Access to Waterloo learning technologies from China

Waterloo students studying in China can experience slow connections and inconsistent access to our learning technologies and websites. Impacts may be significant, so Waterloo has engaged a service from Alibaba Cloud, operating within China, to improve network flows in and out of China using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) which uses the Alibaba Enterprise Network. It  will not resolve slow connections, or low bandwidth, so experiences may vary, but most students surveyed indicated moderate to significant improvements.

There is a cost for all traffic using the service. It is meant to be used only for learning technologies that would be negatively impacted by slow connections (such as LEARN, Crowdmark, PebblePad, Bongo), and only those applications will be enabled on it. It does not lift restrictions on resources not generally available in China (such as YouTube, Google applications, Facebook, Twitter, some newspapers and magazines, etc.). As with any non-original or third party materials provided in your course, ensure you follow the Copyright guidelines on Waterloo's Copyright website.  It also includes specific guidance for YouTube videos.

Before you request a website be enabled, please consider the following:

  1. Is the website negatively affected by slow access?
    1. If the website is a significant part of your course activities and entails large file exchanges (e.g., video or architecture app files), a request is warranted. Websites used infrequently or for small downloads (accessing documentation, instructions, small apps, etc.) should not be requested.
    2. For large file downloads (e.g., a large software package), "mirror websites" may be available for China. Ask your Faculty IT represenative if one may be available.
  2. Is the website already enabled?
    All uwaterloo.ca sites and centrally supported systems are already enabled (such as LEARN, Bongo, Turnitin, etc.). For other sites login to the whitelist page to check the list. Search (ctrl-f) for the website root name, such as “matlab” or “pearson”.
  3. Is the website banned in China?
    We cannot ask students to access sites blocked in China. This Wikipedia page lists blocked sites. Search the page (ctrl-f) for a root name. You may need to find an alternative for that course activity.
  4. If, after considering the above, you determine the website should be added, ask your Faculty IT representative to submit the request on your behalf. They are:
  • AHS - Trevor Bain
  • Arts - Bill Baer
  • Engineering - Erick Engelke
  • Environment - Don Duff-McCracken
  • Math and Computer Science - Lori Paniak
  • Science - Paul Miskovsky
  • Library - Adam Savage

Students need to install the VPN. Instructions are located on the IST Knowledge Base, and linked to on the Student IT Services website. You do not need to change anything in your course for the VPN.

As a reminder, students in other countries, as well as in rural areas of Canada, may also have limitations on their access. General troubleshooting advice and steps for escalating network/connection issues is available to all students on the Student IT Services website. If your students cannot access necesary educational technologies, please submit a request ticket with a subject that references accessing learning technologies.

Instructors are asked to use asynchronous delivery, where possible, to provide students greater agency for dealing with circumstances at home, including their technologies and time zones. Building in flexibility to accommodate disruptions will help all students.