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Do you have access to an  Internet-connected computer?

A good setup for an online student is a computer of his/her own with a reliable Internet connection, set up in a quiet location where study and testing can be done without interruptions.

It is possible to take an online course by using publicly available computers, such as those in the Library on the San Marcos campus, but it is very difficult to access them whenever you need, and is not recommended.

To succeed in an online class it is far better if you have access to a computer where you can do your class work. This will involve reading or printing materials, and may well involve uploading completed assignments or even downloading and installing browser helper programs if your computer is not adequately configured.

The location of this computer is also important. It needs to be located in a relatively quiet place, free of constant distractions, so that you can concentrate on your work.

The following tables summarize the basic and most desirable computer configurations for taking an online course, followed by some specifics about computer use at Palomar college. If you feel you don’t need to examine the details below, just be aware that you need three basic things:

bulletDependable access to a relatively new computer.
bulletA reliable Internet connection that is reasonably fast.
bulletAn email account.

If you have these, you have the equipment needed to take an online class. Read on to find out the technical details.

Computing specifications for taking online classes

Computer:

The hardware requirements for taking an online class are fairly minimal. Certainly any computer bought retail within the last four years should be sufficient, given that it meets some basic requirements. Your computer should have a sound card and be running a current operating system such as Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X, with the current operating system updates. For example, a Windows 7 computer should be updated to the latest Microsoft Service Pack; an Apple computer should be updated as far as possible (at time of writing this is OS X 10.7).

Of greater importance is the web browser software used to access the online course. Palomar College uses the Blackboard Learning System to offer most online classes. There is a table showing which browsers on which operating systems are supported by the Blackboard system. It is highly recommended that students use an OS/browser combination which is certified to work with Blackboard.

Hint: To find out what version of the Browser software you are using, start the browser, click the Help menu, then click "About..."  A box will pop up telling you the version number.

Browsers:

  Where do I obtain the latest free version of Google Chrome?  Here.

  Where do I obtain the latest free version of Internet Explorer?  Here.

  Where do I obtain the latest free version of Firefox?  Here.

  Where do I obtain the latest free version of Safari?  Here.

Email software

You must have a reliable email account to take an online class. Palomar College provides all students with email accounts.  Click here for details. However, you do not have to use the email from Palomar College if you would rather use some other account. You can use any email address you wish while taking your online class. Feel free to use an email account from Google, Hotmail and Yahoo. They are free and generally work well. If you do use a non-Palomar email account for Blackboard, it must be the email address marked as your "preferred" email in your Palomar eServices account.

Free browser plug-ins:

Many online classes will use browser helper programs, or "plug-ins" to access certain class materials.  We recommend installing the following free plug-ins:

bullet

Microsoft Silverlight for playing streaming videos.

bullet

Adobe's Acrobat Reader for viewing PDF documents.

bullet

The Adobe Flash player for viewing animations and interactive content.

General Software Recommendations

Many courses require word processing, so we generally recommend that you use Microsoft Word and save your document as a Word "doc" file.  If you do not have Word, you must use another word processing program such as WordPerfect or Works, and save your documents in “Rich Text Format,” commonly known as "RTF" format.

There may be some additional software required, depending on the exact class you are taking. You should contact your instructor to learn about any other software requirements.

About the Blackboard System

Palomar College uses the Blackboard Learning System to present most online classes.  Blackboard is an easy-to-use, web-based system. Technical support for the Palomar College Blackboard system can be accessed at the ATRC Help Desk.

Browsers settings

Blackboard requires a browser that is both Java and JavaScript enabled. You must also be sure that cookies are enabled.  These settings are on by default in all the Blackboard Certified browsers.  Any pop-up blocker software should be disabled for the Blackboard system.

How do I turn off my pop-up blocker?

This would depend on exactly which pop-up blocker you have; some browsers have built-in blockers, most add-on toolbars (Yahoo! and Google toolbars, for example) also have blockers, and some Internet security software (McAfee Personal Firewall, for example) may also block pop-ups.  In any event, there should be an option to allow pop-ups based on the site they are from; Allow pop-ups from "learn.palomar.edu." For specifics on how to configure these pop-up blockers you may have to consult the product documentation.

What kind of computer resources does Palomar make available to online students?

There are public access computer labs on the San Marcos and Escondido campuses. In San Marcos, the ground floor of the library has student access computers. There are also computers located on the second floor of the library that have browser capabilities. Additionally, there are 35 public access computers on the second floor of the student union building (use requires student activities sticker).  In Escondido, room 501 is an academic skills lab that offers some public access time, and the library at the Escondido center also has computers for public use.

 


Hot Tip
Palomar College provides an email address to each student, free of charge.  You may use any email account you like, however, for your online classes.
 
True, true
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

~Arthur C. Clarke



 
 
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