Planning for disaster in a virtual classroom

IT departments need to prepare for the possibility that remote students may be prevented from accessing online content.

IT departments need to prepare for the possibility that remote students may be prevented from accessing online content.

One of the big appeals of the virtual classroom and online course boom is the ability of students to access coursework wherever and whenever they please. But this assumes that the schools running these networks will always be operating smoothly. In practice, we all know this won’t be the case. Servers go down, the power goes out and internet connections are lost.

If there’s an issue that’s preventing students from participating in studies, downtime becomes not just an inconvenience, but a luxury distance-learning providers can not afford.

Planning for disruptions
That’s why it is essential that university IT departments plan for the inevitable: service will be disrupted. Given already tight budgets, it’s a tough battle to give priority to something  that most people would claim ”will never happen”.  However, it’s not “if”, but “when” disruptions happen, lack of Disaster Recovery planning may lead to well…..disaster.

Imagine a distance learning organization that loses their online curriculum, as a result of a poor back up?  Cost of lost class time, recreating recorded lectures and learning modules, the costs will pile up in no time. In the context of online learning, disaster recovery is more about resilience than about hurricanes, fires or outages. The cause becomes secondary, and the planning focuses on what happens when an IT infrastructure component stops working.  It is about having a fail-over plan and structures in place the second one of the systems goes down.

Emergency response team
The second major component of a well thought-out Disaster Response plan is the crisis response team.  Every member on the team should have the mechanism of being notified of the systems disruption.  It is important to discuss whether the team follows pre-arranged plan, or is able to get on a conference call and agree on a course of actions.  What happens if the phones are down? Is the alternative way of communications available?  All those steps need to be outlined in the plan.  When that’s done the crisis response team becomes the super-hero IT team in no time.

Do you think university IT departments are taking the necessary steps to react effectively to a service disruption? Tell us what you think in the comment section below or message us on ourFacebook page!

Kate Beckham

Kate has been lighting up the blogosphere for over 5 years, with a keen interest in social media and new malware threats. When not sitting at a café behind her Mac, you’ll usually find her scouring the racks for vintage finds or playing guitar.