A man in a denim jacket and a woman wearing glasses both look at a computer.

Technology

In order to teach online effectively, you will need to ensure you have sufficient technical skills and equipment. In this technology lesson, you will learn what instructors need to know and be able to do technologically to teach online.

Technology Pre-Assessment

This pre-assessment has 8 questions about technology. Be honest with yourself as you reflect on your current skill level and existing technological capabilities. Upon submitting your responses to each question, you will be presented with your results along with feedback to help identify areas in which you can enhance your computing skills.

Upon submitting your responses you will be presented with your results along with feedback for each of your responses. To have your results sent to you please enter an email address below. Alternatively, you can just print your results at the end.

1. I have daily access to a computer less than 3 years old for my online courses.

Question 1 of 8

2. My computer is connected to the Internet with a reliable high-speed connection such as cable or fiber optic.

Question 2 of 8

3. I have a webcam, headphones or speakers, and a microphone that I know how to use.

Question 3 of 8

4. My browser will play common media formats (MP3 audio, Quicktime, etc.).

Question 4 of 8

5. I feel confident in my Internet skills, such as navigating between web pages, using a search engine, and downloading files.

Question 5 of 8

6. I am comfortable installing software and changing configuration settings on my computer.

Question 6 of 8

7. I am comfortable locating, opening, and saving files on a computer.

Question 7 of 8

8. I am capable of troubleshooting basic computer or technical problems myself or I know someone who can help me.

Question 8 of 8


 

Computer Equipment

Computer Specifications

You’ll need to have an internet-enabled desktop or laptop computer. Although you can get online with smaller devices like a phone or tablet, many of the course development and teaching activities will be easier to do on a computer (especially one that has been manufactured in the last three years).


General Computer Specs

Your department may or may not have a required set of computer specifications to check on prior to purchasing a computer. If not, the ones below would be a good start.

Screen Resolution1920 x 1080
Processor Speed2.5 GHz
RAM8GB
Hard Drive256GB
Ethernet10/100/1000 Integrated
Wireless802.11 a/b/g/n
BluetoothBluetooth 4.0
SoundSpeakers and headphone/mic jacks
USB1 USB 3.0 port
CameraYes
Operating SystemWindows 7 or better/Mac OSX 10.11 El Capitan or higher


PC Specs

To display System settings including your operation system, processor speed, and RAM:

Windows 10Right click on “Start Menu” and click on “System” in the pop-up menu to open the “System” window. Alternatively, you can type “System Information” in the Cortana search box and select “System Information: Desktop App” from the results.
Windows 8.1Open “System” by swiping in from the right edge of the screen and tapping “Search” (or if you’re using a mouse, pointing to the upper-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, and then clicking “Search”). Then enter “System” in the search box, and tap or click “System.”
Windows 7Open “System” by clicking the “Start” button, right-clicking “Computer,” and then clicking “Properties.”
Windows VistaOpen “System” by clicking the “Start” button, clicking “Control Panel,” clicking “System and Maintenance,” and then clicking “System.”
Windows XPOpen the control panel by clicking the “Start” button, clicking “Control Panel,” clicking “System,” and selecting the “General” tab. If you’re looking to get into the nitty gritty, follow the same instructions as above and then click “Device Manager.”



Mac Specs

To find information about your Mac, click the black Apple at the top left of your screen and select “About This Mac.” On the “Overview” tab you’ll see your computer’s information, including your operating system, processor speed, and RAM. The “Storage” tab will display how much hard drive space you have. If you’re looking for really detailed information, click on “System Report” under “Overview.”


Webcam, Microphone, and Speakers

If you will be recording or broadcasting a video of yourself to share with your students or meeting with them in video conferences, you will need a microphone, headphones or speakers, and a webcam. Many laptops include a built-in webcam. If you aren’t sure if yours does, complete the following activity to find out.

Practice

Take the camera and mic test. When the page opens, follow the instructions to test your video camera and mic. If your camera and microphone are working properly, you should see your face in the box on the left and the mic volume meter, in the box on the right, moving when you talk.

Purchasing Software

To purchase software through UNCG, visit the ITS website for software purchases. If you are a member of another UNC system, you can check with ITS at your institution for options to purchase discounted software and hardware.

Working with Files

Types of Files

As you develop and teach your online course, you’ll work with a number of different types of files. Knowing the type of file and recognizing which program, or programs, opens the file based on its file extension is essential. For example, ReadyToTeach.docx has the file extension .docx, which means it is a text document and can be viewed and edited using Microsoft Word.

Before your head starts to swirl, take a look at some of the most common file types, their extensions, and the application that can open them.

.doc, .docx, .pages, .odt, .rtf, .txt These are text documents that can be opened using Microsoft Word, Pages, Google Docs, or other word processing software programs. Note: Each program only opens up certain types. “.doc” and “.docx” are Microsoft Word programs, for example.
.ppt, .pptx, .pps These are presentations that can be opened using PowerPoint or Google Slides.
.csv, .xls, .xslx These are spreadsheets that can be opened using a program like Excel or Google Sheets.
.pdf These Adobe PDFs can be opened with Adobe Reader and many other programs.
.jpg, .jpeg, .png, .gif These are image files; they can be previewed using most default image viewers.
.mp3, .wav These audio files can be played using a media player program.
.m4v, .mov, .swf, .wmv These are video files, which can be played using a media player program. .wmv files are created on a PC, so Mac users may not be able to view them.
.htm, .html These are web files that open in your browser.
.bak, .tmp These are temporary backup files.
.zip These are known as “zipped” files, and they are a bundle of files compressed into one. You can open them by using a program to extract or unzip files to see what’s inside. Often this just involves clicking on the .zip folder.

Common Tasks


Word Processing Software

You will likely need word processing software to review student papers and perform other tasks. Here are a few we recommend:

Each of these tools gives you the ability to write and format a text document and include items such as tables, diagrams, headers, bulleted lists, and more. Creating, editing, saving, renaming, and deleting a document are all important functions in these types of software.

Editing

When editing a document, remember to frequently save your changes in case of an unexpected hardware or software issue. Some word processing softwares may autosave your work but some might require you to click Save to keep your changes.

Some documents will keep a history of the versions of the document, which can be very useful. Microsoft Word has a “Track Changes” feature to mark what revisions were made to a document. You must manually enable this tool to mark changes clearly for students or collaborators to review, and you can also also accept or reject changes someone else has made.

Google Docs does this automatically by saving a version history; you can see who made what changes and when.

Downloading

“Downloading” means saving a file from the Internet. (“Uploading” means saving a file to the Internet.”) When you download a file, it will likely go into a folder called “Downloads” on your computer. You can click and drag the file into another folder on your computer or hard drive if it is a file you will need later. To find the “Downloads” folder on your computer, try the steps below.

PC

  • Method 1: Click on the start button. Click on computer. Find the folder called “Downloads” in the left-hand menu and select it.
  • Method 2: Click on the folder icon and then find the folder on the left-hand menu called “Downloads” and select it.

If you can’t find your downloads, try some of the strategies on this troubleshooting page for finding downloads.

Mac

  • Method 1: From the Dock, click the “Downloads” icon next to the Trash Can on the right.
  • Method 2: From the Finder, click Go from the menu bar and select Downloads.

If you don’t see a Downloads option under the Go menu, click Home. The downloads folder should also be visible in your Home folder.


Practice

Let’s practice downloading and working with files and applications.


Downloading a File

The process of downloading files will differ slightly depending on your browser and how you’ve set it up. We’ll try out two different approaches, and you can decide which one works best for you.

Option 1: Left click Option 2: Right click
Left click the link, and the browser will either download the file to a default location (which you’ll need to know so you can locate the file later) or it will ask you where you’d like to save the file. For this option, just left click this link. When you right click a link, a menu of options will appear. You’re looking for an option such as “Save target as,” “Save link as,” or “Download linked file as.” Once you select this option, you’ll be asked where you want to save the file. For this option, right click this link, select “Desktop” from the menu on your left, and click “Save.”


Locating and Opening a File

Once you’ve downloaded a file to your computer, how do you find it so you can open it? The answer to this question depends on how you downloaded the file.

Option 1: Open the browser’s default “Download” folder Option 2: Open the folder you selected when you downloaded the file
If you left clicked the link to the file and let the browser download it to the default location, the file will most likely be in a “Downloads” folder.

PC Users: In Chrome, Firefox, or IE, you can press CTRL + J to open the “Downloads” folder. Double click the file to open it.

Mac Users: In Firefox or IE, you can press Command + J to open the “Downloads” folder. In Chrome, you can press Shift + Command + J to open the “Downloads” folder. In Safari, press Command + Option + L to open the “Downloads” folder. Double click the file to open it.

If you went with the right click option, then you chose where to save the file. If you followed the instructions in the previous step of this activity, you saved the file to your Desktop. If you didn’t, you’re going to need to locate the folder where you chose to save the file.


Installing Applications

From time to time you may need to install an application for a course you’re teaching. To get some practice installing programs, click these links to install Skype or install Google Chrome following the instructions for your device and operating system.

Organizing Files

When you have many files on your computer, it’s important to stay organized. Rather than save every file to your Desktop, it’s a good idea to use folders and a file naming convention. It’s also a good idea to regularly delete downloaded files and files you no longer need. To do this, find the Trash folder on your computer and delete all items. Organizing your computer will save you time in finding documents and help you avoid clutter.

Finding Files

If you aren’t sure where to find files, you can search for them:

Creating Folders

Organize your files into folders and subfolders, and name them something meaningful. For example, you may want to create folders for each online course you teach and subfolders for the different semesters:

screenshot of folder organization on a computer

  • RTT100 (folder)
    • Spring2020 (subfolder)
    • Fall2020 (subfolder)
  • RTT380 (folder)
    • Spring2020 (subfolder)
    • Summer2020 (subfolder)

NOTE: Using the course acronym and number is probably the most efficient way to name your main files. You may also choose to add the course name, e.g., PCS150_Global Conflict.

To create folders follow these directions:

Windows

  • Click Start, then click Documents.
  • Click “New Folder.”
  • By default it will be called New Folder. Give it a new name by typing in a new name, then click Enter.
  • To add items to the folder, click and drag files into it.

Mac

  • Click the desktop if you want to create the folder on the desktop; otherwise, open a Finder window and navigate to where you want to create the folder.
  • Choose File > New Folder.
  • Enter a name for the folder, then press Return.
  • To add items to the folder, click and drag files into it.

Renaming Files

When you rename a file, only the name changes. Its location, file type, and content remain the same. To rename a file, follow the steps below.

Windows

  • Method 1: Right-click the file and choose “Rename” from the menu that pops up. Type in the new one. Press Enter or click the desktop when you are done.
  • Method 2: Click the filename or folder name, wait a moment, and click the name again to change it.
  • Method 3: Click the filename and press F2; Windows automatically lets you rename the file or folder.

Mac

  • Method 1: Rename a file or folder by selecting it and hitting the “return” key. Type in the new name, then click “return” or click away with the mouse cursor to set the change.
  • Method 2: Use right-click and choose “Rename” from the menu. If you right-click (or control+click) on a file name in the Finder, you can choose a “Rename” option to rename a specific file. Then hit return or click away with the mouse cursor to set the change.
  • Method 3: In the Finder, click once on the actual filename text and hover for a moment with the mouse cursor, then click again. (If you click too quickly, it opens the file.) Type in the new name, then hit “return” or click away with the mouse cursor to set the change.

Securing Files & Data

As an instructor, you have access to protected student data. UNC Greensboro adheres to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), under which students’ grades, test scores, financial records, class schedules, social security numbers, disciplinary records, and other confidential data are protected. Students have a right to see their own educational records and control who else sees them. You have a legal responsibility to protect that data. This means not sharing students’ protected data with anyone other than the student.

  • Lock your computer with a password. (How to set a computer password in Windows | Mac)
  • Do not email grades or store them in a place where others can see them, even if they are coded. Instead, use a Learning Management System like Canvas to enter grades where students can view them securely.
  • Do not share a student’s grades with anyone besides the student, even a parent or in a reference letter, unless authorized. Parents may be accustomed to viewing their student’s educational records, but according to FERPA, once a student turns 18 years old, the rights to view and manage their own educational records transfer to the student from the parents.
  • Student information stored electronically should be secured and available only to those who are entitled to access that information.

There are many more aspects to protecting your data and students’ data; review the UNCG FERPA website to read through them carefully and apply them. For further information with regard to FERPA, please feel free to consult the UNCG University Counsel’s website.

You can also explore the UNCG Policy for Secure Data and UNCG storage services.

Securing Files and Student Data


Can I store student data in network drive?

You may not; this protected information could potentially be visible to others who share the same drive permissions.

Is it ok for students to see who else is in the class?

Yes. Directory information such as students’ names and email addresses are ok to share with others within the class. Other non-protected data includes degrees and dates of attendance.

I manage my grades in Excel spreadsheets; can I share those?

You may not. Although it may be a convenient way for you to manage grades, sharing these spreadsheets would violate FERPA because students’ grades would be shared with others besides themselves. Storing data like this in an Excel spreadsheet should only be done if absolutely necessary; we recommend password-protecting the document and your computer to prevent it from being shared accidentally.

Can I email students their grades?

You may not; email is not considered a secure method of sharing protected information. Instead, post the grades through a Learning Management System such as Canvas, which is set up to allow only you and the student to view individual grades.

If the person is no longer a student here, can that information now be shared?

No. FERPA applies to currently enrolled and formerly enrolled students without a time limit.

Internet

When preparing to teach an online course, consider how you need to interact with online resources.

Browsers

If you’re reading this, you’re using a web browser right now! You can use a variety of platforms to surf the web. Each has different capabilities, so choose your browser carefully. Privacy and security settings, accessibility settings, pop-up blockers, plugins, extensions, and search functions are all common elements of popular web browsers. You’ll find any available options under your browser’s System Preferences. In recommended order, a few preferred options are Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Internet Explorer.

Some modern websites or page elements may require the latest versions of your web browser. Older versions of browsers may not be compatible with current web technology at all. Always upgrade your browser when prompted to reduce the likelihood of impaired functionality.

Navigating the Internet

If your Internet connection is up and running and you’ve chosen a reliable browser like Chrome or Firefox, you’re ready to explore the web! There are several key concepts you should be familiar with in order to best navigate the Internet.


Internet Speed

If you’re considering teaching an online course, you want to make sure that your Internet connection provides upload speeds of at least 5 Mbps and download speeds of at least 15 Mbps. These types of speeds are available with cable and fiber optic broadband connections. Cable internet can provide download and upload speeds from 512 Kbps to 20 Mbps, and fiber optic internet can provide download and upload speeds of up to 1 Gbps. However, anything less than 5 Mbps up and 15 Mbps down, and you’re going to have to wait a while for certain web pages to load. Test your Internet connection to see how fast it is. If you discover that your speeds are slow, try troubleshooting.

Tabs and Windows

Tabs and windows are two separate, but similar, concepts. You can use different tabs and windows to explore different websites at the same time.

Think of a tab as a window within a window. You can have multiple tabs open within one browser window. It keeps your web content organized without having to close one page to visit another. Just click back and forth between tabs to return to the previously opened content.

To open a new tab, you have a few options, depending on what you’re doing. If you want to click on a URL and have it open in a new tab, you can right click and choose the selection from a list of options. Alternatively, you can click a plus sign or tab icon to the right of any open tabs. This should open a brand new tab ready for surfing. Just type in a URL or search keywords, and you’re off!

A browser window represents a brand new Internet browsing experience. You could click back and forth between an old window and a new window, but often times they’ll overlap. If a new browser window pops up in front of an old window, you may not be able to see the previous window. It gets confusing fast! A best practice is to use tabs for viewing multiple sites within the same browser. Check out the screenshots to see this in action.

Example of 1 Tab

screenshot of internet browser displaying one tab

Example of 2 Tabs

screenshot of internet browser displaying two tabs

Example of 2 Windows

screenshot of internet browser displaying one tab screenshot of internet browser displaying one tab

You can also use the Back button on your browser to return to previously viewed content. However, this is not recommended. If you’ve submitted content, like a form, your browser may not be able to return you to exactly where you’ve already visited, if it can return you at all. Again, using tabs within the same browser for viewing different pages of content is a best practice.

Safe Surfing

The Internet allows you to access the world at your fingertips. But not every site is credible or safe. Carefully evaluate web pages to determine if you’re exploring legitimate content.

Never enter private data, like your school credentials or other personally identifiable information, into untrustworthy sites. To assess a site’s security, look for “https” in the URL. This indicates a secure site that is more likely to be trustworthy. Also consider who made the site, why, and what motives or purposes the author may have. As a general rule, do not click on pop-ups or advertisements. If one appears, look for a way to close the window, like an X icon in a top right- or left-hand corner. When in doubt, close your browser and start again.

Privacy and security settings can be customized in your browser preferences. You may not want your browser to “remember” every site you visit or remember site logins. Or, you may want your browser to block what is considers to be dangerous and deceptive content. Update your settings to create a safe online experience.

Email Security

Phishing attacks may enter your inbox in the form of a cleverly (or not so cleverly!) disguised email. Protect yourself, your computer, and your network by recognizing and avoiding fraudulent communications.

UNCG’s ITS shares several examples of what common phishing emails look like. Always look at the sender of the email. Ask yourself if the email address is legitimate. For example, an email from UNCG should have an @uncg.edu in the sender’s address. Do not click on links for senders you cannot verify, and never enter personally identifiable information or credentials in web forms or on web pages you cannot confirm are authentic.

One of the risks of phishing is that a user will click on a link that goes to a website that appears legitimate and enter important information. Another risk may be that an email will include file attachments that include spyware to install on your computer. You can call an organization to verify this is their official website if you are unsure.

Your email inbox should include a Spam folder. Unless you think a legitimate email may have been filtered into spam by mistake, let your email provider do its thing. Do not open spam emails or click on any links included in the emails.

Practice

Practice checking your Internet connection speed.

Step 1—Begin Speedtest: To find out how fast your connection is, fire up the computer you plan on using for your course development work, head over to Speedtest, and click “Begin Test.”

Step 2—Watch Test: The speedometer will display your download and upload speeds as the application tests your Internet connection.

Step 3—See Results: When the test is finished, your download and upload speed results will be displayed at the top, and your IP address and ISP provider will appear in the bottom left corner. If either speed test is below 5 Mbps, you’re going to need to find another, faster way to connect to the Internet. Keep in mind, modems, wifi routers, other computers using your connection, and even weather can alter the highest achievable speed of your test.

Effective Online Communication: Email

Think about how your written communications may be perceived. For example, if a student makes a mistake in an email to you and the class, such as a misspelling or forgetting to attach a document, do not “Reply All” announcing it to everyone. Instead, send a private message to let them know how to resolve the issue or provide clarification. Remember, your students are human beings sitting in front of a screen whose feelings can be hurt or who may be confused if they misinterpret your words.

Email

Consider your audience: Think about how your student may be reading your email. They could be accessing it on a laptop, desktop, or mobile device of varying screen sizes. Keep your email clear and succinct, just like your subject line.

The bane of many Internet users’ existence is “Reply All.” You’ve likely received group emails in the past in which you are not the only recipient. When determining if you should reply to everyone in the group, or just the sender or a few select recipients, think about your purpose. Who needs the information and why? Being copied on irrelevant emails can be distracting and annoying for recipients, so “Reply All” carefully.

Sending attachments: Email is a great method for sharing documents or images. You can add these as attachments to your message. It’s best to include a message along with your attachment. Don’t just send a blank subject line and blank email along with your document.

Some files may be too large to attach. If you are unable to attach a file, try uploading it to a cloud storage platform like Google Drive and sharing a link to the file in the body of the email. Or, compress the file on your computer and try again.

If you receive an email from a student with a file attached, you’ll want to download that file. Every email platform and browser may be different, but typically you’ll either click an arrow icon indicating download, or doubleclick the file to start the save or download process. To change download and file save settings or locations, check your browser settings.

Troubleshooting

UNCG ITS provides support for UNCG-issued machines and services offered by the University. For support on personal computers, contact your computer manufacturer or your local computer repair store.

Troubleshooting boils down to two things: “What can I do to help myself?” and “Who can I go to when I can’t help myself?”

Try To Resolve the Issue Yourself

You can search for the answer yourself by looking up solutions on the Internet using these steps:

  • Visit your favorite search engine (e.g. Google, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, etc.).
  • Type your problem (e.g. “Page doesn’t load”).
  • Scan and review the results for one that fits your question.
  • Click on the best-fit result.
  • Evaluate whether the solution matches your computer type and software; see if the page was created or edited recently, such as within the last 2 years.
  • Follow the directions provided.

Troubleshooting your Internet connection when it’s slow or not connecting is as simple as a few button clicks. Check your computer’s hardware and software to determine the issue.


Hardware

If you’re at home, check your router and modem. All models are different, but there should be buttons or lights labeled as Power, WiFi, LAN, etc. Are the lights on or off? Are they flashing or static? Check your modem’s instruction manual for how to interpret these lights, or contact your home ISP. If all else fails, try unplugging the router and modem and plugging them back in.


Software

Find your computer’s Network Settings and check those for any problems. Every computer is different, but you’ll probably find what you’re looking for under Settings or System Preferences. If you’re on a network that requires login credentials, such as UNCG’s eduroam network, also check Network Settings to ensure that your computer is actually connecting to that network.

Another idea is to let your computer do the work for you. Most computers have troubleshooting technology built in. Look for a button in Network Settings that says something like “Assist Me” and run diagnostics to try to determine the problem. If you try these strategies and don’t have any luck, reach out to your ISP or, if you’re on campus, UNCG’s 6-TECH for support.


Browser Change

If a particular website isn’t loading for you, there are a few things you can try. Sometimes particular sites may be blocked by your browser’s security settings. A pop-up window may appear in your browser that asks if you trust or approve the site. Clicking an option in the affirmative should display the page. You can also explore your web browser’s “Preferences” to change settings for sites you want to block or allow. Sometimes particular sites may be blocked by a network firewall. You can look for that under your computer’s Network Settings options.

Remember how we mentioned that different browsers have different capabilities? A web page may not function exactly right in Safari but works great in Chrome. If you’re having issues with a site, try opening it in a different browser. This may solve your problem.

Clearing your cache and cookies can also help you get a fresh start in your browser. This can make web pages load and run faster. Every browser is different, but this option will be found in preferences or settings.

Chrome

  1. Open a new tab and type the following into your browser bar: chrome://settings/clearBrowserData.
  2. Select a time frame.
  3. Select what you want to delete.
  4. Click “Clear browsing data.”

Firefox

  1. Select “History” from the browser’s menu.
  2. Select “Clear Recent History.”
  3. Select a “Time Range to Clear.”
  4. Choose what you want to delete.
  5. Click “Clear Now.”

Internet Explorer
NOTE: For Internet Explorer 9 and higher

  1. Select the Gear icon safari gear icon at the top right of the browser.
  2. Select “Safety.”
  3. Select “Delete Browsing History.”
  4. Choose what you want to delete.
  5. Click “Delete.”
    OR press Ctrl + Shift + Del and then complete steps 4 & 5.

Safari
NOTE: For Safari 8

  1. Select “Safari” from the browser’s menu.
  2. Select “Clear History and Website Data.”
  3. Choose what you want to delete and click “Clear History.”

Run Updates

We’ve mentioned that updating your browser to the most current version is a best practice. You may also need to do this for various web applications if a web page isn’t loading or running properly.

Example: Enabling Flash

Flash is one type of file that is increasingly unsupported as it becomes obsolete. If you need to interact with web objects built in Java or Flash, your browser may direct you to download or update the application.
If you visit a page to watch a video or participate in a learning activity and see an image like this one, you would need to update your Flash.

adobe flash plugin warning of needed update

You can simply follow the on-screen instructions or visit get.adobe.com/flashplayer/about to update to the latest version.

Follow the steps on the screen to squash technical bugs and get back to surfing.

Or this one:

adobe flash player required warning message

 

If you already have Flash and still find that Flash objects are not loading for you, you might also need to enable Flash.

In the Chrome browser, here is how you enable Flash:

To enable Flash for all websites, open your Chrome browser and type chrome://settings/content in the address bar, then press enter.

Then on the Content Settings page, scroll down to Flash and select the button next to “Allow sites to run Flash.”

Resources


Tips From a Technology Professional


Audio issues

Between the headset, the cord, the volume mixer, and the application, there are often several places where your connection can get turned down or muted. It can happen from someone else using your machine, you brushing up against a knob on the cord, or fiddling with it absent mindedly. Sometimes an application crash will mute all audio for no apparent reason at all on relaunch. Doesn’t happen often, but if it happens to one person in a thousand, it could happen twenty times a day. Understanding how to fix basic audio issues is a big deal for online instructors, or at least the ones with an AV component. Know how to troubleshoot your audio, both the physical hardware, and the software. All of this applies to cameras and microphones as well.


Test your stuff

Five minutes before you are going to start your lecture is absolutely not the time to see if your shiny new camera and microphone are going to work well for you, if at all. You need to make time well before the start of your class to test your stuff. Make sure not only that it’s working, but that you understand it and are not intimidated by it if something goes wrong. Similarly, don’t wait to the last minute to try and get into your course or set up your computer accounts. It can take up to two hours for your accounts to activate, and if the lecture you’ve scheduled to give starts in ten minutes . . . Well, let’s just say that’s bad. Help yourself by doing a precheck well in advance of any synchronous video recordings or video conferences.


Keep your software updated

We’ve had people call in to ITS with browsers and operating systems that are, literally, a decade out of date. It might work fine for you and what you do around the house, but the demands of the current Internet have, I’m sorry to say, completely passed you by. You can maybe get an antique Model T onto a superhighway, sure, but it’s not going to work well and could actually be pretty dangerous. Same goes for your computer. There are standards in browsers and websites for host of reasons, not the least of which are just simple security issues. Know how to update your software, and your OS. Enable automatic updates for your OS, or at the very least, have it notify you when they are available.


Don't be afraid to try another browser

We have a lot of solid browser options these days: Internet Explorer, Edge, Firefox, Chrome, and even Opera (currently unsupported) isn’t all that bad. Personally, I go by the old adage of “If Mom says no, ask Dad.” Did the site work in IE? Do you have anything to lose by trying Firefox or Chrome? Probably not. You may not like it, and it may be irritating to try something new, but it’s better to deal with that irritation and get into your lecture on time than to spend a half hour of classroom time trying to get it to work exactly the way you want. You can spend some time getting your favorite browser to work comfortably after the class is over. It shouldn’t happen in Canvas, but I’ve seen buttons and options on other sites work completely well in one browser and be completely unavailable in another. It’s unusual, but it does happen.


Basic networking troubleshooting

Nothing fancy, but things like, “Do I have network connectivity at all?” “Is it just that site or is it all sites?” “Is my cable modem on and functioning?” “Did my kids mess with the wireless router again?” “Is everything still in Airplane Mode from my trip?” “Am I at a hospital, public school, or other location with extremely secure wireless settings?” Probably most of those home network outages are going to be fixed with a reboot. It’s genuinely faster to reboot than trying to troubleshoot most of it, as most of the solutions are going to involve a reboot at the end anyway. It’s an overused cliché, sure, but if I had to ballpark, I’d say a solid reboot is going to fix probably half or more of your typical home networking problems, since most of them will just be hiccups in connectivity.


Don't panic

When you are tired, stressed, and frustrated is when you are going to make the most mistakes and overlook the simplest things. When things start to go wrong, throwing panic and stress into the mix is only going to snowball a small irritation into a complete catastrophe. If you feel fear start to set in, take a deep breath and walk away. It’s for the best. You could get a cup of tea, come back, puzzle it out slowly and methodically. It’s better (and faster) to waste a couple of minutes getting your head into a space where you can think through the problem carefully than to rush in headlong and compound the problem. “When it rains, it pours.” And when it’s pouring, I find it’s usually because of something I did. Okay. Several somethings.


Resources

Know where to go to ask for help! If you’re at home, contacting your Internet provider may be necessary if your Internet speeds are unacceptable or there’s an issue with your router or modem. If the issue exceeds what you feel you can resolve, contact your institution’s IT department for support. If you’re on campus, 6-TECH supports Canvas and UNCG-issued machines and on-campus network issues. Contact UNCG’s 6-TECH support services at 6-tech@uncg.edu or call the service desk at 336.256.TECH (8324).

Canvas

Canvas is a Learning Management System (LMS) designed to organize online instruction, assessments, grades, announcements, files, and more. At UNCG, Canvas is integrated with the Banner system where enrollments and grades are managed securely.

In Canvas, you’ll want to be able to organize course materials, review and reply to discussions to manage the conversation, grade assignments, and send class announcements.
A few how-to’s are listed below, but you may want to start off with the Canvas instructor guide to getting started.

Common Canvas Tasks


Organizing the Course

We recommend following the Canvas course setup checklist.

When you are finished making an item and ready for students to see it, it’s key to publish each item. Students cannot see unpublished items, so you can keep drafts unpublished until they are complete.

You can make updates to the course as it is live, but we recommend setting up the entire course before the course begins. In this way, you can focus on teaching and grading rather than updating the course.

Modules Overview


Managing Discussions

What are Canvas Discussions?

Discussions Overview


Creating Assignments and Quizzes

Assignments in Canvas are an essential way for your students to submit proof of their learning to you. Assignments may be files students upload, such as a paper or diagram or other type of file. Assignments can also be multimedia, such as audio or video the student creates.
We recommend creating a rubric to go along with any assignment, so students can be aware of your expectations before they submit, and you can have a streamlined grading process.

Assignments Overview

Creating Quizzes

Canvas uses the word “quizzes” to refer broadly to quizzes, exams, tests, and surveys. In this area, you can set up any of those items to be graded or ungraded. Questions can be multiple choice, short answer, or more. Quizzes can be set up to display in randomized order if they are built using question banks, which also allow you to re-use questions later if needed.


Grading Assignments

As students submit their assignments to Canvas, you can view their submissions and enter grades. Canvas’ SpeedGrader tool allows you to cycle through students’ submissions and enter grades. You can also send feedback through text or audio or voice commentary. If you set up rubrics, you may find the grading process is even more expedited.

Grading Overview


Sending Announcements

Announcements can be used to communicate with students about course logistics, such as sharing news resources, reminding them of upcoming assignments, and recognizing their work. Many instructors opt to do weekly announcements. Announcements go to students’ emails as well.

Announcements Overview


Resources

For detailed support, UNCG has set up a website with news, support, training, and tips and tricks for Canvas. Visit the UNCG Canvas help site to learn more and hear from your colleagues using Canvas.

UNCG Canvas Training

View the workshop schedule to see if a Canvas training session is coming up which you could join.

Support

Visit and bookmark this link to the Canvas instructor help guide. This is an extremely useful series of how-to documents, complete with screenshots and step-by-step instructions.

If you’re having trouble with Canvas, contact UNCG’s 6-TECH support services at 6-tech@uncg.edu or call the service desk at 336.256.TECH (8324).

In the Develop module, you will learn strategies for effective writing for online courses and how to use images and videos to enhance your students’ learning.

Module Complete

Now that you have completed the module, click here to take an optional quiz to test your knowledge.