When Technology Fails You: A Survival Guide for Online Students

When you’re taking an online course, technology is your lifeline. You can’t get onto your courses, complete assignments, or talk with your classmates without an Internet connection and a working device. So what do you do when your tech fails you?

Here’s a quick guide to handling any kind of tech issue without losing your cool, ensuring you stay on track with your course no matter what life throws your way.

Have a plan.

Even the best, most sophisticated technology isn’t 100 percent reliable. There’s a pretty good chance at some point your tech will fail (and as luck would have it, probably when you need it most). As such, you need to plan ahead. There are a couple ways you can go about this. One is to have some redundancy in your own technology. If your laptop dies, for example, you could use a tablet or a mobile device to get on your course site in a pinch. Another option is to look to an alternate location as your backup, whether it’s a library, friend’s house or a local coffee shop. You can choose whatever works best for you, just spend some time thinking about your options and what will work best if you’re stuck without a computer or Internet access.

And just as a reminder, always back up and save your work frequently. You never know when you might lose a device.

Remain calm.

Your first instinct might be to panic (especially if you’re a procrastinator and need to get online ASAP to complete coursework), but staying calm will ultimately be a more useful approach, even if it’s hour before an assignment or test is due. After all, the calmer you are, the more clearly you’ll be able to think, plan, and figure out what to do next.

Having trouble taking that advice to heart? Take a walk or focus on deep breathing–whatever works to help you cool your emotions. Once you’ve calmed down, then start taking steps to get reconnected.

Contact your professor.

Whenever you’re facing tech issues that might make it hard or impossible to complete your coursework by the given deadline, you need to contact your professor immediately. Ask for options or what you can do to complete your work and not lose points. Your professor may offer some flexibility, especially if you’ve always turned in work on time in the past. Keep your professor updated as you work to resolve your issue and always thank them for any flexibility they may offer you–it’s not required!

Some professors may list their policies in their syllabus, so make sure to read it carefully at the outset of the course to get a better idea of what you can expect.

Know where to get help.

Do you know where to get help with a technical issue you’re having? It can be helpful to make a list of the relevant contacts you’ll need if you’re facing tech troubles. These can include:

  • Your professor. He or she should be the first person you contact with an issue. While professors may not always know how to resolve your problem, they can point you to people who can and give you more time to complete your work.
  • Your school’s IT department. If something happens that makes it impossible to access Blackboard or any of the course materials on sites hosted by your school (including your college email), you’ll need to contact IT. They can help you figure out your issue or give you a timetable when it will be resolved.
  • Your device’s manufacturer. If your device is under warranty or has a repair plan, get in contact with the manufacturer to figure out where and how to get it fixed ASAP.
  • Your ISP. If your Internet goes down, you’ll need to get in touch with your service provider to find out what is going on. They should be able to do some troubleshooting to figure out if the problem is on their end or yours (modems don’t last forever) and let you know when they expect it to be fixed.

Be a problem solver.

This is the time to put all the problem solving skills you’ve learned as a college student to good use. There are actually a lot of technical issues that you can resolve yourself if you’re not able to get help from an outside source. Here’s an short list.

Essentially, you’ll want to become your own tech support. Assess what things might potentially be causing the issue. Then work through the possible solutions. And if nothing works? That’s when you can call in the experts or head to your backup location to work.

Having a major tech failure as an online student can be stressful, but if you follow these tips you can keep those tech troubles from derailing your success in the course.