox (Johns Hopkins Box) is a free online cloud service outside of CoursePlus, available to anyone with a JHed ID. JHBox allows up to 50 GB of personal and collaborative document storage. It is available with a JHed ID through the myJH portal. When students need to collaborate on a project, it is an appropriate and readily available option for them to exchange documents with each other.

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Recorded Lectures

Using new or archived recordings, class can continue even when the campus is closed. The recorded lectures can be uploaded or linked to the online library and then linked to the class session on CoursePlus site. If this is not a normal occurrence (e.g., normally your lectures are only face-to-face) you should announce the availability of this lecture via an email and CoursePlus announcement. In addition, it's worth noting that on-campus courses with an online section in CoursePlus can pull lectures from the online section into the on-campus CoursePlus page.
 

Archived Lecture Recordings

If a recording for a lecture was posted to one of your classes in CoursePlus in the past year, the archived lecture can be retrieved and then posted to the current course site in the online library or in a lecture materials section. Directions for doing this yourself are located on this page.
 
Another option is to contact your instructional designer to request a link to your current or archived online presentation. This link can be placed in a CoursePlus  class session and email/announcements. Your face-to-face students can view the lecture with audio and slides similar to those in an online class.
Faculty should announce the availability of this lecture via an email and CoursePlus announcement, directing students to listen and/or view the lecture.

If you are the faculty of record for an online course, you can actually link your lecture materials to a class session for an on-campus course without any help from CTL.
 
 

Create New Recordings

Another option is to record something from your desk using VoiceThread, Audacity, or Adobe Connect and then post this on your CoursePlus site. (The Teaching Toolkit has a comprehensive overview of all recording options available to faculty, including professionally produced recordings, available on the Recording Options page.) To use any of these, it is best to use a USB headset microphone. Which is best for you? Use this table to help you decide:
 
 
  VoiceThread Audio-Only (MP3) Tools Adobe Connect Other Screencasting Tools
easiest to add slides, complete and post  x      x
requires more technical ability    x  x  
record narration separately for each slide in lecture
 
 x      
record lecture in a single recording (all at once; one take or stop-and-start)
 
  x
 
 x  x
record virtual whiteboards or desktop applications (i.e., screencast)      x  x
edit audio after recording
 
   x  x (see note below)  x (depends on tool)
update slides and/or slide-by-slide narration easily from year to year
 
 x      
stream live to students as well as record archive
 
     x  
record audio MP3 only; optionally, provide slides in separate digital file
 
   x    
requires broadband internet connection (best practice)
 
 x    x  
Note: Adobe Connect does allow some very basic, rudimentary editing of the recordings (not just audio, but the whole recording). Basically the ability to select segments and cut them - but it is only accurate to about 3-5 seconds, so not good for very specific edits. This is best used to trim the start or ending or delete entire segments of the recording.
 

VoiceThread

A VoiceThread is a collaborative, interactive, multimedia slide show that holds images, documents, and videos. It allows people to navigate through the slides and leave comments in several ways: using voice, text, or video. It can be used as an online lecture (information primarily from faculty to students) or a collaborative activity. Learn more about the VoiceThread tool on this site.
 
As a lecture, faculty can upload a set of slides (PowerPoint, images, or PDF format) into a VoiceThread. Then, starting with the first slide, record audio narration for each separate slide. The individual slides (with their attached audio comments) can be reordered or even edited with a different image or PowerPoint slide. When students engage with the final VoiceThread, they step through it, hearing the lecture’s accompanying audio with each slide.
 

Audio-Only (MP3) Tools

If a lecture’s audio narration can stand alone or apart from other artifacts (e.g., a PDF or PowerPoint slides), then Audacity was historically the go-to audio-only option. Audacity is an opensource (free) audio recording and editing software that had been a standard tool for non-professionals and professionals alike. Recording your voice and completing some basic editing (such as trimming awkward moments of silence) before saving the narration as an MP3 audio file is the program's main draw. We still have a guide to get started using Audacity to record audio presentations and then posting them online.

However, since Audacity requires you download and install multiple programs plus it doesn't seem to very well supported any longer, we are now recommending some other free online tools that you can use right inside of your browser. You may want to consider using either one of these other easy-to-use tools:

Adobe Connect (Pre-recorded)

Thanks to JHU’s Adobe Connect server, it’s possible to both hold a real-time, interactive virtual class as well as pre-record a stand-alone presentation right from your computer. With Adobe Connect, you can show any application on your desktop (screencasting) as well as use a webcam to record yourself talking. One option for a stand-alone Adobe Connect recording that will be used as a lecture is to focus first on yourself (with the webcam) giving an intro to students and then switching the focus over to your computer’s desktop where you continue to narrate (using your microphone) as you show them the slides you might normally be showing them in a face-to-face class. Adobe Connect even has an optional editing function to cut out portions you don't want to keep. There is more information in the "Recording a Meeting" guide on the JHU Help Site for Student Systems and Educational Technologies. The final video’s Connect link can then be shared to students in an email as well as uploaded to the CoursePlus online library and linked in the class session.

 
Here is an example of a classroom session that was streamed live and recorded: https://connect.johnshopkins.edu/p20b8osq5yi/
 
For more information and basic instructions, see the Adobe Connect information below (under "Live Virtual Class Sessions").

Screencasting (Screencast-o-matic, Loom, etc.)

Screencast-o-matic is a free and very easy-to-use option for recording your voice while you share your screen. The free version of the software limits your recording to 15 minutes (a good length for a lecture section!) and includes a watermark of the company in the lower-left corner of the recording. This free version also allows you to record from your webcam at the same time as your screen. If you splurge for the "Pro" account, you also have the option to edit your recordings.

With the free version, you can upload your MP4 (video) output that is saved to your computer into your CoursePlus Online Library or directly to YouTube, Vimeo, or Google Drive.

Loom is another free and easy-to-use tool for screencasting. This is a Google Chrome add-in (extension). The free version limits you at first to five minute videos and stores your videos online (in a limited storage space). This is fine for shorter recordings whose hyperlink (to where they're stored on the service) can be put in your online library. FYI: Longer recordings and more storage become available when you get more people to sign up for the tool/service.

Camtasia is video editing software offered by TechSmith that allows for screencasting and even has a PowerPoint add-in. This software is not free and there is a bit of a learning curve, but it allows you to create projects from and to several different media types plus it has several "polished" options including title pages, transitions, audio leveling, call outs (annotations), etc.

JHSPH faculty have the option of using Panopto as a screencasting option. For more information about this option, including where to download it from, please see our page on Panopto Screencast & Lecture Capture as a Recorded Lecture.

While not quite the same as screencasting, an updated version of Microsoft PowerPoint can capture real-time annotations and narrations that can be exported as a video. For more information about using this as a lecture alternative, see our page on Narrated PowerPoint as a Recorded Lecture

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Live Virtual Class Sessions

A live, virtual class can happen using a webcasting tool such as Skype for Business or Adobe Connect. Whether or not you schedule a live, virtual class at the same time as your face-to-face class, it’s important to give students enough advanced notice so they can be near a connected computer and check the necessary system requirements. So in the event of inclement weather or other reason for campus closure, announce your scheduled virtual class to your students via an email and CoursePlus announcement as soon as you are able. 

Adobe Connect (Live Streaming)

JHU’s enterprise Adobe Connect server allows any faculty, student or staff with a JHED ID to log in and create, manage and record meetings/sessions. This means faculty can also use this tool to stream live and/or record presentations on their own. PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE IS A LIMITED NUMBER OF CONCURRENT USERS (ATTENDEES) ON THE UNIVERSITY'S ADOBE CONNECT SERVER. This means that if you schedule an Adobe Connect session at the same time as several others across the entire Johns Hopkins University, there is a possibility that you and/or your students may not be allowed to log on if this number is exceeded. This likelihood increases when the campus is closed for inclement weather. 
 
With Adobe Connect you have three basic options: (1) stream a live session allowing you to interact with students in real time (synchronous lecture/class); (2) stream a synchronous lecture and record it so the activity can be shared as an artifact at a later date; and (3) record a one-way lecture (no student participation) to be shared as an artifact at a later date. In each of these options, the meeting facilitator can moderate the session including controlling what and who (webcam, computer screen, other participant) has focus/control at all times. This means you can share your screen with students, talk to students “face-to-face” (virtually) using webcams, and even give students control of a session so they can share their own screens. Adobe Connect even has a whiteboard built into it that works fantastic with a stylus or touch-enabled device.
 
The Quick Start Guide is linked from the JHU Connect home page. There are several other tutorials linked from there as well. And if you want to record the virtual class, be sure to review “Recording a Meeting” on the JHU Help Site for Student Systems and Educational Technologies. As a complement to all of these helpful resources, we have an entire section on this Toolkit dedicated to Adobe Connect basics.
A caveat: if you use audio for live group sessions, everyone should use headphones or ear buds - not external speakers. Use of external speakers is highly likely to create endless and frustrating echo. Please plan to use a headset. It is also highly advisable for the instructor and/or TA to monitor which students have microphones enabled, and to disable audio for students when it is not needed. Students should also be instructed how to mute and un-mute their microphone in order to help prevent audio issues. Be sure to allot extra time at the beginning to work through audio issues.
 
 
Here is a sample of text you may want to include in an email to your students:
 
 
We will have an upcoming meeting online via Adobe Connect. The first thing you will want to do is make sure your computer and network connections are properly configured so you can participate. From the JHU Adobe Connect home page (https://connect.johnshopkins.edu/welcome/), click on the link for "Connection Test" under the sign-in button. Please take the time to do this quick connection test in advance of our meeting time!
 
If you haven't participated in an Adobe Connect session before or would simply like some helpful reminders, there is a Visual Quick Start Guide available at https://seminars.adobeconnect.com/_a227210/vqs-participants/. You may be asked to participate with audio. This works best if you have and use a headset or earbuds with microphone. USB headsets are preferred. (External speakers often lead to a frustrating echo.) When you aren't speaking, mute your microphone to reduce feedback & extraneous noise. To make sure your audio is set up correctly before the class meeting time starts, please follow the instructions at http://help.sset.jhu.edu/display/Connect/Using+Audio.
 
 
Using Adobe Connect in place of LiveTalks
At its root, a LiveTalk is an upgraded Adobe Connect session. But a LiveTalk is scheduled through CTL right on the CoursePlus page, requiring slides to be uploaded and made ready in advance, so coordination of appropriate technologies and personal tech support are available. All the presenter needs to be concerned with is the actual content of the virtual meeting. A LiveTalk makes certain the highest quality virtual meeting is delivered and recorded. In addition, CTL links the recording of the LiveTalk to the CoursePlus page. At least one TA or faculty member should be present in the studio during a LiveTalk.
 
If a LiveTalk has to be canceled due to a university closing or inclement weather, faculty may choose to run an Adobe Connect session on their own. Keep in mind that you will be responsible for giving students instructions, creating your own recording of the session, and posting the recording hyperlink on the course site after the session, since a Connect session outside of the studio is unsupported. Likewise, there will be no stats for attendance recorded on the course site, so the faculty will be responsible for taking attendance during the session. If you opt to use Connect in place of a LiveTalk, make sure to review our overview of Adobe Connect basics.
 

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Other Helpful Tools

Apps for the iPad

There are several iPad apps that can allow you to record mini-lectures, screen capture, and record annotations on the screen.  Below is a list of several that we have tried out, but there are many more options available.  Choose whichever suits your situation (and budget) best.
 
Here are a few links to blog posts that review several of the apps.  Keep in mind that these tools are often updated due to customer feedback, so some of the "cons" listed in the reviews may be updated by now:

Educreations (free)

Educreations describes itself as a "Personal recordable whiteboard for the iPad."  It captures input from voice, digital handwriting, images, and text for the creation of a video lesson or screencast. You can annotate images with handwriting.  Educreations allows you to upload multiple images, from DropBox or your iPad camera or library.  You can save PowerPoint slides as images, and bring them into the presentation using this feature.  

Explain Everything ($2.99)

While this app is not free (the cost is minimal, at $2.99), we think it is well worth the price. Explain Everything will allow you to import PDF, PPT, Keynote, and other files, as well as photos and videos directly from DropBox, Google Drive, Evernote, and your photo and video from the the iPad's Camera Roll. There are also pre-loaded project templates (background colors, etc).  It also allows you to upload several slides/images/videos and move between them and/or a whiteboard (blank screen) throughout the recording.  
This app will allow you to do minor editing of your presentation (you can find a location in a slide, and re-record from there; you can remove/move/edit an annotation or image without deleting the audio and contents of the slide).  
One of the most important features of this app is that it will allow you to export your final project to an .mp4 file which can then be uploaded to CoursePlus. You can also publish to DropBox, Google Drive, or YouTube, and provide students a link to the file.
Link to Explain Everything in iTunes store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/explain-everything/id431493086?mt=8

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Toolkit Workshop Recording

Course Continuity in Inclement Weather - Teaching from Adobe Connect (64 min recording: mp4 (from Google Drive) or mp4 (from OneDrive). Playback is dependent on your browser or you can right-click either link & download the recording to your computer.)
December 2017
The theme of this workshop was to prepare and to practice! The session provided an overview of several options available as contingency plans when an on-campus class session has to be cancelled, with a focus on Adobe Connect. The session's PowerPoint is available as a PDF.

Also, in December 2012, CTL held two workshops regarding Teaching During Inclement Weather. Here is the recording: https://connect.johnshopkins.edu/p5qnmyza0ey/

 
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C. Greene,
Jan 21, 2016, 6:58 AM
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C. Greene,
Mar 9, 2016, 1:03 PM
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