Accessibility statement

How to... when working from home

This page gives you guidance on how to accomplish specific kinds of tasks when you are working remotely.

Access services

Access on-campus services

When working at home, you may want to access services and systems that are only normally available on campus (for example, your University filestore, SITS, Kinetics). There are two ways of doing this:

  • Virtual Desktop Service (VDS) - if you're using a personal device. This is the only way you should access files containing confidential or restricted information from personal devices.
  • Virtual Private Network (VPN) - if you're using a University-owned device

Virtual Desktop Service

The Virtual Desktop Service (VDS) gives you secure access to Windows applications. You can use it to access your University filestores and commonly used software.

You can connect to the VDS from most devices, including your desktop, laptop, tablet or Chromebook. You can also access the VDS without installing any additional software see setup guides for instructions.

If you’re using the Virtual Desktop Service you do not need to be connected to the Virtual Private Network.

Virtual Private Network

The Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows you to connect to your University filestore and other University and external services that are normally only available when on campus. This is preinstalled and pre-configured on University managed laptops and can be downloaded and installed on other devices.

Once connected to the VPN you can access a University filestore from off campus or remotely connect to your University managed Windows desktop.

The speed will vary depending on your home broadband connection and may be too slow to be usable on a poor service. If you find this to be the case, either copy your files to Google Drive or use the VDS service.

Remember: Only connect to the VDS or VPN when you need them

A limited number of people can be connected to the VPN and VDS at any time.

Your University email, calendar and Google Drive do not require the VDS or VPN. For further examples of which University systems do and do not require the use of the VPN or the VDS see:

Don’t forget to log out if you’re not actively using them - this will free up your session for a colleague to use.

If you’re having problems connecting to either the VPN or the VDS, please take a look at the Remote Working section of our IT Status Board. This will tell you if the VPN and VDS are low on available connections. If this is the case, please try again later.

We’re continuing to monitor these services and we’re working to make sure that they are available when you need them.

Use your phone no.

Use your University phone number from off campus

Zoom Phone allows you to use your University extension from anywhere, so you can make and receive calls on a computer, smartphone or tablet. You can dial an internal extension and national or international numbers without disclosing your personal home or mobile number. 

Calls can be made and received using the Zoom desktop app or mobile app. If you don’t already have one, you will be given a headset when you are transferred to using Zoom Phone. 

We will install new physical Zoom Phones in all shared / bookable hybrid working locations. These will allow you to log in to the phone so it's personalised with your settings and number.

When making a call there is no need to prefix the number with a 9.

You will be provided with a direct dial extension number activated on your Zoom account. If you already have a number this will be migrated to Zoom.

Find out more 

Run a meeting

Run a meeting with an individual or a small group (including seminars and supervisions)

Meetings are a key part of the work we do, and moving them online requires changing not just technology but how we run meetings.

Martin Weller from the Open University has a useful guide on how to teach online. This key point applies to all types of online meetings:

“Activities that can be done quickly face to face take much more time online, particularly collaborative activities.”

Allow extra time and accept that the first few may feel difficult. Practise in advance if possible.


The University has a licence for Zoom - a web-based video conferencing tool that allows users to schedule and conduct virtual meetings online. While the University provides several technologies that enable remote meetings, Zoom is now our first recommendation.

Zoom allows you to host meetings with up to 300 participants connecting through audio, video and chat. You need an account to host a meeting but participants are able to join without an account - making it easy to have meetings with people outside of the University. Meetings can also be recorded and saved locally to your computer or to the cloud.

Zoom can be used via desktop clients (available on Windows, Mac and Linux), mobile apps (iOS and Android) or within your web browser. You can also 'dial-in' to Zoom meetings by calling the UK phone number provided with the meeting invitation. We recommend that you install the desktop client when using this service as this provides a better user experience and enables you to access all the available features.

You can find more information on using Zoom on our Zoom web page and in our Working Remotely skills guide.

Recommendations for hosting a meeting

If you're hosting a meeting, there are some settings you need to familiarise yourself with to prevent unwanted participants from disrupting your meeting:

Zoom also provides comprehensive online guidance and daily webinars (on weekdays):

Google Meet

Google Meet offers an alternative way of conducting meetings online, as well as screen sharing so everybody can view an item together (for presentations etc).

Those invited can join a collective space, each with their own video (webcam) and audio (microphone) capabilities so people can easily interact (see/hear) with each other. There is also a chat feature (should people not have access to a webcam/microphone) where they can get involved in discussions. Be aware it is possible for all participants to talk/type at the same time so be patient and clear.

Google Meet can be accessed via a web browser on a computer, and there are apps for smartphones and tablets.

You can find tips on our Google Meet web page about recording meetings using Google Meet.

Further help is available on Google's support pages:

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra

If you are teaching a course, Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is integrated into the VLE. Collaborative sessions can be launched from the VLE and the software is resilient, coping with large numbers of active participants.

Using other online meeting tools

If you're invited to an online meeting by someone outside of the University, you may find that they use a different online meeting tool. Many of these tools allow guests to join meetings via a web link without creating an account, and without having to download and install additional software.

More information

The Programme Design and Learning Technology Team (PDLT) have written additional information on:

  • Tools for online teaching, including Collaborate

Record a lecture

Record and upload a lecture

You can use the Replay ‘at-desk’ recorder tool to record and upload lectures from your desk. Your students will be able to access these recorded lectures via the VLE.

This tool is available to install from Software Center on managed laptops, and can be downloaded on unmanaged Windows and Mac computers.

We recommend that you do not try and run live lectures remotely. With many students attempting to connect at a fixed time, the likelihood that some will not be able to connect due to technology issues is too high.

More information

The Programme Design and Learning Technology Team (PDLT) have written additional information on:

  • Tools for online teaching

Run a conference

Run a virtual conference

If you were planning to run a face-to-face conference and now wish to run it virtually (ie entirely online), see the below options based on whether your event is teaching, learning and/or assessment-related or not.

Teaching, learning and/or assessment-related conferences

You can make use of the Blackboard Collaborate Ultra platform, supported by the Programme Design and Learning Technology Team (PDLT). This tool:

  • supports up to 250 attendees within a single session
  • is accessible to people who are not members of the University (presenters or attendees)
  • is accessible globally (but potentially not in China)
  • allows the presentation of slides and other materials (PDFs, screen-sharing, video/audio files, etc)
  • allows control over what functionality participants can use (eg webcams, microphones, text chat).

If you wish to explore potentially using Collaborate for a teaching, learning and/or assessment-related conference, please email PDLT at the earliest possible juncture to discuss this, and complete the Online Workshop/Seminar Requirement Form.

Non-teaching, learning and/or assessment-related conferences

Can make use of Zoom, supported by IT Services. This tool:

  • supports up to 300 participants within a single session
  • is accessible to people who are not members of the University (presenters or attendees)
  • is accessible globally
  • allows presenting of your entire computer or a specific application via screen sharing
  • allows shared screens to be annotated by participants
  • offers the ability to record meetings to your computer or to the cloud
  • allows you display a virtual background on video calls (eg conference branding)
  • allows the host to separate participants into smaller group chats (eg virtual break-out groups).

If you wish to explore potentially using Zoom for a non-teaching, learning and/or assessment-related conference, see our working remotely skills guide, the IT Services Zoom webpage or contact IT Support with details of your event.

Non-teaching, learning and/or assessment-related conferences may also use Blackboard Collaborate Ultra for their event if desired, but unfortunately the PDLT will not be able to offer support for these sessions - their focus is on teaching, learning and/or assessment-related activities.