In our recent Inside Online Learning chat (#IOLchat), which focused on creating balance, one participant mentioned the use of an emergency or survival kit to reduce stress. While the reference was related to things like batteries, food, and candles, the tweet really got me thinking about what students might need in an emergency situation to keep up with their online classes.
During my second semester of doctoral coursework, not one but four hurricanes disrupted everything, including an online class. I had a hurricane kit at home with all of the standard contents, but hadn’t thought much about my schoolwork. While the instructor made allowances, giving extra time to complete our work and even dropping one assignment completely, it took some time to get the word out.
Expect the Unexpected
It’s a cliché perhaps, but what if your ability to connect was disrupted by a storm, a family crisis, or unanticipated work related travel?
In a true emergency situation your online classes can wait, but we are often faced with unexpected occurrences that result in inconvenience and test our abilities to find alternatives. And let’s face it a loss of power or Internet access (via mobile device or home account) can thrust us into “emergency mode.”
When you find yourself in one of these situations and your school expects you to continue with your course schedule, be prepared with the following items:
- Phone numbers: Make a list of all those offices that can provide the information and guidance you’ll need to get back on track. Most power companies and Internet providers have numbers dedicated to checking the status of services and timelines for repair. If you don’t have service, a neighbor might. Would you remember your family members’ phone numbers if your phone were dead, with no electricity to recharge?
- Emergency channels: If the school’s servers go down, you won’t be able to access your courses even if you find power and a connection. Where and how will your school make announcements about problems? You may not be able to locate this information online, so have it printed out for easy access should you be unable to login to your course site. Also think about the various locations involved – where your school is located and the geographic diversity of your instructor and classmates. An outage in your area may not be experienced or even known about by others, and vice versa.
- Course information: Print out copies of your course syllabus and your instructor’s contact information. Contact your instructor to let him/her know what you are dealing with and provide some of idea of what you’ll be able to do and when. Without power and/or Internet access, you may still be able to keep up with reading and assignment preparation, so that when service returns you’ll be ready to get back up to speed as quickly as possible.
- Adaptors and cables: You may be without power or Internet connectivity, but friends, libraries, and coffee shops can be lifesavers. Car chargers can also be a huge help when the power goes out at home. Gather your spare cables and chargers in a central area so you can grab what you need and go. Charge and connect when you have the chance.
- Back-up files: There are several options available for ensuring that your files won’t be lost in an emergency situation. What if your laptop were damaged, for example, or left behind when traveling? Make it a habit to regularly back-up your files to an alternative storage site, such as an external hard drive or cloud-based service (e.g., Dropbox, SkyDrive). Find a resource that is easy for you to use and even allows you to schedule the back-ups so you don’t have to remember to do it.
- Patience and understanding: While these aren’t tangible items you can actually add to your kit, they are essential to survival in these situations. When we have trouble accessing our courses, or are engaged in other stressful events that cause some disruption in our ability to focus, panic can set in as we worry about our grades. Communicate with your instructor as quickly as you can and allow more time than usual for a reply or announcement. He or she may be facing similar challenges.
In some, albeit rare, occasions, we can see a potential emergency coming, such as with hurricane forecasts, extended travel for work, etc. Don’t wait until the last minute to gather your resources. What items will you need to ensure you’re able to complete your online coursework?
Image credit: Calsidyrose, Flickr, CC:BY