Technical Problems

Photo of broken computersI think we can all agree that while technology brings us many affordances, it can also bring us many headaches! In an online course, technology is the key to a successful course. When confronted with the inevitable technical glitch, the most important tool you can have is a back-up plan. For example, what will you do if the server goes down right when students are scheduled to take a quiz or submit an assignment? What if students report that the link to your online lecture or a reading assignment is broken? What if a student's computer breaks down in the middle of your course?

Keep in mind that your job as an instructor is not to be "technical support." If your course relies on technical services provided by the University, such as ANGEL, the best strategy is to point your student to the established Help Desk for that service. For example, if it is a...

  • University Park or Commonwealth Campus student and you use ANGEL, you would have the student contact ANGEL Support
  • World Campus student, you would have the student contact the Outreach Helpdesk for assistance.

However, if you have included a technology such as a piece of software into your course that is unique to your discipline or course, you should be prepared to either provide student support for that software yourself or to locate someone who can do that for you. Some faculty create special discussion forums in their courses where students can post technical problems they are having with course-specific tools and also help other students solve those types of problems.

Communicating Help Resources to Your Students

Help your students know where to go, and when, if they encounter technical problems in your course. This is information worth repeating in several locations so students are sure to see it, such as the syllabus and the course orientation. For example, see the "Help!" page for GEOSC 010. That course includes both World Campus and campus-based students, so it is a nice example of how students can be pointed to the help resources they need.

Share Your Strategies

Have other ideas or experiences in this realm to share? Post them to this week's "Problems and Pitfalls Discussion Forum"!

Photo Source: