Teaching Options for a Snow Day

  • Faculty & Staff

Teaching can go on if snow or other unforeseen problems prevent you and your students from getting to class.

Before deciding if you should cancel class, be sure to check the Penn home page or call 215-898-MELT (215-898-6358) to see if the University is operating on a normal schedule. You should also check with the program office for your school (e.g. LPS, Fels, Dynamics, the College).

Here are a few suggestions for how you can keep your students engaged even if you can't get to the classroom.

Stay in touch with your class

There are easy ways you can get messages to your students

Conduct online, asynchronous discussions 

Discussion boards allow you and your students to post and reply to questions.  It's also a useful way to engage students in review & comment on each other's work.  

  • Use  the discussion board feature in Canvas to facilitate asynchronous, written discussion. Discussion boards can be configured for a variety of uses, including to allow anonymous posts.

Telephone or online conferencing services

A variety of conferencing services are available and can help you pull together an impromptu meeting.  Please check with your program or business office before engaging any services that will involve fees

Zoom Web Conferencing


Zoom provides functionality similar to WebEx, GoToMeeting and other web conferencing systems. It supports voice, camera and screen sharing, plus text chat.
Zoom is available to SAS faculty and staff for use under a pilot program in the 2015-2016 academic year.  

FreeConference, Standard Service


Telephone conferencing service.

Teacher/Meeting host can sign up for a free account and gets a phone number and access code that can be used at any time. Accommodates up to 150 participants.
No charge to meeting host, but toll charges apply to all callers.

FreeConference Premium 800 Service


Teacher/Meeting host creates an account.  Callers use a toll-free number and meeting host is charged $.10 per minute per caller.  Recording service available for additional fee.



A popular internet communication service with a variety of service options.

Voice conferencing over computer or telephone; video or screensharing optional.  Up to 25 people can participate in a conference call.  No charge for users talking via computer, but users need to have Skype accounts and have the program installed.  Charges apply for calling to standard phones or for group video calls.

For situations when the students can make it to class, but the instructor can't, please see our instructions about how to connect to a classroom through Skype

Conferencing feature in Canvas







Canvas includes a feature called Big Blue Button which provides for live audio, video, screen sharing and chat function.  You can access Big Blue Button through the Conferences area of your Canvas site.

Canvas conferences provide good functionality, but can be complicated to use effectively.  It is strongly recommended that instructors arrange a demonstration session with instructional support staff before trying to conduct a conference with a class.  Contact mms-help@sas.upenn.edu to arrange a demonstration session.

Google Hangouts




Google Hangouts provide free audio and video conferencing (including screen sharing) for groups of up to 10 participants.  All participants must have google accounts.  Please note that Google Hangouts are NOT included in Google@SAS accounts; all participants must join through "regular" Google accounts (e.g. student.name@gmail.com).



An easy to use webconferencing system for groups of  15 or less.  Includes voice over computer or telephone, screen sharing, text chat, recording.

$49/ month.  30 day free trial available, but requires credit card number to sign up.  You must cancel before the end of the 30 day trial or you will be billed for monthly service.

Adobe Connect Professional


A full featured web conferencing system for up to 150 participants.  Includes audio via computer, video support, screen sharing, text chat, polling, file sharing and more. 

Somewhat complex for meeting organizers to use; requires advance training and planning. 

Accounts can be obtained through SAS Computing for $150 per year.  Contact John MacDermott of SAS Computing for details