Online class orientation

Technology tips for success in online classes

(First: if you are new to online learning, review Successful strategies in an online class below.)

Within online classes you will be using a variety of websites, media players, and multimedia. You should plan to download the Firefox or Safari browser as a backup (or as your main browser) in case your primary browser does not work for you.

Here is a list of the most common programs, browsers, plug-ins, and media players used within online courses:

  • Free Office Suite: If you do not have or do not want to buy the Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), consider the following free office suites for a Windows' PC (Open Office) or a Mac (Neo Office). 
  • Free Office Suite: Google Docs. This is the easiest program to use and allows users to work on documents (text, PowerPoint presentation, spreadsheet) through a web browser. In addition, a user can invite, by email, other people to view or collaborate on the same document and track changes very easily through a color-coded system. Last, Google Forms are also web-based and allow for easy survey creations; once created they are automatically merged with a spreadsheet to track the submissions. This is a very easy and useful web-based program for students and faculty. To review  the 3-minute training tutorials, please go to the following link Google Docs Training Tutorials, scrolling down the page until you see the heading for Google Docs.
  • Free Office Suite - Smartphone/iPad access: Google Docs edits/creation on smartphones and iPads:
  • Microsoft 2003 to 2007/2008 Converter: Do you have an older version of Microsoft Word or PowerPoint (2003, 2002, 2000)? If so, you'll need to download the PC Office converter program to read the newer formats. The free office suites above can also read the newer files. For a MAC, please use the following address for the MAC Office converter program that is titled: Microsoft Office Open XML File Format Converter for Mac.
  • Second browser: consider downloading and using Mozilla's Firefox browser, Google's Chrome, or Apple's Safari browser when viewing your online course if your primary browser causes problems (i.e., Internet Explorer or Safari).
  • is an easy way to create a brainstorm session, org chart, or series of idea bubbles.
  • Dropbox offers free online storage (starting at 2 gigs and going up to 8 gigs)
  • Evernote is an easy way to take notes and organize digital information for an individual or collaborate with a group.
  • Komposer is a free html editor.
  • FlavorsMe is one of many free services for basic website templates.
  • Jing is an easy way to make up to a 5-minute video of anything on your computer screen.
  • is one of many free image editors/image sites.
  • Windows Media Player: go to and search for Windows Media Player Update.
  • Flip 4 Mac - Windows Media Player plug-in for the Mac: go to
  • Quicktime player: go to Apple's Quicktime Player page.
  • Flash player
  • Shockwave player
  • Tips for Online Student Success Video


  Successful strategies in an online class

Please review all information below before taking an online course.

Before class begins:

  • Know how to access your course: All online courses have a common website starting point: WebCT (DVC's course management system). To access your online course, you will enter your school id and 6-digit birthday at the following website, doing so on the first day of instruction for the course: Faculty may have information available prior to the first day of the course that may either be within WebCT or on their DVC bio page
  • Know where to find out if your class has a mandatory meeting: Some classes have mandatory course meetings while others are entirely online. If on-campus meetings are required, these dates/times will be listed in the college schedule with the course. In WebAdvisor/portal, you may have to click on the course link to see this information.
  • Pick up your books at the Book Center (there may be an website access code you need and it would be available through the Book Center.)
  • Update browsers and Computer Lab access: When taking tests, using chat, and the whiteboard, know that these features in WebCT are Java-based and can be blocked by high security screening settings on personal/work firewalls and/or pop-up blocking software. If you are unable to access these WebCT-based features, it is likely that these settings are in place and need to be adjusted/disabled (look for the browser menu heading of Tools or File and click on the preference option). If this is still a problem and you are unable to resolve this, then download the Firefox browser and try again or use DVC's computers (student computer lab information).
  • New Online Students - Strategies to Learn Online: College of the Siskiyous' Surviving in an Online Course
  • New Online Students - Are Online Courses Right For You?: Mira Costa's Test Your Potential as an Online Student


Once class begins:

Time management for online or hybrid classes

  • Be sure to attend any required on-campus sessions for orientation, discussion, and examinations. Some classes require a few on-campus sessions. Check the print or online schedule for any required class meetings.
  • Review all course content the instructor has available for you.
  • Allocate the same amount of time each week for an online class as you would for a face-to-face class - but realize that online classes are more reading intensive and often require a minimum comfort level when working on a computer to read, watch, and submit assignments.
  • Many online courses require work completed every week and it is necessary to review the course syllabus or calendar to have these dates firmly in place.
  • Be proactive! When you have questions, contact your instructor/classmates and make use of office hours.


Asking questions about the syllabus and calendar for your class

  • Read the course introduction/syllabus to your online class carefully to find out how you should ask questions. Some instructors will ask you to post all questions to the class discussion board whereas others will ask you to email them directly.
  • Some questions may already be answered by the instructor in his/her F.A.Q. or syllabus.
  • Identify how or when you can contact your instructor for office hour appointments.


Typical features/tools in an online or hybrid course


Mail, email, and chat

  • WebCt, DVC's course management system, has an internal system of Mail, meaning that you must log into WebCT to use it. It is good practice to login frequently and communicate with your instructor and classmates.
  • Netiquette in email messaging and discussion board posting: Be aware that email messaging is a different medium. Choose your words carefully in a message. It is easy to sound brusque or even nasty when all the other person sees is a typed message. Humor is more difficult to get across 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.
  • Email, chat, and class discussion boards are the primary forms of communication between the instructor and students and among students.


Uploading and downloading files

  • You may be asked to upload and email files and can do this in WebCT by browsing/attaching these files within the Mail, Discussion, and Assignment areas.
  • You may be asked to use the Save-as command (under file in any text editor) to save a document in .rtf (Rich Text Format) if you do not have Microsoft Word (see above for free Office Suites). 
  • Your browser determines how a file opens and to where it downloads. Consider using Firefox or Chrome to access course information and look at the File/Tool menu for browser preferences to see where files are downloaded to on your computer.



  • Tests may be presented as take home tests that could be time-specific and can be sent to you through an email message.
  • More commonly, quizzes in WebCT are handled through the Quiz tool. These quizzes have a set of directions for how to take the test each time a student clicks on a quiz.


 Multimedia development

  • Podcasts, profcasts, video, and audio files are used in many courses to illustrate elements of a course. By updating your Windows Media Player, Flash and Shockwave players, browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Safari), and Quicktime player, you will be able to access this material. At the top of this page you'll see the typical free software/browsers used within online courses.
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