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Take Advantage of Lost Learning Time

Use technology to leverage virtual learning days and take advantage of lost learning time


Virtual learning days may occur once a week, just a few times a semester, or exclusively when there is an emergency situation such as a “snow day.” On these days, teachers post class assignments online and students work on them at their own pace from home or other non-school locations. Teachers and students might participate in live class discussions or post on class message boards. Often, assignments are flexible enough to work around student family needs as well. Schools that implement virtual learning days are not looking to replace the brick and mortar school experience, but do seek to provide flexibility and expose students to a platform they are likely to encounter in college.

In Action:

  • At Park Ridge High School in Park Ridge, NJ, all 560 students in grades 7 - 12 have their own laptop, provided by the school. The district began experimenting with virtual school days by trying one out in February 2016. They implemented a learning management system (LMS) where teachers could post assignments and conduct live courses synchronously. Students participated enthusiastically, with about ten percent of the students or less coming to school and going to class, and the other 90% working from remote locations such as home, coffee shops or friends’ houses.
  • Farmington Area Public Schools in Farmington, MN decided to hold a virtual school day to make up time when schools closed due to inclement weather in early 2014. Since then, the district has used both planned and emergency virtual learning days during the academic year. The planned days are to support teacher inservice, and the emergency days are to prevent losing school days to weather conditions. Their existing online learning platform and iPad program for students helped provide the infrastructure for fast adoption. In 2015, the district added two more virtual learning days in order to deal with a budget shortfall. The district saved nearly $1 million by having students stay home, but they did not miss out on school. The district has two “planned flexible learning days” and two “emergency flexible learning snow days” on its annual calendar, with clear protocols and time/participation expectations for both students and staff.

Student Does

  • Use personal devices or school-provided devices
  • Connect to learning management system or platform (with access to high speed internet) to access learning materials
  • Work through learning tasks independently, with virtual guidance from teachers

Teacher Does

  • Create online-specific coursework
  • Support students virtually through online messaging
  • Use the time for planning and/or collaborating with other teachers

Technology Does

  • Learning management systems (or other similar content platforms) deliver content to students
  • Track progress for students, teachers, and families

Strategy Resources

Unlocking Time's strategy on using virtual learning days

This time strategy, created by Unlocking Time, profiles how schools have designed virtual learning days... Learn More

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Farmington Area Public Schools' Flexible Learning Days

On this site, Farmington Area Public Schools shares information with families and the community on... Learn More

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