Important Online Learning Considerations for Our Students Abroad

Last updated March 23, 2020

Educational Technology Access in China


Students report being able to access most of our educational technologies from China, although they are often subject to data throttling based on IP address. Virtual private networks (VPNs) also provide a means to access educational technologies in-country, with varying degrees of success. In addition, it is not legal for students in China to use VPN, so we cannot make this recommendation.

The information below has been compiled based on advice we have received from our educational technology vendors, fellow universities and internet firewall testing tools. Please note, it is subject to change at any time. We will do our best to communicate any changes as we receive them, and appreciate your feedback as you are in contact with your students in China. Please note the list of educational technologies accessible in China is subject to change.

Accessible Educational Technologies

The following educational technologies should be accessible by students participating in your courses online from China without use of VPN:

  • Canvas - learning management system
  • Zoom - video-conferencing, video recording and video hosting
  • Echo360 - classroom and personal computer video recording, video hosting
  • LinkedIn Learning - instructional video database
  • Qualtrics - survey software
  • Respondus LockDown Browser - online exam management
  • Respondus Monitor - online exam proctoring

Note, while students should be able to access Canvas in China, if some tools are integrated with Canvas, such as Turnitin or Google Apps (see below), students will not be able to access them.

Inaccessible Educational Technologies

The following educational technologies are unlikely to be accessible by students participating in your courses online from China without VPN:

  • DonsApps (Google Apps) - Dons email; Google Apps, including Docs, Presentations and Forms
  • Turnitin - academic integrity 
  • YouTube - video hosting

Alternatives for International Students

It is important to note that, in addition to students abroad potentially experiencing educational technology access issues, they may also have issues with internet access more generally, internet bandwidth issues or challenges participating in live synchronous classes due to time zone differences. 

To address these scenarios, we have developed the following recommended alternatives.


  • Instruct students to set up mail forwarding from their DonsApps student email and obtain an alternative email:
    • Prior to your student returning to their residence abroad, instruct students to set up mail forwarding from their USF student (DonsApps) email to an alternative email accessible abroad. You can also check the personal email type listed for the student in Banner. If you are not able to reach your student or they have already departed, you can contact ISSS to see if they have another email for the student -
  • Contact your students via their alternative email, as needed:
    • If you notice your student has not been in communication or is not participating in your online course, use the alternative address to contact your student.
  • Confirm access:
    • Confirm with your students which of the educational technologies you are using to deliver your course online they are able to access. If they are not able to access particular educational technologies, develop alternative strategies for ensuring they have access to the appropriate materials, and communicate this to your student via their alternative email.
    • If your students are having trouble accessing Zoom and other Internet-intensive applications, follow these steps on USF Support.
  • Stay in touch:
    • Check in periodically with your students to ensure they continue to have access to the educational technologies you are using in your course, and that they are staying engaged.

Live Synchronous Class Alternatives

  • Record your live synchronous class and share recordings - While conducting online synchronous classes is a good option for local students, participating real-time may prove a challenge for students in different time zones, especially internationally. Faculty conducting classes online synchronously should record their class sessions and make them available to students, either by posting the link in Canvas or by emailing a link to the cloud-based recording. (Note: we are seeing some latency (up to 24 hours at the longest) in the turnaround time for Zoom video recordings to the cloud. Please communicate this with your students.)
  • Record a lecture and share recordings - While many faculty are choosing to host live synchronous class sessions in their move to online, asynchronous lectures are also an option, can be recorded with Zoom and can be made available for all students. When planning for recorded lectures, keep in mind the research regarding the optimal length for each video lecture, consider developing micro-lectures and review the best practices for self-recording resources on our Teaching through Emergencies site.
  • Provide transcripts of your recordings - Providing a recording of your class session may not be a suitable alternative for some international students given internet bandwidth issues. Additionally,  some students for whom English is not their first language may struggle with multimedia learning. To address this, provide students a transcript of your recording. To do this, enable transcripts when you are setting up your Zoom session recording. Zoom will then email you the transcript, along with the recording. Note, these transcripts require review and editing by the instructor before providing to students. Transcripts can be made available to students either by posting them in Canvas or by email.
  • Supplement class recordings with related assessment - In order to ensure students are motivated to watch a recorded class session or lecture video and to assess their grasp of the material, plan a related assessment. A graded discussion is strongly recommended, as it also provides an opportunity for student/student interaction. Other options include the provision of a related online quiz, exam or assignment.
  • Supplement class recordings with discussion board assignments - Students who are viewing a recording of your class session in place of attending live will miss out on any faculty/student and student/student interaction. To replace this, add an asynchronous discussion board assignment in Canvas associated with your class session which all students must participate in. Discussion boards are a great way for students to continue to interact with one another, particularly across time zones. Making it an assignment will ensure participation.
  • Consider asynchronous alternatives - There are many asynchronous alternatives to live synchronous class sessions and the provision of recordings and transcripts. Some of these include discussions in online discussion boards, having students review curated websites and open education resources (OER), developing podcasts, assigning group projects where work can be completed asynchronously, and conducting asynchronous quizzes and exams.

Be Flexible

Teaching online is new for many faculty at USF. It is also new for many students. This is likely a particularly challenging and stressful time for students living internationally, given educational technology access issues, internet access issues, internet bandwidth issues, time zones differences, and potential obstacles caused by return travel to their international residences. Keep this in mind. Offer extra communication and support to students abroad, and be flexible with providing alternatives, as well as other accommodations, such as extensions for assignments and extended time for quizzes and exams.

Faculty Support

If you need further guidance or assistance in supporting and planning for your international students, please reach out to your Associate Dean or request a 1:1 consultation with the USF Instructional Design team. 

The information provided in this message can be found on the USF Keep Teaching & Learning website for academic continuity. Updates to the site will be made as they are discovered.