CTL Snow Day “Make-up Class” Guide

Here are some fairly quick ideas of how you can adapt your class meeting to an online format using widely available and free tools. The CTL staff is available to help you brainstorm and figure this out whether it’s through a workshop or one-on-one consultation. Please reach out to us at ctl@baruch.cuny.edu.

How to get started?

For some faculty, transferring an entire lesson online is fairly straightforward - the topic and assignment already lends itself to easily make this adaption. In this case, the faculty is choosing what would have done in class during one of the snow days and transferring it online.

For others, this approach might not make sense. Here are two other ideas:

Search your syllabus for a lesson/unit later in the semester that would be easily put online, instead of assuming that the lesson that was meant for the actual snow-day date needs to be online. Then, focus on developing this later material into the online environment.

Another approach is to not try to put an entire lesson online. Rather, focus on putting parts of 2-3 different lessons online so that you are freeing up time for the necessary face-to-face work. For example, instead of checking for reading comprehension in-class, create a pre-class quiz on Blackboard or ask students to participate in a discussion board.

Following are a list of some come types of courses and accompanying suggestions. There are many more creative and effective ideas than are covered here, so if you have something to share, please send it our way!

For courses with class discussions:

·       Create a discussion board: Assign students to read/watch your materials and then develop a set of discussion questions that you want students to answer.

First, create a discussion board on Blackboard or Blogs@baruch.

Here is a quick overview of how to set up a discussion board on Blackboard: https://blackboardhelp.usc.edu/collaboration/forums/creating-a-discussion-forum/

Discussion can be fostered on Blogs@baruch by asking students to comment on a post or by installing a discussion board plug in. Instructions can be found at https://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/support/for-blog-administrators/.

Then, craft your discussion board assignment. You can ask students to reply to your questions and to also post their own original questions. To encourage “dialogue” require students to reply to a minimum number of their classmates’ posts by certain due dates. In your assignment make sure you are clear about the due dates and how many questions your students should answer. (Scroll down the page to find a list of sample discussion board questions and sets of instructions.)


·       Create a quiz: Blackboard offers faculty the ability to create quizzes. Cristina Balboa, Assistant Professor from the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs pairs together quizzes and discussion boards in her online course. This combination is a good way to assess reading comprehension of individual students along with communal exploration of the topic via discussion boards. Copy and paste this link in your browser https://blackboard.ku.edu/tests-quizzes for instructions on how to set up quizzes on Blackboard. See above to learn about setting up a discussion board.

·       Use social web annotation tools such as Hypothes.is, which allows students to annotate directly on web-pages and PDF files. This free tool is a great way to have your class all looking at the same text and sharing their thoughts/comments questions collectively. Here’s a link to the tool https://hypothes.is/. Copy and paste this link in your browser to see a video on how Hypothesis works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5j3Dfhru7A.  (Scroll down the page to find a list of sample annotation prompts and ideas.)


·       Create a class or group “wiki” on Blackboard or Hypothesis, which allows students collaborate on the creation and/or commenting of one document. Here’s a link to a video on how it works on Blackboard: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5j3Dfhru7A .

For courses in which you watch and comment on media:

·       Upload media and have students annotate/comment using Vocat. Vocat is a web application managed by the CTL that allows faculty and students with an account to upload a video or image and then to annotate and/or assess the work. Vocat may be used as a teaching tool and an assessment instrument. The current version features cloud transcoding and storage of videos, in-line annotation of videos, a robust rubrics generator, real-time data reporting, and REST APIs. The CTL has an archive of “Vocat-ready” videos from a range of disciplines. Contact the CTL to learn more.

 For courses with many presentations:

·       Have students record their presentations and upload them to Vocat. Vocat is a web application managed by the CTL that allows faculty and students with an account to upload a video or image and then to annotate and/or assess the work. Vocat may be used as a teaching tool and an assessment instrument. The current version features cloud transcoding and storage of videos, in-line annotation of videos, a robust rubrics generator, real-time data reporting, and REST APIs. More information can be found here: http://vocat.io/.

For courses with lectures:

·       Turn your Powerpoint lectures into a short lecture capture video using Powerpoint add-on OfficeMix. The CTL is hosting a workshop “Easy Lecture Capture Video using PowerPoint with Office Mix” to teach exactly this skill on Thursday, March 30th from 3pm-4pm in NVC 14-267. Please bring an existing PowerPoint presentation you would like to convert into a lecture capture video. Click here to register for the workshop. Watch this video to learn more about OfficeMix http://www.mixforteachers.com/what-is-office-mix.html. 

For courses with research projects:

·       Assign your students research based assignments. Have them spend their “online” portion of the class dedicated to primary and/or secondary research. Have your students report on their online work by writing about their chosen research methodology, works cited and findings using a Google Docs or a Blogs@Baruch. They can even annotate an online source using Hypothes.is and invite classmates to respond to their annotations. Learn about Blogs@Baruch at http://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/. Want to learn how to set this up? Contact the CTL.

Have students identify and edit a Wikipedia entry on an aspect of their research. When doing research, student must familiarize themselves with foundational concepts and past literature. From this knowledge, they can help build out an already existing Wikipedia entry on their research topic. They may not be able to edit the main topic, but have student identify a smaller aspect of their research project on Wikipedia. For example, if they are researching “branding strategies” they may be able to add to an entry about a specific brand. This assignment tasks students with engaging in public scholarship to demonstrate and share their knowledge with a larger public. For more information teaching with wikipedia, check out the Wikimedia foundation resources: https://wikiedu.org/teach-with-wikipedia/ and check out these helpful Case Studies. If you’re still weary about teaching with Wikipedia read why you might want to on the HASTAC blog.


Do you have other suggestions and best practices to share with fellow faculty? Please send them our way at ctl@baruch.cuny.edu!


Sample Discussion Board Questions

Following are some discussion board questions that have been used by Allison Lehr Samuels in her undergraduate and graduate courses in the Zicklin School of Business and Cristina Balboa her courses at the  Marxe School of Public and International Affairs. Feel free to adapt to your own course.

When you want students to analyze secondary research data reports:

DB Question Subject: Compare and Contrast the GEM Data

After looking at the GEM data, please compare and contrast the experience of U.S. women entrepreneurs versus their international counterparts.


What stood out to you? Did anything surprise you? Was the data in line with what you’ve seen?

When you want to check that students did the reading and foster a personal connection to the material:

DB Question Subject: Pal’s Policy Networks

Look at Pal’s definitions of policy networks in Figure 6.3. Give an example of one type of network from the news, your other classes, or your personal experience and explain how the case fits the type.

DB Question Subject: Two Quotes

Pick two quotes from “"Female Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries" that you found the most compelling. Please discuss why you chose them

Another example

DB Question Subject: Makers Part 1

What are three facts, assertions and/or observations that the documentary makes that you found the most compelling? Why? (Please make direct quotations and include minute number of video, please.)

DB Question Subject: Sept 2 Readings

In what ways do "The Feminine Mystique" and the "Books As Bombs" article add to your growing understanding and/or reaction to the feminist movement? (150-200 words)

When you want students to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of materials throughout your course:

DB Question Subject: Helping Julie Ha

Pretend that Julie Ha is your good friend. Consider what you have learned in the course thus far. Share three lessons and/or concepts and/or statistics which she might find helpful in handling her dilemma. Please explain the rationale behind your choice and how Julie can learn and/incorporate this information into her situation. To receive full credit, clearly identify the source of your lesson, concept, statistic, etc.

When you are teaching a case and want students to engage in role-playing:

DB Question Subject: What would you do, Robin?

When Robin Chase had to build Zipcar's management team, she made a big mistake with the COO. He wasn't familiar with a bootstrapping startup environment and he spent a lot of money and didn't effectively lead. Chase had to fire him because he was just not a good fit.

Do you think Chase is making another mistake by keeping Danielson as the VP of Environmental Affairs and Strategy if she has not committed full-time? How do you think her current part-time status and pregnancy are impacting your ability to fundraise? How would you handle this, since Danielson is your friend and co-founder?

When you are want to create a sense of community in your classroom:

DB Question Subject: How do you know you are ready?

Many of you said you want to start your own business one day. What criteria will you use to determine whether or not you are “ready” to start your business? Will you wait for some event to occur? For some resources to accumulate? What might be your event trigger?
For those of you who have launched a business/venture in the past, how did you know were ready to start? What criteria do you think you will use to determine whether or not you are "ready" to start your next venture or shift the focus of your venture?
For those of you who do not plan launch a business, how do you think you will decide if you are ready for making a career shift, whether it is switching industries, companies or career? What criteria do you think you will use to determine whether or not you are "ready" to change directions in your career?

Discussion Board Sample Instructions:

When you want students to respond to your questions and create their own original questions:

Based on the Sept. 9 course materials :


Step 1: Answer the 3 DB questions that have been posted by me.


Step 2: Pose your own original questions based upon Part II of the documentary. To do this, create your own thread and include a subject line that reflects your question.


Minimum number of posts to forum: 4

When you want to foster a classroom discussion online by having students respond to your questions, create their own original questions and respond to each other’s:

Please read the Prospect College case:
Due Dates:
Steps 1 & 3 before 11PM on May 16
Steps 2 & 4 before 11PM on May 18
Step 1. Answer the 3 DB questions that have been posted by me.
Step 2. Read through the DB responses of your classmates to my questions. You need to respond to at least one of your classmates' posts for each thread.
Step 3. Post ONE original question based upon the materials
Step 4. Read through and respond to at least ONE of your classmates' original questions
Total minimum number of posts: 8

Sample Annotation Prompts and Applications for Hypothes.is

When you want students to individually annotate a course reading:

For class readings that are full or rich detail and are accessible online (or could be uploaded to your Blogs@Baruch site), ask students to use Hypothes.is to add a specified number of original annotations and respond to 2 of their classmates’ annotations. Encourage students to avoid repetition. If someone has already annotated it, students should move on to another part of the text they find interesting.

You might provide prompts for students about what to annotate. Here are some sample instructions for annotating a literary text that Cheryl Smith shares with her literature students and could be adapted for different purposes:

When you want students to work in groups to annotate a short course reading or part of a longer reading:

Have students work in groups to annotate different texts. After carefully reading the text, students could brainstorm, perhaps in a google doc, and collaboratively generate a list of 8-10 details, references, themes, issues, or particular lines or passages that merit further research and/or explanation through annotation. Students might then divide up this list among the group members so that each person is responsible for researching and writing a specified number of annotations on their theme or issue.

When you want students to use textual annotations as early steps toward developing a paper or research project:

The annotations students do, either individually or in groups, on course texts can be the bones of a longer, more formal writing project. Encourage students to keep their annotations in a word doc and record any responses they get from classmates. Or ask each student to choose another student’s annotation that interests her/him and post a follow up response to the annotation suggesting a source or possible question to explore further. Or select each student’s most promising annotation and task them with doing more research and posting a follow-up response with their findings.

When you want students to join a public conversation about a reading relevant to your course:

Find an online text that is already annotated by Hypothes.is users at large. Encourage your students to be a part of the public conversation by choosing one annotation and posting a response.

When you want students to consider and critique other readers’ annotations, even if you’re not using Hypothes.is:

You can send students to Genius.com or Lit.genius.com to read a text and its annotations. Many songs and literary texts are included. Increasingly, Genius.com has “verified artists” annotating their own work, which offers unique insight into a text, if you happen to be teaching it, and into the creative or writing process more generally, which is useful even if you’re not teaching that specific text or artist. For instance, Junot Diaz annotates part of his novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (among other works). In his annotations, Diaz remarks on the role of memory in writing and the liberties writers take in crafting metaphor and imagery, which would be useful for students in a writing or literature class to discuss. Students studying graphic design or marketing might look at the cover of Diaz’s novel, which is annotated by its designer Rodrigo Corral.

Genius.com hosts many artists doing self-annotation. They range from Lena Dunham on her collection of essays to Lin-Manuel Miranda on Hamilton to many other musicians, from every genre, annotating their original songs.

For other ideas on using textual annotation for a variety of purposes in your classes, check out this post on the Hypothes.is blog.