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Technology Assistance for Online Students

Last updated July 11, 2016

Technology Assistance for Online Learners--Helping yourself and asking for help


Computer Literacy

You need to have a basic knowledge of computer and Internet skills in order to be successful in an online course. Here are some of the highlights:

Knowledge of terminology, such as browser, application, URL, etc.
Understanding of basic computer hardware and software; ability to perform computer operations, such as:

Using keyboard and mouse
Managing files and folders: save, name, copy, move, backup, rename, delete, check properties
Software installation, security and virus protection
Using software applications, such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel, email, etc.
Knowledge of copying and pasting, spell-checking, saving files in different formats
Sending and downloading attachments

Internet skills (connecting, accessing, using browsers) and ability to perform online research using various search engines and library databases.
Ability to use online communication tools, such as email (create, send, receive, reply, print, send/receive attachments), discussion boards (read, search, post, reply, follow threads), chats, etc.

Strong reading and writing skills

You need to have strong reading skills and be able to communicate effectively through writing. Most of the material in the online environment will come from your textbooks and written lectures, (and videos) therefore strong reading and critical thinking skills are very important for success in an online course. Online students communicate through such text-based tools, as emails, discussion forums, chats and instant messaging. You need to feel comfortable expressing yourself in writing.

Self-motivated and independent learner

While online courses can offer more flexibility in scheduling, they require more self-discipline and independence than on-campus courses. Some students can find this uncomfortable and not suitable for their learning style. They may miss face-to-face interaction with an instructor and peers, which helps to keep them on track. In the online environment, you have to be able to start and to work on tasks on your own, without someone keeping you focused, and you have to be self-disciplined in order to follow the class schedule and meet deadlines.

Time commitment

Online classes take as much time as regular on-campus classes. You need to set aside sufficient time for study. Plan to spend at least as much time working on the assignments and studying as you would with a traditional course. Note that some students report spending even more time for online classes than for traditional ones. On average, the time that you need to devote to a 4-credit course will be approximately 16 hours a week.

Time management: log-in frequently and develop study schedules

Even though you may not have to "be" in class on some specific day and time, you still have to follow the course schedule provided by your instructor. Remember that online classes are not independent study courses; you are still required to "show up" and participate actively.

Since online courses are asynchronous, they will continue developing and changing even if you are not online. You need to be online frequently enough and log in at least three to four times per week in order to keep up with the content flow, complete assignments, follow discussions and communicate with your classmates and instructor. Some courses may even require you to log in every day.

Never wait until the last minute to complete your assignments. You may have a technical problem or run out of time which will cause frustration. One of the major reasons for failing online classes is procrastination, since it is very easy to fall behind in the online environment. Make sure to set aside specific time on a regular basis to participate in your course. Schedule specific times to log in and to study.

Active learner

Online students must be active learners, self-starters who are not shy or afraid to ask questions when they do not understand. Remember that you, not the instructor, must be in control of your learning process.

Since your instructor cannot see you, you need to "speak up" right away if you have problems and be as explicit as possible; otherwise there is no way others will know that something is wrong. Remember that your instructor is not the only source of information. Most of the time you will be able to post your question in the discussion forum and your classmates will help you as well. If you have technical difficulty, problems understanding course content or difficulty meeting the deadline, seek help right away and contact your instructor to make arrangements.


System Requirements

Generally, you will have a better experience using Moodle if you have a fairly new PC or Mac and a high speed Internet connection. The following is meant as a guideline only. Other equipment will also work.


Expectations for Student Behavior for Online Courses (Netiquette):

1. Know your audience. Make sure that the person(s) to whom you are sending your message are the appropriate one(s) with whom to communicate.

2. The student conducts oneself in a professional manner, which reflects respect and dignity for oneself and others, in addition to maintaining confidentiality in professional relationships and

writing assignments. In order to demonstrate professionalism, civility must be present.

3. Copying term papers or other writing assignments, cheating on exams, plagiarism, and unauthorized activity on the computer constitute grave and serious violations of personal

trust and academic integrity. Such actions will result in penalties that may include a grade of “F” in classes where cheating of this kind occurs, restricted access to the computer, academic

suspension, or expulsion from the College (see Morningside College Student Handbook).

4. It is important to recognize that the online classroom is in fact a classroom, and certain behaviors are expected when you communicate with both your peers and your instructors.


These guidelines for online behavior and interaction are known as ‘netiquette’:

1. Always use your professors’ proper title

1. Use clear and concise language

2. Remember that all college level communication should have correct spelling and grammar

3. Avoid slang terms and texting abbreviations such as “u” instead of “you”

4. Use standard fonts such as Times New Roman and use a size 12 font

5. Avoid using the caps lock feature AS IT CAN BE INTERPRETTED AS YELLING

6. Limit the use of emoticons such as :)

7. Be cautious when using humor or sarcasm as tone is sometimes lost in an email or

discussion post and your message might be taken seriously or offensive

8. Be careful with personal information

9. Always be respectful of others’ opinions even when they differ from your own

10. When you disagree with someone, you should express your differing opinion in a respectful, non-critical way

11. Do not make personal or insulting remarks, be open-minded

12. Just as you should not drive when you are angry, you should not send email responses when you are angry. Type a response, but do not mail it immediately. Chances are, when you reread it, you will be glad that you waited.



A safe rule of thumb is: If your PC or Mac is less than 3 years old, it should be more than up to the task to use Moodle. Notebook or desktop machines work equally well.  If you are buying a new machine, any brand/ model will be perfectly suited for Moodle.

If you like Tech Specs, here are Windows based requirements:

Processor 2.0 GHz or better
RAM - 2048 MB bare minimum (more is always better); Office 2013 requires 2 GB RAM
HD - anything above 40 GB
CD-ROM or DVD re-writeable drive
OS - At least Windows Vista SP1 for Office 2010; Windows 7 or 8 for Office 2013
Browser - At least Internet Explorer 7 for Office 2010; at least Internet Explorer 9, Firefox 12, or Chrome 18 for Office 2013


And here are Mac based requirements:

Processor 1.0 GHz or faster (Intel-based systems recommended)
RAM – 2048 MB bare minimum (more is always better)
HD - anything above 40 GB
CD-ROM or DVD re-writeable drive
Browser - At least Apple Safari 5 for Office 2013

It would also be very handy to have a "flash" or "thumb" drive.   It can be used for backup and file transport.

If you would like to check your specs you can do so as follows:

Windows - click on the Start button > Control Panel > System
Mac - click the Apple, then About this Mac.



Web Software
Moodle is a web-based application; thus using recent Web Browsing software (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Safari) is recommended. Once again if your PC/Mac is fairly new, you already have a compatible Web Browser.

Moodle performs best with the Mozilla Firefox Web Browser.  If you are using Internet Explorer or Safari, seriously consider downloading the free version of Firefox.


Other Software

For writing/submitting papers or other activities, some type of word processing and spreadsheet software will be needed. The purchase and use of the Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) is strongly recommended! 


Software You May Need

To maximize your learning experience in Moodle and minimize your technology problems, you may wish to download any or all of the following free software.

Open Office

If you do not have the Microsoft Office Suite on your computer, a good alternative is to download the free open-source office software suite called OpenOffice.

It allows you to do word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. The names of the applications differ from those of Microsoft Office, but the functionality is virtually the same.

Microsoft Office Name/OpenOffice Name:







Adobe Acrobat Reader

The Adobe Acrobat Reader will allow you to read .pdf files. Download the latest free version at


Internet Browser

Moodle will work with just about any browser. However, if you use Microsoft Internet Explorer  (especially Version 8), you may encounter problems downloading files (such as Word or PowerPoint files) placed in the course by your instructor. The problem is that because of certain security weaknesses in Internet Explorer, Microsoft uses a default setting that blocks the automatic downloading of files. The result will be a blank white frame and an error message from Internet Explorer. An option is to download and use the free Firefox browser. Use the following link to download Firefox for use on your computer. 

Firefox browser for Windows, Mac, or Linux


Discounted Software for Students

If you are interested in purchasing the Microsoft Office Suite or the Adobe Creative Cloud, check out the Discounted Software for Students page in the Information Services page of the Morningside Portal, MySide. 


Technology Assistance

We want you to be successful in your online course and do not want the technology to prevent you from learning. There are, however, several ways to troubleshoot problems you might experience.

Moodle is a fairly intuitive course management system. Use the little help icons on the screens to provide hints and helps with the system.  Firefox is the preferred browser for working with Moodle.  If you are having problems with one browser, please also try it in another browser to see if the problem is being caused by your browser.

If you need technical assistance with Moodle, please contact eClass4learning at 800.408.4935, x.6, for 24/7 technical/Moodle support.

You can also call the college Technology Services Center at 800.831.0806, x.5544, or 712.274.5544 for issues related to connectivity (e.g.: email, remote connectivity, software interface). The Technology Services Center is available from 8 AM - 5 PM (Central time) Monday through Friday during the school year or 8 AM - 4:30 PM during the summer term.