Teaching & Learning

Prepare For When Classes Can’t Meet

Prepare For When Classes Can’t Meet


Purpose of this page

UW Information Technology and other units on campus have compiled the following toolkit of technology recommendations to help instructors prepare for a possible disruption to campus operations (for example, a pandemic or extended severe weather). This toolkit will help you to

  • Prepare in advance for a disruption,
  • Conduct classes during a large-scale disruption to campus operations, and
  • Organize your course materials and communicate with students during normal operations.

This toolkit is not a definitive list of technology resources, nor is it designed to address non-technical issues, such as attendance policies or pedagogical best practices.

Some Comments Before You Begin

You will not need to take action on every recommendation in the toolkit. Simply pick and choose the information that is most useful for your teaching context.

As part of your preparations, protect your remote location (home) computers with anti-virus software to help ensure they will be reliable when you need them.

Important: Some of the tools mentioned in this document are not explicitly compliant with FERPA or HIPAA requirements. These tools are marked with an asterisk (*). If you are considering using these tools, you are advised to review UW policy regarding external email and cloud service providers on the Appropriate Use of UW Resources page.

Readiness Quiz

Are you prepared to…?

  1. Put your course materials online
    Yes No Question
            I have a website for each of my courses that contains the most current course information.
            I have a way to distribute assignments to my students online.
            I use audio or video materials in class and I know how to share these with my students.
            I use the UW Libraries E-Reserve service to make materials available to my students.

    If you answered “no” to one or more of the statements above, learn more in the How to Put Materials Online section below.

  2. Establish channels of communication with your students and colleagues
    Yes No Question
            My students know how to contact me if they have a question.
            I have a way to facilitate discussion with groups of students remotely.
            Students have a way to contact each other and collaborate online.

    If you answered “no” to one or more of the statements above, learn more in the How to Communicate Online section below.

  3. Establish ways to conduct your class at a distance
    Yes No Question
            My students can read, listen to, and/or watch my lectures online.
            My students can turn in homework and take exams online.
            I have a way to respond to student work and securely publish scores online.
            I know how to submit final grades to the Registrar online.

    If you answered “no” to one or more of the statements above, learn more in the How to Conduct Your Class Online section below.

  4. Set up remote access to important resources
    Yes No Question
            I have a computer or laptop at home that has the software and Internet connectivity I need to work remotely.
            My TAs have the knowledge and capability to remotely conduct their quiz sessions.

    If you answered “no” to one or more of the statements above, learn more in the How to Access Your Course Materials From Home section below.

How to Put Materials Online

Having course materials online is helpful for preparedness and for student accessibility. The following list contains a number of ways you can share various types of course materials with your students online.

Create a Class Workspace Online

Put all your course materials in one convenient location and make the workspace available to your students online using Catalyst CommonView. Post your course syllabus and class lectures to the workspace, upload audio and video examples, post urgent announcements in a dedicated area, and more. Designate your TAs or colleagues as collaborators to help you edit and manage the class space. Simply log in to your Catalyst account to create a CommonView workspace.

Share Course Materials With Your Students or TAs Online

Create a convenient online space to share course materials with your TAs and student groups using Catalyst ShareSpaces. Share homework assignments and lecture notes with your students or post papers online for student review. Designate who has access to the shared space and give your TAs and colleagues the ability to modify files.

If you require a more robust solution for putting course content online, consider using WordPress.

Make Course Materials Available to Students Through UW Libraries E-Reserve

Another way you can make course materials, such as readings or audio/video materials, available to your students online is through the UW Libraries E-Reserve.

How to Communicate Online

Useful for both emergency situations and general course activity, this list provides suggestions on establishing lines of communication with and between your students and colleagues.

Create a UW Email Distribution List

Request an email distribution list for your class on MyUW under the Teaching tab. These class lists are created at the time they are requested and will be ready to use the following day. If you want to create a list for cross-listed courses or combinations of courses, submit an Mailman Instructor Class List request.

You could also post the class contact list to connect students with one another.

Create an Online Discussion Board Using Catalyst GoPost

Enable your students to communicate asynchronously with you, your TAs and co-instructors, and each other online by creating an online discussion board using GoPost. Create multiple discussion areas to organize conversation topics on your board. Add your TAs and co-instructors as moderators or administrators, allowing them to facilitate discussions or manage board settings. In this context, think of GoPost as a repository of information and updates. Note that you would likely need another communication tool, such as email, to alert students to go to the discussion board.

Use Social Networking Tools to Send Messages to Your Students

Send instant updates and announcements to your students about the status of your course using online social networking sites such Google+, Twitter and Facebook. (*See note about using 3rd-party tools.)

Use the Web to Communicate in Real Time

Skype allows you to conduct a teleconference call with up to 25 people. Group video chat between more than two people requires a paid business account. ( *See note about using 3rd-party tools.)

Google+ Hangouts allows you to display class materials. While you can invite as many people as you want to join a hangout, you can’t have more than 10 people in a hangout at once. If additional people try to enter, they’ll be told the hangout is currently full. Hangouts is a feature of Google+, which is available to you as part of UW GoogleApps. For more about how Hangouts works, see Google’s page about Google+ Hangouts. ( *See note about using 3rd-party tools.)

UW Windows Live Messenger or Google Chat are good tools for one-on-one conversations.

Create a Telephone Hotline

Turn your voicemail box into a telephone hotline. Simply update your greeting with timely information about the status of your course(s) or campus operations. Contact UW Information Technology (help@uw.edu) to create enhanced hotline functionality such as call menus.

How to Conduct Your Class Online

Facilitate classroom and other campus-based activities, such as lectures, student questions, discussion, homework turn-in and exams, with these technology tool options.

Use Tegrity or Adobe Connect

Tegrity is a cloud-based lecture capture service. Tegrity lets instructors record and publish lectures and other class activities online. Students can then view (and review) the published materials using a Web browser or mobile device. Students can easily search content, make and share notes, and add bookmarks.

You can use Tegrity in two modes: 1) to pre-record and then post video lectures, or 2) to broadcast a live lecture (with a three-second delay). The first mode allows you to upload supplemental video content and to add notes to your course materials.

To find out more about Tegrity:

To conduct real-time lectures and quiz sections from a remote location, UW Information Technology provides various teleconferencing options and also Web/video conferencing through Adobe Connect.

Facilitate Class Discussion Online Using Catalyst GoPost

Enable your students to communicate with you and each other online by creating an online discussion board using GoPost. Create multiple discussion areas to organize conversation topics on your discussion board. Add your TAs and colleagues as moderators or administrators, allowing them to facilitate discussions or manage board settings. Note that some restructuring of your class discussion might be required, as GoPost is an asynchronous communication tool (as opposed to a chat tool, for example).

Offer Students Online Tools for Group Work

Catalyst ShareSpaces allows students to easily work on group projects together. They can download a file, make changes, and then upload the new version.

UW Google Sites also offers a secure option for online collaboration:

  • Google Sites
Collect Assignments and Homework Online

Gather homework assignments, provide feedback, and return assignments to students online using Catalyst Collect It. All files submitted to a dropbox are logged and organized by assignment and participant. Set open, due, and close dates for assignments and see at a glance which submissions are on time, and which submissions are late. Give your TAs or colleagues access as commentators or administrators so they can view and comment on participants’ work, or help you edit and manage your dropbox.

Assess Student Learning Online With Catalyst WebQ Quizzes

WebQ provides you with a quick and reliable way to build and administer online surveys or quizzes, allowing you to assess student learning online. Create a wide variety of questions on your survey or quiz: multiple choice, long text response, matrix questions, and more. Designate who has access using one of six security settings.

Track Student Grades and Submit Grades to the Registrar Online With Catalyst GradeBook

Easily record student scores online, track student progress, calculate final grades, and submit grades to the Registrar online using Catalyst GradeBook. Provide secure access to co-instructors and TAs to view and edit student grades. Publish scores for students to view securely online without any extra work.

How to Access Materials From Home

Methods are available for accessing on campus materials from your personal laptop or home computer. First check with your departmental support staff; your department may already have a system in place for accessing files from home.

Access Your Work Computer From Home Using Remote Desktop Access

Remote desktop access allows you to access your work computer using another computer with a connection to the Internet. Your icons, programs and printers are all available. You can even transfer files between your systems. In order to use remote desktop access, your work computer will need to remain on (you can be logged out, but the computer must not be turned off) and you will need to know your work computer’s current IP address or name. If you need help finding your IP address, contact your local IT support staff.

Possible sources of Remote Desktop software include:

  • Connecting Remotely
  • A Unix client from the Rdesktop site.
  • Remote Desktop Access software for Mac.
Store Your Course Materials Online

UW faculty can store files securely and safely on the UW central servers.

Catalyst File Manager is a Web-based file management tool available to students, faculty and staff at the University of Washington. With File Manager you can upload and save your files to a secure online server, instead of storing them on your work desktop. Using your UW account (Homer), you can access your file storage space. File Manager provides you with an additional 1.5 GB of storage online. Learn more.

You can also store your files in an online server using a secure file transfer system such as Fetch or Fugu.

Connect to the UW Networks

Most faculty connect to the UW network from home through their Internet Service Provider (ISP). Learn more or through dial-up.

 Get Help

  • Check with your local IT support staff.
  • Contact UW Information Technology (help@uw.edu) regarding telephones, UW Netids, MyUW, email distribution lists, and general help.
  • Contact Learning & Scholarly Technologies (lsthelp@uw.edu) regarding Catalyst Web Tools, technology consulting, free computing workshops, and general help.
  • Contact the Center for Teaching and Learning (thectl@uw.edu) to talk about best practices, whether in or out of the classroom.
  • Create a live webcast recording of your class using Tegrity. 
  • Contact Disability Services Office (dso@uw.edu) to ensure all your students with disabilities are accommodated by your technology choices.

Other Resources:

Last modified: July 10, 2013