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Service Interruptions in the Online Learning Environment - Guidelines for Instructors

endorsed by Deans’ Council 19 June 2013

The following guidelines provide recommended actions to take when service disruptions interrupt the online learning environments used for required course activities. They are meant to give instructors and students an idea of what to do and expect. The guidelines are modeled after the university’s Weather / Emergency Closing but are independent of them (see https://uwaterloo.ca/secretariat-general-counsel/policies-procedures-guidelines/guidelines/weather-emergency-closing-guidelines).

Online learning environments (e.g., LEARN) include technologies used for teaching, learning, supporting and delivering courses (including syllabi, schedules, tests, assignment drop-boxes, quizzes, labs, tutorials). A “service interruption” means that the learning and teaching technology is unable to perform its normal functions for required course activities. Service interruptions could result from hardware or software problems, a network outage preventing access to systems, loss of power, or other reasons. For purposes of this definition, service interruptions are unforeseen; they do not include scheduled, published down time related to service upgrades or other scheduled maintenance.

In the event of a protracted service interruption (four hours or more), deadlines related to electronic access to resources, tests and quizzes or submission of assignments or other course material due on the day of the outage must be postponed as appropriate.

  • For all interruptions of over four hours, the deadline will normally be postponed for 24 hours after the service is restored.
  • For deadlines on a Friday or the day before a university holiday, the earliest revised deadline will be the next business day.

If a course activity was underway at the time of the outage (e.g., an online quiz, or a due date window for uploading an assignment to a drop-box), instructors should use judgement in determining a fair process to continue the activity for all students. If the outage occurs before or during the exam period, instructors need to determine the impact on the students’ ability to prepare for the exam and act accordingly. Information about postponements should be communicated clearly by instructors to students, using email as the primary mechanism, and whatever additional methods are feasible. The LEARN Help site will provide advice on contingency tools to continue with some course activities.