IT Connect
Information technology tools and resources at the UW

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 (i.e., major snow event) and
  • Organize your course materials and communicate with students during normal operations.

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

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 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 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 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.

How 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.

Access your UW email

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. Microsoft Outlook for IOS and Android provides a modern interface with functionality superior to either UW G Suite Gmail or UW Office 365 Exchange Online. Inbox by Google also provides an updated user experience compared to native phone apps.

If you find yourself without access to the computer on which you normally run your email program of choice, but still have access to a web browser, you’re in luck! The primary and only fully supported interface for both UW G Suite Gmail and UW Office 365 Exchange Online are web based and accessible from most places via the Internet. Just remember that if you are using someone else’s computer or a public terminal to:

  • Check to make sure the system is running Antivirus. Accessing UW systems from unprotected systems, even via the web, is a violation of policy and a good way to get your password compromised.     
  • Don’t accept untrusted certs if warned by the browser’s security.
  • Don’t cache your password.
  • Do Logout and close all browser windows.
  • Do delete any file you downloaded that contain FERPA or otherwise sensitive data.

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 a Mailman Instructor Class List request. You could also post the class contact list to connect students with one another.

Use social networking tools to send messages to your students

Most social networking services like SnapChat, Twitter and Facebook have wide adoption, but are not safe for FERPA and HIPAA content. These may be used for some purposes, but great care would need to taken not to leak sensitive information such as who is in a course. Consider using UW Yammer which provides a FERPA safe and BAA protected HIPAA compatible environment.  

Chat, voice, video or all three

UW Skype for Business allows you to conduct a chat with up to 50 participants and a meeting with up to 250 participants for both FERPA and HIPAA compatible. Learn more here. Google Hangouts works with up to 25 people at a time. While you can invite as many people as you want to join a hangout, you can’t have more than 25 people in a hangout at once, while others will get stuck hanging in a lobby. Hangouts is FERPA protected, but does not have the BAA required by HIPAA. Hangouts is a feature of UW G Suite. For more about how Hangouts works, see Google’s page about Google Hangouts. Both Google Hangouts and UW Skype for Business or are good tools for chats and conferencing.

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 ( 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 Canvas, Panopto, Zoom or UW Skype for Business

The Canvas Learning Management system offers a conference feature, available in every course, that you can use to meet live with students. Conferences can accommodate up to 50 people. Learn more.

Record and share lectures
Panopto is a cloud-based lecture capture service. 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 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. Note that Panopto is not meant to be used as a conferencing tool. To find out more about Panopto, visit the UW Panopto Help Center

Offer students online tools 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.

Access your UW collaboration and productivity suites  

Modern smartphones and cell connected devices have moved well beyond providing just email access in times of trouble. Both UW G Suite and UW Office 365 Education provide not just access to your documents from anywhere, but collaborate in real time using rich co-authoring functions. UW G Suite and UW Office 365 Education provide most commonly used productivity features for document, spreadsheet, presentations, notebooks, and intranet publication via the web browser.  They dramatically enhance collaboration not only with co-authoring experiences but by providing feedback on the activities your coworkers and students are working on. Just remember if you are using someone else’s computer or a public terminal to:

  • Check to make sure the system is running Antivirus.  Accessing UW systems from unprotected systems, even via the web, is a violation of policy and a good way to get your password compromised.     
  • Don’t accept untrusted certs if warned by the browser’s security.
  • Don’t cache your password.
  • Do Logout and close all browser windows.
  • Do delete any file you downloaded that contain FERPA or otherwise sensitive data.

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 quizzes in Canvas.

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

The Canvas Gradebook helps instructors easily record student scores online, track student progress and calculate final grades. 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.

GradePage is a simple interface for quarterly grade submission, can be used by GradeBook users, Canvas users and those who manage their grades using other software or a traditional approach. Learn more.

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.

Accessing the UW networks from home

Most faculty connect to the UW network from home through their Internet Service Provider (ISP). Learn more. Connecting to the UW Network will allow you to access most of your class resources and tools from home in the event that you need to conduct your class remotely.

The preferred method of connecting is through Husky OnNet (based on the f5 BIG-IP platform) which provides individual users with a secure temporary connection to the UW network from remote locations. Husky OnNet for MacOS and Husky OnNet for Windows are available for download from UWareSelf-supported Android, iOS,and other f5 BIG-IP apps are available from third-party app stores.

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. (For security purposes, remote desktop should only be used in conjunction with a secure connection to the UW network such as Husky OnNet.) 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. Find out more about this option at Connecting Remotely.

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 (see “Store Your Course Materials Online” section, below) and then use Husky OnNet (see “Connect to the UW Networks” section, below).

Access your work files

  • Check with your local IT staff to see if your files are available via the Internet.
  • If you have a computer available at work, you should be able to use Remote Desktop Access to connect to your work computer and then access your files in the usual way.  Find out more about this option at Connecting Remotely. (Once again, remember that this option requires leaving your work computer on!)
  • If you are a Managed Workstation Service (formerly Nebula) user, these options are also available:

 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.

Other Resources:


Rev. 11/23/2016