Proficiencies & Tools for Online Students

Basic Technological Proficiencies Expected of Online Learners

To succeed in an online learning environment, students must be able to perform basic computing tasks, such as file management and software installation, and must be comfortable with critical Internet skills such as using an e-mail client and navigating the Web.

The following list details essential proficiencies that iSchool faculty expect students to have before taking online courses.

Computer Literacy Skills

  • Familiarity with basic word processing: creating, editing, saving a document. Should have access to and some knowledge of Microsoft Word (.doc) and Adobe (.pdf);
  • Ability to install and uninstall software programs;
  • Understanding of the concept and basic functions of an operating system;
  • Ability to save work to various file formats, find files, create directories, run/execute programs;
  • Ability to upload and download software and files;
  • Understanding of how to extract and create compressed (.zip) files;
  • Ability to create and upload audio and video files.

Internet Skills

  • A working knowledge of the World Wide Web and its functions, including the use of a Web browser, site navigation and search;
  • Familiarity with e-mail functions, including the ability to send and receive file attachments and the use of e-mail lists;
  • Familiarity with various asynchronous communication tools (e.g., blogs, threaded discussion boards/forums);
  • Familiarity with social media technologies;
  • Familiarity with interactive electronic discussion systems;
  • Familiarity with video conferencing and VoIP (voice over internet protocol) tools;
  • Experience using streaming media players.

Technology Requirements

The following list details hardware, software and Internet connectivity specifications required for online learning in the iSchool degree programs. Instructors expect students enrolled in online courses to meet these minimum requirements and other requirements as detailed in course syllabi. Faculty will not make accommodations for students who cannot complete work in a timely manner because they lack required technology.


Students should own or have access to a computer with a broadband (high speed) Internet connection and sufficient processing power to view streamed audiovisual and multimedia content. Essential course content, such as lectures, may be delivered in the form of audio or video clips.

Students should also consider equipping their computer with a microphone and/or video camera as some courses may require students to participate in real-time virtual meetings or record audio and/or video content as part of virtual presentations. (Instructors will indicate this requirement on syllabi where applicable.)

Some courses will require students to download and install software on their local machines for use in class activities. If you are relying on a computer that you do not own and on which you cannot install software (e.g., a work computer or a computer at the public library), your ability to take some online courses may be limited.

Operating System

The iSchool does not require a particular operating system and strives to make all course content accessible, no matter what OS is used. The Blackboard Learn course management system, as well as other learning tools employed by iSchool instructors, will function on PCs, Macs, and Linux machines.


Students should have the following software installed on their computer:

  • A Web browser equipped with plug-ins that allow display of PDFs and Windows Media/Flash/QuickTime video (e.g., Windows Explorer, Firefox or Safari);
  • Personal productivity software, including word processing, presentation, spreadsheet and database programs (such as the Microsoft Office suite);
  • The KSU Proxy provided by Kent State University Libraries, which will allow students to have remote access to library resources such as research databases; it is available for download on the University Libraries website.

Your instructor will inform you of any other specialized software required for a course, with instructions for how to obtain and install these additional programs; tutorials to help students become familiar with course software will be suggested where needed.

Please note that some software may only be supported by certain operating systems, so students need to refer to course-specific requirements before taking a class.

Online Learning Tools

Important Disclaimer
While this web page aims to give students a basic orientation to the technology used in iSchool online learning environments, instructors reserve the right to use additional tools or deliver material in other formats.  Please read course syllabi carefully and contact your instructor if you have any questions about the tools used in a particular course.

Blackboard Learn

The iSchool uses the Blackboard Learn course management system to deliver online courses and workshops. Through Blackboard Learn, students will access readings, online resources, lectures, presentation slides, assignments, examinations, message boards and other course materials. Some instructors may choose to use other tools as a supplement to Blackboard Learn.

Communication with the instructor: Approximately one week before class begins you should expect an e-mail from your professor, sent to your Kent State University account ( This message will give you additional information about how to access course materials and what activities should be accomplished prior to the first week of classes. Remember that you are required to use your email for all communications (to instructors, iSchool office, etc.), but be sure to check your course syllabi for the instructors' communication guidelines. (Note that this system is different from the e-mail server.) Do not use external e-mail addresses (such as Gmail or Hotmail accounts) for communication with the instructor.

Note for Mac users: While all content (lectures, assignments, discussions, exams) will be available to everyone no matter what OS/browser combination is used, the chat function of Blackboard Learn does not currently work in Mac browsers (Safari and Firefox). For any activities involving synchronous communication (such as virtual office hours) the instructor will suggest alternatives, such as Skype or other web-conferencing tools or software.

Instructions for Accessing Blackboard Learn

Blackboard Learn can be accessed via FlashLine, the Kent State student information system. You should log in with your FlashLine name and password, which you will receive from the university after you accept the offer of admission from the iSchool. Click on the "Blackboard" icon in the top right corner of the FlashLine home page. This link will take you to a page containing links to all of your online courses.

You can also link directly to Blackboard Learn without logging in to FlashLine. 

Assistance with the Blackboard Learn System

If you previously have not used Blackboard Learn, please explore the Blackboard Learn tutorials. Also, check to make sure that your home computer meets the minimum technological requirements for accessing content found on the Blackboard website, including browser requirements and settings.

If you have difficulty setting up your PC or accessing Blackboard Learn, or do not know your FlashLine user name and password, please contact the Kent State Help Desk at or 330-672-HELP (4357) for assistance.

Plug-Ins Needed to View Audiovisual Content on Blackboard Learn


  • If you have questions about technology requirements relating to your degree program, contact us.
  • For questions about technology for specific courses, contact the appropriate instructor.
  • For general technical support related to Blackboard, email, etc., contact the University Helpdesk.