International availability of learning technologies

Last updated: March 23, 2023
Audience: StudentsInstructors

When studying remotely, international students working from their home countries may have difficulty accessing UW technologies and online content. Of particular concern are  UW students studying from mainland China, due to the Chinese firewall that restricts access to some U.S.-based web sites and web applications. Additional issues, such as slowness of page loads, arise from the fact that data is traveling a long distance.

Most of the following tools will work most of the time. Occasionally, however, depending on geographic region in China, some of these tools may be unavailable or slow, usually those that include real-time sharing and drafting functionality (e.g., Google apps and Microsoft Office 365).

Canvas availability

Although Canvas is not filtered or blocked in China, Canvas page load times will be affected. Some pages may take up to several minutes to load, some pages may time out, some parts of pages may not load. Additionally, some third-party services that connect through Canvas may not work at all (e.g., Google Workspace and Vimeo) if these are blocked.

Important: Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), including Husky OnNet, as a work-around to local availability restrictions is strongly discouraged, as such use may violate local laws and regulations. Do not recommend using a VPN to students in mainland China. If students studying internationally mention that they are using or plan to use a VPN, ask that they consult local laws and regulations to make sure that they are not in violation.

General recommendations for teaching technologies include:

  • For content delivery: Canvas
  • For multimedia content delivery: Panopto
  • Helping students to interact and communicate with one another: UW Zoom, UW Microsoft Teams
  • Storing and sharing large files: Canvas

It is important to consider the implications of technologies being blocked in China without notice. For additional guidance, view the Center for Teaching and Learning’s Teaching Remotely resource.

Known Technology Limitations


Available in China?

Impacted by Internet Speeds?


Canvas Yes Yes Students may experience poor performance when accessing large files and/or specific Canvas features. Instructors should upload content directly to Canvas rather than linking to content hosted elsewhere.
Canvas Quizzes Yes Yes Display questions one at a time. Do not embed unavailable content, such as YouTube videos.
Dropbox No  — Use Microsoft OneDrive for large files.
Facebook No  — Use UW Microsoft Teams for student interaction.
UW Google No  — Use UW Microsoft Office365 ProPlus.
Instagram No  — Use Canvas for sharing images and announcements.
Library readings Yes Yes Provide direct links to required readings and/or upload required readings to your Canvas course.
UW Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus Yes  No Students should download and use the ProPlus apps, rather than using the browser versions of Office365. (Requires UW NetID login.)
UW Microsoft OneDrive Yes  Yes, if synching frequently. Students should download and use the app, not browser version.
UW Microsoft Skype for Business Yes  Yes Microsoft is retiring Skype summer 2021. In the meantime, Skype provides an alternative if users experience difficulties with Teams or Zoom.
UW Microsoft Teams Yes Yes Students should download and use the app, not browser versions.
Panopto Yes Yes For a more consistent viewing experience, students may use a personal hotspot and cellular.
SimCheck Yes Yes If students experience difficulty uploading large files, suggest that they send via email.
Slack No  — Use UW Microsoft Teams for student interaction.
Twitter No  — Use Canvas for announcements and student discussion.
YouTube No  — Upload native video file directly to Canvas.
WhatsApp No  —
UW Zoom Yes Yes Users in China can use UW Zoom as participants.

Thanks to Cornell University, Michigan State University, and the University of Technology Sydney for providing background information for this document.