Exploring Alternative EdTech Approaches for International Student Participation

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Exploring Alternative EdTech Approaches for International Student Participation

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Author :
Jessica Knott and Stephen Thomas
Exploring Alternative EdTech Approaches for International Student Participation

JT Contact profile image
Author :
Jessica Knott and Stephen Thomas

Given that there is variability in the availability of technologies and materials and differences in time  based on location (see table below) and that the availability of those technologies change over time, faculty members need to be as flexible as possible in the course requirements (technology, materials, timing), and both faculty and students need to be vigilant and clear communicators of their needs. The goal of this document is to provide possible alternatives for challenges that faculty may employ in accommodating students reporting that technologies are not available to them in their geographic location. 

Alternatives for Technology

Ideally, when designing curriculum, you would work with the core learning technologies available at MSU.  While not all of these technologies will work all of the time, the benefits of relying on this list are: 

  • You and your students have more technical support
  • They are free to you and your students
  • Most are available around the world
  • They have been vetted for base levels of security and accessibility
  • They are aligned to the data protection and storage requirements outlined by the Institutional Data Policy

Most of these tools will work most of the time. However, times may arise when some of these tools are not available depending on geographic region, most often those that include real-time sharing and drafting functionality (Google apps and Microsoft 365 are the core tools most frequently reported as not working). There are many reasons for how or why this unavailability comes about, but faculty and students should not use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) as a work-around in that it may violate local laws and regulations.  Instead, we are suggesting alternatives based on flexibility in curriculum and pedagogy.  Some alternatives to common issues are described below.

Video hosting:  Most Issues with YouTube and Vimeo would be alleviated if you host your videos in MediaSpace and post them in D2L.  If the materials are third party and you are not able to move them online can you check with librarians to find alternatives within the library or identify other materials that meet the same or comparable learning outcomes.You can contact them at  or by finding your subject matter librarian at

File distribution:  Difficulties with software options that promote file sharing (Google Suite, Microsoft OneDrive, and Microsoft Teams) can be substituted by D2L.  By posting the files to D2L, students should have access to the content.  However, they may not have all of the collaborative features of the unavailable software such as live co-editing, chat, et cetera. So, assignments might have to be shifted to be individual as opposed to collaborative in nature, or re-designed to be submitted in phases to allow for students to download, co-create, and re-submit to a new assignment dropbox.

Synchronous lectures: Accommodating synchronous lectures can be difficult given time zone differences. That said, recording lectures and posting them at a later time can be helpful for not only accommodating time zone differences, but also allowing students to review materials.  Alternatively, students might be able to call into the Zoom session and have access to the audio of the lecture, in some cases this may be sufficient to meet the academic goals of that Zoom session. If you are unsure about what academic technology strategies may work to accommodate your international students, request a consultation with MSU IT’s Instructional Technology and Development Team, who can help you think about the tools available and ways to think about incorporating them in your course and teaching process.

Alternatives for Webcam Assessment

  • Zoom (or other software like Kaltura MediaSpace app) and student smartphone
  • Proctoring locations
  • Shifting days/time of exam to accommodate availability of technology
  • Oral exam on phone

Alternatives for Materials

Getting materials from Amazon or other vendor:  One of the biggest concerns are materials purchased from vendors such as Amazon that are not able to be shipped to all countries.   A few options for potentially overcoming this hurdle include:

Note: Materials may take longer to arrive, so considerations may need to be made. Students engaging in the use of such services are responsible for any taxes or duties incurred.  Getting access to journal articles or other course readings:  Create downloadable course packs by assembling the readings of the course into a downloadable zip file that students can access and download from the course in D2L.  MSU Librarians can help you with this process.  You can contact them at  or by finding your subject matter librarian at 

Alternatives for Time

If there are synchronous elements in the course, can a student reach the course objectives through asynchronous methods. Synchronous lectures: Can these be recorded and posted for others at a later date?  Either by recording Zoom sessions or by using the Hybrid Technology that are now available in many classrooms.  Lecture participation: Can course elements such as participation in a synchronous lecture be shifted to quizzes, reflection papers or other activities that engage the student in similar cognitive practice to what they will miss not being in the synchronous experience. Office hours:  If students are unable to make office hours because of timezone constraints, can you offer alternative times that might be convenient or provide sufficient support through email, phone conversations, individualized discussion forums, or other methods.  If time constraints are the only constraint then finding a time (such as 7-9pm) could work for most regions.

Technologies with potential availability issues

As of 8/11/2020, and subject to frequent change:

# Students Country Zoom Microsoft Teams Skype G Suite Facebook Twitter YouTube Vimeo WhatsApp MSOneDrive Notes
total FS20, unofficial   source source source source source source source source source    
3,044 China     X X X X X X X X  
104 Iran X X   X X X X   X    
59 Bangladesh     X                
31 Indonesia               X      
30 United Arab Emirates     X           X    
4 Morocco     X                
4 Ukraine X     X             Apps blocked in Crimea region only.
3 Burma (Myanmar)       X              
3 Syria X X   X X       X    
2 Sudan X X   X              
1 Turkmenistan           X X        


Posted by:
Jessica Lucille Knott #iteachmsu
#blocking #firewall #technology #access #international students