Basic tech troubleshooting when teaching and learning online

Basic tech troubleshooting when teaching and learning online

Technology issues can be part and parcel of digital learning. Face-to-face teachers who use technology in the classroom are advised to have a plan B in case the technology fails. But happens when teaching remotely? Teaching and learning online rely on technology so when this fails, can there be any learning at all? From software crashing to slow internet connections to videos freezing and files refusing to open, tech issues can have a detrimental impact on the learning experience and this is why basic troubleshooting skills are essential. 

By Sophia Mavridi

In a well-planned online course, both teachers and students would be given training on this  – among many others.  However, with Emergency Remote Teaching during the Covid19 pandemic, institutions did not have enough time for preparation and planning and as a result, most teachers were asked to switch to online teaching with very little formal support or professional development (Mavridi, 2020). 

Students were not prepared either. We often say that teachers should be trained to teach online but students need training as well. Just because they are fluent users of various applications and social media, it doesn’t mean they know how to learn online. I’m often surprised to see my university students, who spend hours online, lacking significant digital literacies. We, therefore, need to help them develop these skills by adding small bits of “learning to learn online” to our teaching. It will only take a few minutes but will make such a big difference to the learning experience. Digital literacies include cognitive, study, but also technical skills and they are very important when learning online. Students and teachers need to be able to work out the basic problems that arise in the digital classroom without the normal kinds of interventions they rely on in the classroom.

Here’s a set of basic troubleshooting techniques for both students and teachers. What would you add to it?

Tip #1 

Try a different web browser. Certain websites work better on Chrome, others on Firefox, Safari or Microsoft Edge. Blackboard loves Chrome for example. 

Tip #2

Log out and back in again. If this doesn’t work, quit the browser or app you are using and open it again. If this doesn’t work either, reboot. Restarting the device is like breathing new life into the computer so do not hesitate to give it a go.

Tip #3

Make sure your software is up to date. Updates remove outdated features and make the user experience better. 

Tip #4

More importantly, improve your internet connection. Poor internet can make online learning both frustrating and inefficient so if your WiFi signal is weak, follow these last two tips.

  • Do NOT rely on WiFi. Buy an ethernet cable and connect your device directly into your router.  If your device doesn’t have an ethernet port, buy an adapter. They are both very affordable and can significantly boost your connection.
  • During your live class, all other online activity should stop. Do NOT stream, download, or have other tabs open. If you live with others, ask them to NOT use the internet during your live class.

Some ideas for teaching troubleshooting skills

You don’t need to be a digital expert to integrate some DIY troubleshooting skills to your online class neither should you devote a whole lesson on IT skills. Try to embed it to your teaching in a way that is meaningful and relevant to your subject matter. Below are some ideas and materials you may find useful. Depending on your students cognitive, linguistic and subject needs some adaptations may be necessary.

  • Add the clip above to their VLE (Edmodo, Blackboard, Moodle, Google Classroom). Ask students to watch it in full-screen mode and add comments. Choose one or both of the following questions to prompt responses:  a) Watch this short video. Which tip did you find the more useful? Can you explain why?  b) Can you come up with one more tip? Provide some explanation.

How will this tip help?

  • If you teach language students, this is a great opportunity to do some vocabulary work: troubleshooting, browser, quit, reboot, ethernet, cable etc. Pre-teach some vocabulary or ask students to infer the meaning of the words from the context. Use the slidesinstead as language students may find the video captions too fast to read. 
  • Show them the video or slides and ask them to create their own “Basic tech troubleshooting” project. Explain to them that they can use ideas from these resources or other materials found online but they should attribute the sources to the creators. In this way, you teach another fundamental digital literacy; copyright and avoiding plagiarism.

Basic troubleshooting skills can save the day when teaching and learning online and they should be a part of every online course. The sudden switch to emergency remote teaching may have prevented some courses to include this essential skill but it is never too late. Happy troubleshooting and please do add a comment telling me how it went.


Mavridi, S. (2020). Emergency remote language teaching during Covid19 (research paper due to be published in August).

Note: You are more than welcome to use the resources and ideas found in this post as long as there is a reference to it. Please, cite as: 

Mavridi, S. (2020). Basic tech troubleshooting when teaching and learning online. Digital Learning. Retrieved from (link to the post). 


First Published in: https://sophiamavridi.com/troubleshooting/