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5427 Twin Knolls Road
Columbia, MD  21045
Tel: (410) 997-3414
Tel: (301) 596-0800

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Cohansey School Holds First Online Class Day

By New Jersey Conference Staff

Cathy Thomlinson, principal of the New Jersey Conference’s Cohansey Christian School in Bridgeton, N.J., knows she can still teach her students should the entire school need to be shut down. With this year’s snowstorms causing many New Jersey schools to shutter their doors for a full week, Thomlinson, who teaches grades 4 thru 8, held classes online. During a recent storm, she taught her students using Skype, an online application, which allows instant messaging and voice and video calls.

“There are just so many days to complete all that is needed to fulfill our yearly curriculum requirements … multiple snow days are a hindrance, “ she explains. “When I heard most surrounding schools were closed [due to snow], we closed as well. While watching the weather forecasts I was bombarded with online commercials for this and online commercials for that … so I thought to myself ‘since we are about to be snowed in, I wonder if the kids would like to work online for a day?’”

Thomlinson called her school board chair to share the idea and she agreed it might work. “We knew it would be fun because we both spent time on Skype with our out-of-state children and grandchildren, and we both have engaged in conference calls and know their value,” she says.

The day before school would be closed students were sent home with their textbooks and an outline for all assignments for the entire week.

“I announced that first thing in the morning we would sign on to Skype and ‘check in’ for class,” Thomlinson said. “I also explained that we would be completing our assignments online and emailing them to me for grading. The students were so excited and with their ‘here we go again’ smiles on their faces, home they went.”

Some students were so excited about the prospect of learning online that when Thomlinson checked her inbox that evening she already had four assignments awaiting her.

The students were up and signing on early in the morning and Thomlinson contacted the remaining students and talked them through the sign-on process. “I would call them and say, ‘Where are you?’ ‘Let’s go. This is our first E-Day,’” she says. “That’s what I called it anyway. E for Education. E for Ecology (no paper needed) and E for email/online learning.”

As students signed on she added them to her conference call list. One of the students actually wore her school uniform for the day!

“How exciting it was the first time all the students were on conference call together,” Thomlinson recalls. “We had roll call and opening prayer together just like school.”

Even the two families who didn’t have microphones participated through instant message. Throughout the day, Thomlinson emailed assignments to all students’ accounts then signed off so they could get to work.

Students would Skype her individually for help just as they would raise their hands and come to the front table in the classroom. Conference calls were carried on throughout the day. All students were asked to check in at two-hour intervals for group discussion.

“Closing prayer was offered by Nicholas Saboski who proudly announced his pleasure to have our class’s first online prayer,” Thomlinson shares. “Overall, I was completely satisfied with student participation and their efforts to complete work accurately, neatly and in a timely manner. This was an opportunity for our class to take an in-depth look into online learning procedures and to experiment with Skype as another method of communication and technological advancement. In addition to regularly scheduled lessons and assignments, students learned individual responsibility, time-management, e-mail procedures and an introduction to Skype.”