Digital Detours: A Menu of Solutions for when Technology Fails

Here is the first in a series of posts on digital detours. A few colleagues and I (a subcommittee of the eLearning Working Group) put together a list of proactive solutions that faculty at UAA use to keep distance courses running when Blackboard, Elluminate Live, or email are not functioning properly.   

Let’s start with email. How can you plan your distance course so that if email becomes unreliable, it won’t have a huge effect Yikes! We rely so much on email!

Here are a few ideas.

Collect external contact information from students at the beginning of the semester. Create a local spreadsheet or email contact group to save your students’ contact info.

Create a content folder or menu item in Blackboard (e.g. Start Here or Precourse Activity) that might include:

  • An activity for students top update their UAOnline contact information (phone/email primarily) so you will be able to utilize the Email Class feature in the Faculty section of UAOnline.
  • A Blackboard quiz or form (e.g. Google Docs) to collect student alternative email/cell phone.
  • Create student groups that have each other’s personal email addresses (or a phone tree).

Establish communications expectations and response times.

  • Put a note in your contact info/introduction that lets students know that you will respond to emails within X number of hours (e.g. 24 or 48) and what your preferred method of communication is. That way, when they don’t get a response, they know you didn’t receive their message.
  • Use an alternative communication method with students instead of email (e.g. Google Voice, Twitter, Blackboard messages, Blackboard discussion board). Consider group texting to students (e.g. Class Parrot).

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