IT Connect
Information technology tools and resources at the UW

Prepare for when classes can’t meet


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 (i.e., major snow event)
  • 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.

Please keep in mind that during a major “disaster” many of the tools referenced herein may not be available until they are recovered.

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. 

Important: Some of the tools mentioned in this document are not explicitly aligned with FERPA or HIPAA. 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 Canvas course or course website for each of my courses that contains the most current course information.
            I have a way to distribute assignments to my students online such as a Canvas course site.
            I use audio or video materials in class and I know how to share these with my students.
            I use the Canvas LMS to make materials available to my students.
    Note: the UW Libraries have retired the E-reserve system and now recommend that Canvas be used for this purpose.

    If you answered “no” to one or more of the statements above, learn more in the Use Canvas or a course website 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 remotely 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.

Use Canvas or a course website to put materials online

Having course materials online helps you to be prepared and ensures that students always have access to the content they need. The following list contains a number of ways you can share various types of course materials with your students online. Using Canvas, the official learning management system of the UW, is a simple way for your students and you to stay connected. Course sites are automatically created in Canvas each quarter and allow instructors and TAs to:

  • Post the course syllabus
  • Post class lectures
  • Provide course materials, including assignments, readings and audio/visual materials
  • Collect completed assignments
  • Manage quizzes
  • Record and submit grades
  • Post urgent messages
  • Hold conferences (e.g., online office hours) and broadcast lectures live
  • Set up and manage online asynchronous discussions
  • Set up and manage group work

View Canvas help for instructors

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.

1. Make sure that you can access your UW email from your phone or on the web

Email on your phone

Modern smart phones and cell-connected devices provide the best way to access email during emergencies. Cell networks are often buffered from the disruptions in power and are less susceptible to wind damage than cable, phone and fiber networks. When the worst does happen cellular services are some of the first systems to be restored.

Smartphone apps such as Microsoft Outlook Web App or Gmail for iOS and Android provide a modern interface with functionality superior to either UW G Suite Gmail or UW Office 365 Exchange Online accessed via the web browser

Email on the web

If you have access to a web browser but you don’t have access to your own computer, you can still use UW G Suite Gmail and UW Office 365 Exchange Online. They are both web-based and accessible via the Internet.

Remember computer security best practices. If you are using someone else’s computer or a public computer:

  • Make sure the computer is running antivirus. Accessing your UW email from an unprotected computer violates UW policy and puts your personal information at risk.
  • Don’t cache your password.
  • Sign out of your email when you are done and close all browser windows.
  • Delete any downloaded file that contains FERPA or sensitive data.

2. Create a UW email distribution list for your class

  • On MyUW: You can request an email distribution list for your class on MyUW under the Teaching tab. Class lists will be ready to use the day after you request them.
  • UW Mailman Listserv: If you want to create a list for cross-listed courses or combinations of courses, submit a Mailman Instructor Class List request.
  • Class email contact list: You could also post the class contact in your Canvas course so your students can contact each other. 
  • Use social networking tools to send messages to your students

3. Use social networking tools to send messages to your students

SnapChat, Twitter, Facebook: While these social networking services have are popular, they are not safe for FERPA and HIPAA content. If you use these social networks, do not expose sensitive information, such as names of students in your course. 

UW Yammer: Consider using UW Yammer, which provides a FERPA– and HIPAA-aligned environment. 

4. Use chat, voice, video or all three

  • UW Skype for Business: UW Skype for Business, allows you to conduct a chat or a conference with up to 50 participants and a meeting with up to 250 participants. It is both HIPAA– and FERPA-aligned. Learn more.
  • UW Zoom: Use UW Zoom to participate in group video chat during online class sessions, host virtual office hours, collaborate remotely on research, share screens and host real-time video conversations, host live web broadcasts to thousands of people worldwide and record to the cloud or computer for easy sharing. Learn more about the differences between UW Zoom basic and pro accounts
  • UW Google Hangouts: You can chat or conference with up to 25 people at once in a UW Google Hangout. UW Google Hangouts are FERPAaligned, but do not have the BAA required by HIPAA. Hangouts is a feature of UW G Suite. Learn more about Google Hangouts. (Note that FERPA alignment applies only to UW Google Hangouts.)

5. Create a telephone hotline

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.

1. Use Canvas, Panopto, Zoom or UW Skype for Business

  • Canvas. The Canvas Learning Management system offers a conference feature in every course to meet live with up to 50 students. Learn more about creating a conference
  • UW Zoom. Zoom unifies cloud video conferencing, simple online meetings, group messaging, and a software-defined conference room solution into one easy-to-use platform. Learn more about UW Zoom.
  • UW Skype for Business.  Conduct a chat with up to 50 participants and a meeting with up to 250 participants with UW Skype for Business, which is both HIPAA– and FERPA-aligned. Learn more about UW Skype for Business

2. Record and share lectures with Panopto

Panopto 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.

You can use Panopto to:

  1. Pre-record and then post video lectures
  2. 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. Learn more about Panopto

3. Offer Canvas Student Groups for group work

Canvas Student Groups are like a smaller version of your course and are used as a collaborative tool where students can work together on group projects and assignments. Learn more about Canvas student groups.

4. Use UW G Suite and UW Office 365 for collaboration and productivity  

Both UW G Suite and UW Office 365 Education provide access to your documents from anywhere (via the internet and/or your phone), and allow you to collaborate in real time using rich co-authoring functions and give feedback on the activities your students are working on. Both provide commonly used document, spreadsheet, and presentation features. 

Remember computer security best practices. If you are using someone else’s computer or a public computer:

  • Make sure the system is running antivirus.  Accessing UW G Suite or UW Office 365 from an unprotected computer violates UW policy and puts your personal information at risk. 
  • Don’t cache your password.
  • Sign out of your account.
  • Delete any downloaded file that contains FERPA or otherwise sensitive data.

5. Assess student learning online with Canvas  

Every Canvas course includes the ability to create and review quizzes. Learn more about creating and managing quizzes in Canvas. Learn more about creating and managing quizzes in Canvas.

6. Track student grades with Canvas Gradebook and submit grades to the registrar online with GradePage

  • Canvas Gradebook: You can easily record student scores online, track student progress and calculate final grades in Canvas Gradebook. Grades for each assignment can be calculated as points, percentages, complete or incomplete, pass or fail, GPA scale, and letter grades. Provide secure access to co-instructors and TAs to view and edit student grades. Publish scores for students to view securely online. Learn more about Canvas Gradebook.
  • GradePage: You can submit quarterly grades through GradePage. You can be a GradeBook user, Canvas user or manage your grades using other software or a traditional approach. Learn more about GradePage.

How to access course 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.

1. Access the UW network from home or a remote location

Most faculty connect to the UW network from home through their Internet Service Provider (ISP) and access class resources and tools.  

To connect to the UW Network, you will need a VPN. To access resources on the UW network, you should use an approved, secure virtual private network (VPN) such as Husky OnNet. A VPN is an application on your computing device that establishes a secure connection to a network.

2. Access your work computer, files from home

Remote Desktop. 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.

Store materials online. Because remote desktop access requires your work computer to remain on when you are not at work, the better option is to store your materials online

Antivirus: Protect your home computer with Sophos Anti-Virus software.

 Get help

  • Check with your local IT support staff.
  • Contact UW Information Technology ( regarding telephones, UW NetIDs, MyUW, email distribution lists, and general help with any of the technologies mentioned above.
  • Contact the Center for Teaching and Learning ( to talk about best practices, whether in or out of the classroom.
  • Contact Disability Services Office ( to ensure all your students with disabilities are accommodated by your technology choices.
  • For information about campus pandemic planning and communications during a possible pandemic: UW Emergency Management Website, MyUW emergency announcements, UWTV and UW Alert.


Rev. 12/6/2018

Last reviewed September 3, 2019