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Digital Detours

Digital Detours are proactive solutions for keeping online courses running when Blackboard, university email or the Internet are not functioning properly.  Though outages are usually short, it's best to plan for them to avoid disruption of classes.

For those who suddenly find themselves teaching online due to the pandemic, take a few minutes to establish alternative methods for communication and course delivery. Some ideas to consider are listed below.

  1. Communication is key!  Make sure you can contact students.  
    1. Direct your students to update their contact information (phone/email) in UAOnline.  Send a test email to your class from the roster in UAOnline.
    2.  If Blackboard is down, use the Email Class feature in the faculty section of UAOnline (below the Summary Class List)
    3. Make a local electronic copy of their information from "Class List with Student Contact Information and Grade Mode" at the bottom of the faculty and advisor menu in UAOnline. Use this saved information to contact students if both Blackboard and UAOnline are down.
    4. During the first week of class, collect  alternative email/cell phone numbers from students via a Blackboard survey, Qualtrics survey or Google Form. Create a spreadsheet or email contact group with this information.  
    5. Create student groups that share each others’ contact info (or a phone tree). Allow students with privacy issues to opt out privately.
  2. Establish communications expectations and response times.
    1. Note in your contact info/introduction 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, if they don’t get a response, they know you didn’t receive their message.
    2. Consider using an alternative communication method with students instead of email (e.g. Microsoft Teams or a texting service such as
  3. Store copies of course materials and assignments outside of Blackboard.
    1. Store/share course materials and assignment sheets in the cloud using Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive (both currently available from UAA). Files stored in Google Drive can be shared via weblinks or granting share permissions.
    2.  Save/Share all the online class resources (websites and video links) using a social bookmarking tool or Google Doc.
    3. Use Digication (eWolf), Microsoft Teams, or a social media platform to create another connected classroom environment.
    4. Install Blackboard Instructor or Blackboard Student, Zoom, VoiceThread and other educational mobile apps on your phone or other devices.
  4. Zoom or Collaborate Ultra Class Meetings 
    1. Tell students what to do if they can’t get into an online class meeting. For example, wait 15 minutes, call the university IT call center, check email or Blackboard announcements, etc.
    2. Provide a direct link (URL) to your Zoom or Collaborate Ultra session in an email to students to use as a Plan B for joining a class meeting.
    3. Plan for alternative asynchronous class activities.
    4. Consider a backup synchronous meeting space (see Web Conferencing for more information).
    5. Choose a method to record lectures if a class gets cancelled (see Creating Videos for more information).