What should you do if your technology fails? Tools that we rely upon for online learning may experience temporary service outages, so we need to have some back-up plans. In this article, we offer some options.
Note: In all cases of technology outage, be sure to e-mail or message your students right away to let them know where they can access the materials they need for your class.
Video-Conferencing Alternatives to Zoom
Is Zoom down or not working appropriately? Here are some live class video-conferencing options you can use at Stanford:
For a full class meeting:
- Google Meet: Log in to your stanford.edu account through Google Meet and you can generate a meeting link just as you would do within Zoom. Google Meet does not have a breakout room feature like Zoom does, but it has a live chat stream and users can share their screens. Google Meet also has a built-in auto-caption tool so that students can see real-time captions. Learn more about Stanford UIT's access to the Google (G) Suite.
- Skip the audio/video and engage in a live text chat stream in Canvas Chat or Slack. If Zoom is down or your computer is having trouble with your built-in video camera or microphone, you might consider scheduling a "live chat stream" conversation with your students if you'd like an opportunity to engage with everyone in real time. In Canvas, you can use the Chat to have an instant message dialogue with your students. Similarly, in Slack, you could create a channel within a workspace that is dedicated to live or "real-time" dialogue if necessary.
For individual conferences or tutoring with students:
- Google Meet: Log in to your stanford.edu account through Google Meet and you can generate a meeting link just as you would do within Zoom. Google Meet does not have a breakout room feature like Zoom does, but it has a live chat stream and users can share their screens. Google Meet also has a built-in auto-caption tool so that students can see real-time captions.
- Slack: If your class is already using Slack, you can start a direct message with a student with whom you'd like to meet. When you start a direct message with a student, you'll see an icon in the upper-right corner that represents a phone. You can start a call with a student, which launches an audio-video window for a conversation.
- Skip the video and have a student call you on the phone using a Google Voice phone number. Through Google Voice, you can auto-generate a phone number where a student could call you or text you from a mobile device without having to distribute your personal phone number. For the sake of your privacy, it is valuable not to distribute your personal phone number, and Google Voice allows you to use an anonymous phone number that will not be affiliated with your personal phone account or information.
Assignment Submission if Canvas is Down
If you are using Canvas, Stanford's Learning Management System, to have students submit their assignments regularly, but the system goes down, it's worth thinking through the back-up options for assignment submissions. Bear in mind that Canvas outages are an extremely rare occurrence, but it is worth having a contingency plan:
- Create individual folders for students to submit work in Stanford Google Drive. Log-in to drive.google.com with your stanford.edu e-mail account. Create a folder for your class and then create individual submission folders for each of your students. Invite each individual student to their sub-folder so that they have a place to submit their work to you. This process will take more work than asking students to e-mail work to you, but will ultimately offer a more secure longer-term solution so that you don't accidentally delete or misplace e-mail submissions.
If you are returning grades to students and Canvas is down, do NOT post grades to a space where students can see each other's grades. Be sure that you share grades with students on an individual basis to avoid FERPA violation or privacy infringement. Do NOT post grades to any social media or public space (including Slack or group e-mails).
Document or Activity Sharing if Canvas is Down
If you are using Canvas, Stanford's Learning Management System, to have students receive activity instructions or to share documents, it's worth thinking through the back-up options if Canvas goes down. Bear in mind that Canvas outages are an extremely rare occurrence, but it is worth having a contingency plan:
- Create a Team Drive folder in Stanford Google Drive with activity instructions, handouts, or resources. A Team Drive is a collaborative space in Google Drive where any member added can see and contribute to what's in the space. A Team Drive would allow you to share materials nimbly with your students and also allow them to upload materials for you and their peers see. Do not have students submit grades or private information through a Team Drive account because material saved in a Team Drive will be visible to everyone. However, for low-stakes assignment, a Team Drive can be an easy space for everyone to contribute.
- Send a group e-mail to your students with the essential links, materials, and downloads for the day(s). You could use a group e-mail to distribute essential materials for a few days if the learning management system is down. However, e-mail is not a good long-term solution for organizing class materials. Students receive a lot of e-mail and they will likely have a very challenging time keeping track of messages. Giving students a dedicated space to visit - instead of just having to search through an inbox for messages - is a more valuable long-term strategy. However, if a Canvas outage is temporary, an e-mail can work as a short-term immediate solution.