Tips and FAQs

Distance Learning Tips

· Time Management and Considerations
· Asking Questions
· Mail, Email and Chat
· Typical Features/Tools in an Online Course
· Technology Preparation

Test Taking Tips

· How can I keep my internet connection from timing out when I take an online quiz in Blackboard?
· Instructions on taking an online test in Blackboard
· Verify that you have the minimum Blackboard system requirements
· America Online Users

Distance Learning FAQs

· Is online education right for me?
· What is neccessary to become a successful distance learner?
· Will I get different credit for an online course than I do for a traditional course?
· What are the support services available to an online learner?
· Drop/Withdrawals and Refunds
· College Policies and Academic Honesty
· How do I get my textbooks?
· What do I do if I run into problems during the course and who do I contact?
· What computer equipment do I need?
· Distance Learning Fees
· Am I eligible for financial aid (Pell, Scholarships, Loans, etc.)?
· Do I meet my 2.0 minimum GPA requirement for online course registration?
· Am I able to get my AA online?
· Will I ever have to come to campus to complete online course requirements?
· What is a "Hybrid" course?

Time Management and Considerations
  • Study all course content the instructor has available for you.
  • ALL hybrid courses require on-campus class meetings. Check the printed or online schedule for required class meetings.
  • Take a moment to "bookmark" the log-in screen in your browser(s) the first time you access it. This will help you locate your online classroom(s) quickly every time.
  • Allocate at least the same amount of time each week for an online course as you would for a campus course. The time needed will be approximately 3-4 hours per credit per week or 9-12 hours per week for a 3-credit course.
  • Make sure you cover all of the material in the course Web site as well as the textbook and study guide.
  • Make contacts among your fellow students, forming study groups if possible or preferable.
  • Look at your lesson the first day it is available. You may want to print it out or download the pages. That way if there is a problem with your connection, you can still work on it offline. Read through the lesson and see if you have any questions. If you do, contact your instructor immediately.
  • Many online courses require that work be completed every week. It is necessary to review the course syllabus, calendar and/or pacing guide for these dates.

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Asking Questions
  • Read the course introduction/syllabus for your online class carefully to find out how you should ask questions. Some instructors will ask you to post all questions to a class discussion forum while others will ask you to email them directly to the instructor.
  • In a traditional class, everyone gets the benefit of hearing the question and answer. Therefore, the instructor may require you to post all questions to the class discussion board so that the entire class can view all questions and answers.
  • Some questions may already be answered by the instructor in his/her FAQ section.
  • Identify how or when you can contact your instructor for office hour appointments.
  • Log on to your online classroom several times a week so that you can take part in online discussions and read all messages in a timely manner.

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Mail, Email and Chat
  • Keep a copy of all correspondence you send to your instructor. You may want to "cc" yourself. That way you will know that the mail is being delivered.
  • Netiquette in email messaging and discussion board posting:
    • Choose your words carefully. It is easy to sound brusque or even nasty when all the other person sees is a typed message. Humor is more difficult to convey in a message.
    • Proofread your email messages and discussion board postings before sending or posting them. The more accurate your messages, the more likely they'll be understood.
    • Do not use "chat-speak," the abbreviations common to social online chatrooms, such as BTW = "by the way." Your Blackboard class site is an academic environment. Please communicate accordingly.
    • A message written with all capital letters is viewed as shouting. Most people will find this offensive.

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Typical Features/Tools in an Online Course
  • Messaging
    • Email, chat, and class discussion boards are the primary forms of communication between the instructor and students as well as among students.
  • Transferring files
    • You may be asked to send files in Blackboard by uploading these files in the Assignment area of the course site. Read the instructions carefully on those pages.
    • You may be asked to send files in Blackboard by attaching these files to an email to the instructor.
    • You may be asked to use the Save-as command (under "File" in any text editor) to save a document in Rich Text Format (.rtf).
    • The instructor may have you download or upload files.
  • Quizzes and Tests
    • Tests may be take-home tests that could be sent to you through an e-mail message.
    • More commonly, quizzes in Blackboard are handled through the Quiz tool. Please refer to the information below (under Technology Preparation) about possible browser-related problems and the solutions provided. These quizzes have a set of directions for how to take the test.
    • Many instructors will require proctored exams. Your photo I.D. is required to verify the identity of the person taking the exam. This is especially likely for mid-terms and final exams. Contact your instructor immediately if you live outside the area and cannot take tests on the Main Campus in McHenry.

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Technology Preparation
  • Students are responsible for their own computers. In the event that your computer breaks down during the semester, have an alternate plan. For example, you might use a computer in an open lab on campus, use a friend or relative's computer, or go to the public library.
  • Update your Web browser and browser plugins settings by doing the following:
    • Browser Check: Click on the Blackboard Browser Check to use the browser tune-up page:
    • Updated Web browsers and plug-ins.
  • Some features in Blackboard are Java-based.
    • First, check your browser's "Preferences" or "Internet Tools." Make certain that Java is enabled.
    • Java-based features can be blocked by high screening settings on personal/work firewalls and pop-up blocking software. If you cannot access the features above, it is likely that these settings are in place and need to be adjusted or disabled.
    • Many features in Blackboard are available through pop-up windows. You must either set your pop-up blocker to allow Blackboard or turn off pop-up blockers for all Blackboard courses.

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How can I keep my internet connection from timing out when I take an online quiz in Blackboard?

Some Internet connections may ‘time out' your connection to the Internet if there is no activity coming from your machine - like when you are composing an answer to an essay question. To lessen the possibility of being ‘timed out', open a separate web browser window before you click on the exam link. In that separate web browser window, navigate to and select a time zone. Once the page loads, it will keep checking the time, and keep your connection to the Internet active. Simply minimize that window, re-enter Blackboard, and proceed to click on your exam link.

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Instructions on taking an online test in Blackboard
  • Step 1.Check Your Browser Options before the Test to ensure that it is not set to disconnect after several minutes of inactivity.
    • The location of this setting depends on your browser. For example, in Internet Explorer 5 & 6 it is located under Tools>Internet Options>Connections>Settings> Advanced
    • If you have an Internet Service Provider that will break your connection if you don't visit a new site after a certain period of time, then keep another window open and occasionally visit it and load a new page or refresh the page to keep your connection open.
    • AOL users see note below* .
  • Step 2. Do Not Open the Test until you are ready to take it, as online tests are set to only allow you to access the test once. Find a time to take the test in which you will be free from interruptions. Let friends and family know you will be occupied.

    TIP: If your computer and telephone share the same telephone line, unplug your telephone while taking the quiz.
  • Step 3. Do Not Use the "Back" Button on Your Browser During the Test once you have begun taking the quiz. Instead, use the scroll bar to move back to check earlier questions.

    Don't close the window of the test for any reason.

    If something goes wrong, send an e-mail to your professor immediately, documenting the exact problem and asking how you should proceed. Include your username and the course and section number.
  • Step 4. Review All of Your Answers Before Submitting the Quiz. Make sure you have not accidentally changed your response to a question or made a typographic mistake.
  • Step 5. When you are satisfied with the result make sure you finish by clicking the SUBMIT button at the bottom of the screen. Click the Submit Button ONLY ONCE!

    After you submit the test answers, you will receive a score unless you have exceeded the time limit for the quiz.

  • To Check Your Grades: Click “Student Tools” then “Check your grade. ” You will see only your grades.
  • Keep In Mind : It is important that you click the SUBMIT button every time you access an online assessment. Even if you are just logging on to print the quiz, you must click the submit button. Otherwise you will be locked out of the exam.

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Verify that you have the minimum Blackboard system requirements
  • Operating Systems: Windows 98, 2000, NT, ME, XP; Mac OS 8.x or 9.x. Mac OSX 10.2 or greater is recommended, especially if Collaboration Tools will be used in a course.
  • Internet Connection: You will need a 56K modem connection or better (cable modem, DSL, T1, etc.).
  • Browser: You will need to have IE 6 or greater or Netscape 6.2.3 or greater. It is recommended that you download the latest release or IE or Netscape if you experience problems with your current browser ( or
  • Java and JavaScript Must Be Enabled In Your Browser
  • Windows users will also need to download the Java 2 Runtime Environment in order to use the Collaboration Tools (Virtual Chat or Lightweight Chat) available for download at Mac OS 8 and 9 users running Netscape may need to download and install the Java MJR 2.2.5 and the Mozilla MRJ Plugin for Netscape.
  • Your browser must Accept Cookies.

  • To view or change your browser cookie settings:
    • In Netscape, go to the Edit/Preferences/Advanced menu.
    • In IE 6.0, go to the Tools/Internet Options/Privacy menu.
    • In IE 5.0, go to the Tools/Internet Options/Security menu.

  • How to Enable Cookies:
    To enable cookies, follow the instructions below for the browser version you are using.
    • Mozilla Firefox (1.0 final release and earlier)
      • Go to the "Tools" menu.
      • Select "Options".
      • Select the "Privacy" icon in the left panel.
      • Check the box corresponding to "Allow sites to set cookies".
      • Click "OK" to save changes.
    • Netscape 7.1/Mozilla 5.0
      • Select "Preferences" from the Edit menu.
      • Click on the arrow next to "Privacy & Security" in the scrolling window to expand.
      • Under "Privacy & Security", select "Cookies."
      • Select "Enable all cookies".
      • Click "OK".
    • Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0+
      • Select "Internet Options" from the Tools menu.
      • Click on the "Privacy" tab.
      • Click the "Default" button (or manually slide the bar down to "Medium") under "Settings".
      • Click "OK".
    • Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.x
      • Select "Internet Options" from the Tools menu.
      • Click on the "Security" tab.
      • Click the "Custom Level" button.
      • Scroll down to the "Cookies" section.
      • To enable:
        • Set "Allow cookies that are stored on your computer" to "Enable".
        • Set "Allow per-session cookies" to "Enable".
      • Click "OK".
    • Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.x
      • Select "Internet Options" from the View menu.
      • Click on the "Advanced" tab.
      • Scroll down to find "Cookies" within the "Security" section.
      • To enable:
        • Select "Always accept cookies".
      • Click "OK".
    • Netscape Communicator 4.x
      • Select "Preferences" from the Edit menu.
      • Find the "Cookies" section in the "Advanced" category.
      • To enable:
        • Select "Accept all cookies" (or "Enable all cookies").
      • Click "OK".

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America Online Users

America Online is not completely compatible or stable with Blackboard system. If you are using AOL to access the Internet, once the connection is made, minimize the AOL window and use a different browser (Internet Explorer or Netscape are recommended for PC users and Safari, Netscape or FireFox are recommended for Apple computers).

However, you will find that AOL does not consider using a separate browser “online activity” and may terminate your connection without warning because of a time out. If this occurs your quiz answers will be lost, and you should consider alternative access to the Internet to properly complete your quiz/test. You should occasionally do something on the AOL while taking a test to prevent it from timing out.

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Is online education right for me?

Online Education courses may be an option for you if your schedule does not allow you to be on campus for a scheduled course. You may have a full-time job, children to care for, or be homebound for some other reason. If you would like to measure your interest as a distance learner, read through the online orientation section.

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What is neccessary to become a successful distance learner?

Successful online learners are independent learners who are motivated and self-disciplined. The ability to learn and study independently, and keep up with assignments and tests is required for a successful online experience.

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Will I get different credit for an online course than I do for a traditional course?

No, credit is given on a per-hour basis just like on-campus courses. You can expect to spend the same time (3-9 hours per week) on a distance learning course as you would on a traditional course.

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What are the support services available to an online learner?

All the services that are available to on-campus students are available to distance learning students. See the College Services section of the website.

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Drop/Withdrawals and Refunds

You are subject to Garrett College drop and withdrawal policies. All drops must be processed through the Office of Records & Registration

to assure proper completion. Improper withdrawal could affect your fees and grades.

A 100 percent refund may only be granted when a course is dropped before the designated drop deadline.

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College Policies and Academic Honesty

The code of student conduct, including academic honesty, extends to Garrett College students enrolled in distance learning courses. A full disclosure of the policies can be found in the college catalog.

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How do I get my textbooks?

You have several options:

  • Garrett College Bookstore - You will receive confirmation about the course and text book information including the ISBN#, from the Coordinator of Distance Learning. If the class is offered through Garrett College, you may purchase the book at the college bookstore.
  • Originating Institution - If the course is being offered through a different institution, you may purchase the book through that institution's bookstore or possibly online. Be sure you have the correct ISBN number before ordering.

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What do I do if I run into problems during the course and who do I contact?

If you have a technical problem, contact the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , 301-387-3155 . All course related issues should be addressed to the instructor. If you feel your issues are not being addressed properly by the instructor, see the student grievance procedures outlined in the college catalog.

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What computer equipment do I need?

Before registering for a course, make sure to review any software requirements. For example, some courses may require that students have access to particular software applications such as Excel. It will also be helpful to have a back up plan in case you have technical difficulties and are unable to use your computer for an extended period of time.

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Distance Learning Fees

Fees are assessed on a per-credit-hour basis. An additional per-credit fee will be charged for online classes that are not taught by Garrett College.

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Am I eligible for financial aid (Pell, Scholarships, Loans, etc.)?

Students registering for DL courses are eligible for the same scholarship opportunities as on campus students. Visit the Financial Aid section for more information. Financial aid will support distance courses as long as the federal guidelines are being met. Our staff will work with you and the Financial Aid Office to ensure the reporting of correct information. It is your responsibility, however, to be sure your aid is available and to pay your fees and tuition by the due date to avoid cancellation and a subsequent late fee.

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Do I meet my 2.0 minimum GPA requirement for online course registration?

Please speak with your advisor or contact the registrars office to see if you meet the 2.0 GPA minimum for taking an online course.

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Am I able to get my AA online?

We currently offer an AA in General Studies online. Students who are interested in completing a fully online General Studies Degree should contact the Coordinator of Distance Learning.

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Will I ever have to come to campus to complete online course requirements?

On campus meeting requirements vary from course to course. For example, some courses may have optional introductory sessions but may require that students come on campus for exams. Be sure to review the on-campus requirements for any course you are considering.

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What is a "Hybrid" course?

A hybrid course is a blend of face-to-face instruction with online learning. In a hybrid course, learning is typically 50% in-class and 50% online. As a result, the amount of time on campus is reduced. Hybrid courses will be identified as such in the on-campus schedule.

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