Welcome to “EduTips”

Digital Detours is a subcommittee of the UAA E-Learning Workgroup, revised Spring 2014: Cindy Trussell and Kathleen Voge

Digital Detours: Solutions

This list contains proactive solutions for keeping distance courses running when the LMS (Blackboard Learn), web conferencing (Blackboard Collaborate),or university email are not functioning properly.  Outages seldom happen for any length of time, but here are some great ideas to consider as you plan your next course.

Collect external contact information from students at the beginning of the semester

  • Create local spreadsheet or email contact group to save your students’ contact info.
  • Create a content folder or menu item in Blackboard Learn (e.g. Start Here or Pre-Course Activity) that might include:
    • An activity for students to update their contact information in the Personal Information tab of UAOnline (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 others’ contact info (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 alternative communication method with students instead of email
    • Blackboard messages, Blackboard discussion board
    • Google Voice, Twitter, group texting (e.g. Remind 101)

Tell students what to do if they can’t get into a web conference (Collaborate class meeting)  (i.e. Plan B)

  • At the beginning of the semester, communicate with students your plan B process including how long to wait before executing plan B steps.

Suggestions include:

One session for the entire semester Recurring sessions over the semester
Instruct students to use alternate Collaborate link that you have provided to students in your syllabus and in an introductory email.To get this linkJoin the session to get an external link that bypasses Blackboard Learn. Choose Tools > In-Session Invite > Invite New Participant > Copy Link > share link with students Create an extra “plan B” session spanning the entire semester.  Recurring sessions are only available 1 hour before the class time and the session link changes.Join the session to get an external link that bypasses Blackboard Learn.Create a session spanning the entire semester. Join the session to get an external link that bypasses Blackboard Learn. Choose Tools > In-Session Invite > Invite New Participant > Copy Link > share link with students


  • Instruct students to check their university email or other identified connected classroom environment (e.g. Google+, Edmodo, or Facebook) immediately. If they see an message or announcement from you, it is a problem everyone is having. If not, they should try these troubleshooting tips.
    • Try a different browser (Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome).
    • Try a direct connection to the internet (rather than wireless) or try a mobile device.
    • View Blackboard Collaborate support pages
    • Call UAA call center: (907) 786-4646 or Toll Free (877) 633-3888
  • Instruct students to switch to the previously identified alternative synchronous meeting space (e.g. audio conference ($), Skype, Google Hangouts, Vyew, Zoom, WizIQ, etc.)
  • Instruct students to check Blackboard Learn to view recorded lecture within predetermined time window.  Suggested lecture capture tools include Camtasia, Jing, VoiceThread, Screencast-o-Matic, MyBrainshark.

Store course materials and assignments outside of Blackboard Learn in the event of a multi-day outage

  • Create local copies of assignments/weekly tasks (all Bb content) using external documents (PDFs) with web links that can be distributed via alternative methods. Or save Blackboard web pages directly in PDF format.
  • Use external webpage/cloud for course materials (e.g. UAA faculty website, Google Docs, Wiggio, Edmodo, Dropbox, Box, Publisher’s textbook companion site)
  • Share web resources (websites and videos) using social bookmarking tool (e.g. Diigo).

Find a favorite tech blog (or other resource) that keeps you up-to-date with your current technology habits (e.g.Emergingedtech.com, …)

Selected items from literature review


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