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LITS Faculty Guide: 2020-2021 FIT

Using Our VPN in Internet-Restricted Countries

Mount Holyoke community members can use our Virtual Private Network, or VPN, to access on-campus resources while we are learning, teaching, and working remotely. Potentially, a student in China could use the VPN to access MHC digital resources, such as e-mail and other Google applications. 

However, the College’s VPN is not officially registered in China. Some students may not feel safe using it, due to reports that unauthorized VPN use can result in fines. And they may find that the MHC VPN stops working after a while, if they do use it: unauthorized VPNs in use in China are often detected after a while and then blocked.

The Mount Holyoke VPN can enable student access to most Mount Holyoke resources from China, but it is not a guarantee.

Facilitating Learning for Students in China

When possible, offer multiple ways to access resources required for study.

Consider holding office hours or advising sessions both early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Doing so offers choice to students in faraway time zones.

Library Databases

Library resources and databases should be accessible to students in China via the links in the Databases A-Z list on the LITS website. These links will allow students to log in via the campus proxy server and then access resources.

Zoom

Zoom users in China should use zoom.com.cn to set up their Zoom accounts and to access Zoom. 

Zoom meetings have both a URL (web link) and a Meeting ID. The URL will not work in China, but the Meeting ID should. Please be sure to provide both pieces of information to your students, and let them know that those in China may need to use the Meeting ID. 

Moodle

Moodle should be accessible to students in China with their usual login. 

You can use Moodle’s chat feature to contact all your students, and even those without access to e-mail will see your message. 

Moodle has several excellent tools for facilitating discussion. Consider using both the forum activity for asynchronous conversations, and the chat activity for live, text-based conversation at particular times. Text-based tools may prove easier than video for many students across the U.S. and around the world.

When you have uploaded a file directly to Moodle, all students will be able to access it. If you are linking to items in Google Drive, or to services that are blocked in China (for example, a YouTube video), your students in China will not be able to access that resource.

For this reason, we are recommending that instructors who create video content for asynchronous learning upload those video files to Moodle directly with the Kaltura "My Media" tool (which can also intake YouTube content).

The Moodle messaging tool is also an option for communicating with students when MHC email is inaccessable.

 

Checking in With International Students

At the beginning of the term reach out to your students and ask about the following:

  • Their computer and internet access 
  • What country and time zone they are in
  • An alternative e-mail address for them
  • Whether they have backup plans for computer, internet, or power outages, and to consider making plans, if they have not yet. They may not be able to come up with a backup for all of these things, but encourage them to think about it and tell you about their situation.

Students who are learning remotely from China or other countries with significant internet restrictions may not be able to access their Mount Holyoke College e-mail, or any other Gmail addresses they have. Consider using Moodle’s messaging/chat feature (the speech bubble at the upper right) as either an alternative means of communication, or as a means of collecting a backup e-mail address from students who are no longer able to access their official College e-mail.

Students who have returned home to other countries, especially countries with restrictions on internet access, may be concerned about the safety of doing work on topics of a political, social, or religious nature. Consider how you might expand the options for an assignment, if this is an issue for your learners.

Internet Restrictions in China

What we sometimes casually refer to as China’s “Great Firewall” is a complex system, designed to both track internet users and to block specific words, ideas, or even services. Some services we know are difficult or impossible to access while in China include: 

  • Google Suite products (Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Hangouts or Meet, YouTube, etcetera)
  • Social media sites like Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook
  • Cloud-based file storage services like Microsoft’s OneDrive
  • Websites for major American newspapers, like the New York Times
  • Commonly-accessed informational websites, like Wikipedia

If you are not sure whether or not a resource will be available to students who have returned to China, Comparitech runs a popular tool for determining what is blocked. It is not always accurate, because internet restrictions in China change and sometimes vary based upon in-country location, but it cam be used as a starting point.

MHC Accessibility Barriers Form