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Tips for Teaching Online
Frequently Asked Questions

How does this course work?

The course is divided into ten "units" or general topics, one each week. Within each topic you will have required and optional readings, an assigned group discussion topic, an assignment, and possibly a tutorial. You will also have a final web project to complete, and if you're taking this course for graduate credit, a term paper to write.

This course uses a product called WebCT, which belongs to a category of software products called courseware. It provides a virtual classroom environment through a series of tools: a threaded discussion forum, private email, chat rooms, and a student presentation area.

How do I access the course?

You will receive an individual username and password for WebCT. This is separate from the username and password you might use for your gladstone, oregon, or darkwing account.

To access the course, simply point your web browser to [insert course url]. Use your username and password to log in and access the main tools page.

Accessing WebCT requires a web browser, such as Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer, version 4.0 or higher.

I know I need a web browser; do I need any other software?

The required software is available as freeware. A typical browser set-up includes the following:

Much of this software (perhaps not the latest versions) is available on the Duckware CD-ROM that is distributed free to UO students each Fall. If you don't have a copy, you can get one at the Computing Center or Knight Library ITC. If you have difficulty locating one, let me know: I have at least one copy in my office that I will be happy to loan you.

You have two choices for developing your final project — a web site: 1) do the HTML coding yourself; or 2) use an HTML editor. Most HTML editors require a financial investment; the ones listed below are either free or available from the UO Bookstore at educational pricing (maximum cost: $99). If you plan to create your own graphics, I would recommend one of the two packages below (note: Paint Shop Pro is not available from the Bookstore). Most of these software packages are also available in the Knight Library and Science Library ITCs if you don't want to purchase them:

How much time will this course take?

This is a 4-credit course, so you can expect to spend at least three hours per credit on the course. Because this is an online course, with a focus on written communication, you can probably expect to spend 12-16 hours per week total on course activities.

The UO modem pool places limits on how much I can be logged in, and it's always busy. What can I do?

The modem pool is at a critical stage right now. There are not enough modems to meet the demand, and in order to provide modem time for all users (students, staff, and faculty), the Computing Center has placed a time limit on each modem connection; you will be automatically disconnected after 2 hours. The best times to dial in are early morning and weekends, which is not an ideal situation for this course. You should set your modem software to redial automatically as frequently and as many times as possible.

In addition, there is a weekly limit of 14 hours. Students who exceed this time limit may receive a warning from the Computing Center. You should not have too many difficulties, since not all of your course work needs to be completed online — much of it can be accomplished online. If you do run into a situation where you receive a warning from the Computing Center, however, please let me know immediately. I will intercede on your behalf.

There are a couple of other options you can pursue as well:

  1. Because any web browser will give you access to the course web site, you can use any computing lab on campus or the Knight Library ITC.
  2. If you have a commercial ISP, you can access the course using that account as well, as long as it allows you to browse the web. However, using a commercial ISP will exclude you from using certain campus resources, such as the library's licensed databases (indexes). For those you must use the UO modem pool or campus computing facilities.

If you encounter difficulties accessing the course web site when you need to, please let me know immediately.

Are there any scheduled meeting times when we will all be online together?

One of the advantages of an online course is that we don't all have to be in the same place at the same time to communicate with each other. There are times, however, when we may want to take advantage of the chat rooms to communicate in real time. Such conversations will take place in small groups, at a time that is convenient to everyone.

Will we ever meet in person?

There is certainly no "rule" that says you cannot meet with your class mates, and I am available to meet with you by appointment. There is also a possibility that we will schedule at least one class meeting face-to-face. But because some students are not located in Eugene, these class meetings will be optional.

What happens if I can't participate for some reason?

If you know you will not be able to participate for any reason, you are responsible for letting me and your group members know as soon as possible. If you have an emergency and can't notify me ahead of time, please let me know your circumstances as soon as you can.

This is a participatory class, and a large part of your grade is based on your level of participation. It's to your advantage to notify me of any anticipated absences, or any circumstance that might have an imapct on your participation in the course.

I'm concerned about my privacy — can just anyone read my stuff?

No. In order to read most of the course web pages, you must have a username and password that gives you access to the course web site. Only students registered in this course and invited guests may read what you post to the discussion forums or student presentation area.

How do I change my password?

Simply click on the "Change Password" link on the main page or "Student Links" page, and enter your new password twice. Then remember it!

If you make a mistake entering your password the second time, you will receive a message that your attempt to change your password failed, and be asked to try again. Remember that case is important in passwords.

Where can I learn more about using WebCT?

>This course is a first step into distance education for the library, and we haven't created a manual yet. However, there are several other institutions using this software who have created manuals; you'll find several of them listed at One of these is a tutorial. Feel free to explore these, and please, if you have questions, let me know, or post them to the Main forum in the dicussion area.

I know how to log in; how do I log out?

There is no "logout" function; simply exit your browser to clear your username and password from the browser's cache.

If you are using public computers, such as those in campus computer labs or the library ITCs, it's very important to remember to exit the browser software before leaving. If you don't, anyone coming along behind you would have access to the course using your username; if this person chooses to be destructive, it will reflect very badly on you.

© 1999, colleen bell about / words