Due to Covid-19, I am having to switch to a "hybrid" format, where I see students less often each week, in smaller groups, and more assignments are pushed on-line. The school is in an extremely rural reservation, where those students who live off-campus are unlikely to have running water, electricity, and internet access. Students are issued Windows laptops.

The current solution is to create assignments in Word, have students download them on campus, work on them at home, then upload the assignments when they are next on campus. I am trying to find a more sophisticated solution for "syncing" their work though, as this step makes it much more time-consuming to grade work. With an LMS, I can post multiple-choice quizzes and other types of interactive assignments, e.g. videos they watch and respond to. Is there some technology that allows for students to save specific LMS pages locally, work on it off-line at home, then when they return to school, they can easily submit? I know students could just leave the browser window open and put the computer to sleep, but that seems risky and students could lose their work.

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    Yes, this is surely a world-wide issue. As a small point: if everyone had a USB "sticks" (and computers that could read them!), they could back things up to that, in both directions (to and from physical school). Wouldn't need very big USB's... By now, these are pretty cheap. Jun 2, 2020 at 18:29
  • Technically very feasible, but it may not be yet productized. In the simplest case you just use git, but that is likely out of reach on a technical competency level (it is an advanced tool). But something can be done on top of it. Look at DataLad which runs on top of github service
    – crasic
    Jun 2, 2020 at 18:43

2 Answers 2


I suggest that you use git to synchronize documents.

If assignments are provided as simple text documents, they are easily readable on all sorts of devices, and when printed can easily be understood, they can be edited with very low levels of computer hardware and do not require many resources. They can easily be edited with something even as simple as an alpha smart or electronic typewriter! Word Documetns will work with this scheme but it makes the storage requirements (on your side) larger and harder to manage

When at school, a student uses git to "clone" the asignment repository.

When they go home they then work in their own sandbox, and are free to save ("commit") intermediate versions, locally, on their computer, as many times as you want. They can start from scratch if they wish multiple times without affecting the integrity of the assignment and their other attempts.

When they return to school, the student "pushes" the assignment project to their personal repository. You can review their work and can even examine intermediate versions that show their work and thinking,

The commits have timestamps so you can verify assignment, test, and quiz submission times! (This can be "hacked" but it requires cheating behavior and intentional circumvention)

This is very reminiscent of what we I used for CS courses in University, all of our coding assignments were submitted through a UNIX shell

There are many services that provide Git for free or low cost, Github from microsoft, atllasian bitbucket, and gitlab are common examples.

They can also be deployed , for free, by your school IT on any available server infrastructure.

In a pinch, the students can even synchronize directly to your laptop or other computer, that is, not requiring ANY LMS infrastructure...

Students can even synchronize to/from another student, i.e. you can submit assignments for others and distribute assignments as well, so students who cannot make it physically to school can still get the assignments from their peers. While retaining integrity of the assignments and solutions

There is a significant training challenge, but the tradeoffs are worth it, and the solution is Free, free as in no cost, and free as in freedom (see free software)

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    Such skills may be basic for survival in the future... Jun 2, 2020 at 18:58
  • @paulgarrett I am willing to consult, pro bono with any educator who needs help implementing this or provide training.
    – crasic
    Jun 2, 2020 at 18:58
  • Does this do quizzes such that as they get a question correct it goes to the next or if wrong it repeats with a similar question to aid the learning process?
    – Solar Mike
    Jun 2, 2020 at 19:31
  • @SolarMike, the use case here are students in rural environments without any infrastructure, the immediate challenge is getting them asignments and getting them back, this system can be scaled by each institutions as needed, commit hooks can automatically grade assignments if needed.
    – crasic
    Jun 2, 2020 at 19:53

My institution uses Moodle and it does all you need (imho)

You can have things (files, videos, presentations) to be downloaded and they can't download part 2 unless they have downloaded part 1 or submitted part 1. Which means they can log in, download and then log out. It is not tied to one computer but any machine as long as they have their login and password.

Quizzes, I do practice quizzes and quizzes for assessment - categories with types of questions and you can set levels and more.

You can have a forum where they post a question and you can answer or if a student knows the answer then they can respond.

So much - worth checking out and Moodle is not the only one... But have a look: https://moodle.org/

  • Can students, for example, come to campus, download the quiz (plus other assignments for the week), go home, work on the quiz and assignments, then return and be able to submit that work in Moodle that had been done when Internet access wasn't available?
    – Village
    Jun 2, 2020 at 18:34
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    Is it truly stable off-line? As you know, some things seem to need an internet connection to work at all. I'd be happy to believe it, for many reasons, but ... have some natural skepticism. Jun 2, 2020 at 18:34
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    @paulgarrett once you have downloaded a word doc, pdf or in my case an excel file then the internet connection is not needed until you want to submit or get something else... And yes, I have students in 90 odd countries with varying internet performance... so they have tested things for me...
    – Solar Mike
    Jun 2, 2020 at 19:15
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    Moodle is a free open-source learning system released under the GNU General Public License and written in PHP, so there's no vendor lock-in, unlike even using Excel or Word. The UK Open University has 200k users; UK Civil Service 500k users."Previously, the offline capability in Moodle Mobile only extended to quizzes and SCORM. Now learners can also private message other users, add a course note, complete a survey, create a new forum post or new wiki page and even complete an assignment offline." moodle.com/news/…
    – Owain
    Jun 2, 2020 at 20:15
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    The "private message other users" is offline - the messages are stored and forwarded when connectivity is available, like mailboxes, not like a web forum.
    – Owain
    Jun 2, 2020 at 22:22

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