Students - Getting started in your online course | Kent State University

Students - Getting started in your online course

One of the key factors in being successful in online courses is effectively utilizing resources. This getting started page provides a list of comprehensive support services, including tips and tricks for getting your computer ready, strategies to be a successful online student, policies, and direct links to student academic services.

What you need to know in order to keep your computer operating system, software applications, and web browsers up-to-date, as well as how to connect to Kent State University's online resources such as Blackboard Learn and University Libraries.

The Kent State Online Technology Help Center can help you with problems with Blackboard, logging in to your online course, as well as hardware and software issues. Contact TechHelp by either submitting a Support Ticket or get help via a LiveChat with support staff. You can also call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at: 330-672-HELP.

Hardware requirements

A laptop or desktop with the following minimum specifications is required:

  • Laptop computer with a minimum of a 2GHz processor and 2GB of RAM
  • Desktop computer with a minimum of a 2GHz processor and 4GB of RAM 

Online courses that require students to use processor intensive software applications may have special computer hardware requirements. If you think your course might have such requirements, please contact the instructor. The Kent State University Bookstore often has student discounts available on purchases of new computer hardware.

Internet access

A DSL, cable connection, or greater is recommended.  Online classes at Kent State University employ a variety of multimedia materials that will be viewed and downloaded.  You must have a connection that allows for the streaming and downloading of potentially large size files in a timely manner.  Dial-up is not sufficient.

Software requirements

Kent State University provides technical support for a limited number of operating systems and software applications. The following required computer operating systems and software applications are supported by the KSU Helpdesk:

  1. Windows 7 or newer system operating software for PC computers
  2. Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or newer system operating software for Apple Mac computers
  3. Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)
  4. Antivirus for Windows OS, Microsoft Security Essentials
  5. Antivirus for Mac OS, Sophos
  6. Adobe Acrobat Reader

A list of available free and/or discounted software downloads for students is available at Active, full-time, and part-time students who are registered for classes are provided with free access to Office 365 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, and Access (PC Only). Additional software such as Windows 10, can be purchased for a discount at the Kent State University Microsoft site.

For a more detailed list of technology recommendations and links to help information for setting up your computer for course work, please review the Kent State Technology Viewbook.

Update your computer operating system

Keeping your operating system up to date is important for security features and bug fixes

  • For Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1:
    • Locate the Start button in the task bar. Click on the Start button and select "All Programs". Select "Windows Update". Click check for updates.
  • For Windows 10
    • Locate the Start button in the task bar. Click on Settings in the left pane, then click Update and Security. Click check for updates.
  • For Mac OS X Users:
    • Locate the Apple icon in the top left corner of the desktop menu bar. Click on the Apple, select “App Store...". Then click on the Update tab (it will check for updates).

Update your web browser

In order to ensure maximum compatibility with the features and functions of the Blackboard Learn learning management system, you MUST update your web browser to the latest updated version of ONE of the following:

Once you have downloaded and installed your choice of web browser, make sure to change the web browser's preference setting to automatically download updates.

Install web browser plug-ins

Download and install the following (for both PC and Apple Mac platforms):

  • Required Java - The latest Java version contains important enhancements to improve performance, stability and security of the Java applications that run on your machine. Installing this free update will ensure that your Java applications continue to run safely and efficiently.
  • Required Flash  - Adobe Flash Player is a cross-platform, browser-based application that provides viewing of applications, content, and videos across various browsers and operating systems. Be sure to keep Flash up to date with the latest bug fixes and security features.

Connecting from Off-Campus

KSU Proxy allows Library users to securely connect to databases, electronic journals, ebooks and streaming media services without installing complicated third-party software. When you attempt to access library content from off campus, you’re prompted to enter your FlashLine username and password after which you’re connected. It’s that easy.

The Virtual Private Network (VPN) service is also available which allows you to create a secure connection via the Internet between your computer and the Kent State University network. This service can be used if the Proxy is unavailable or if you already have the VPN installed.

Information on how to install and configure Cisco VPN to create a remote connection between your personal computer and KSU network can be found at knowledgebase.

Privacy Policies

It is important to understand what information is being collected about you in the systems you interact with.  Online courses at Kent State University are conducted in Blackboard Learn.  For any questions on what information Blackboard Learn collects please refer to the Blackboard Learn privacy policy.

Youtube is often used in online courses.  For any questions about what information Google collects and how it is used please refer to the Youtube privacy policy.

Online Proctored Testing

Some courses have proctored testing for exams. Kent State University uses Proctorio and ProctorU for online proctored testing. If your course is using Proctorio you will need the Proctorio Chrome browser extension. If your course uses ProctorU, visit the Kent portal for ProctorU to learn how it works and what you need to get started. More information on proctored testing is also available for your reference.

Install Blackboard Instant Messenger

Not sure whether or not your instructor intends to use the Blackboard IM tool?

Check the course syllabus, and the main navigation for a link to Blackboard IM. IF a link to Blackboard IM is present in the course menu under the Course Tools subheading AND Blackboard IM is specified in the syllabus as the course tool for virtual office hours, then view instructions below.

Blackboard IM (Instant Messenger) is a software application used for collaborative group work and virtual office hours that allows students to communicate and interact with classmates and the instructor in your online course via instant chat, white board, screen sharing, voice and video. Watch a quick overview of Blackboard IM. In order to download and install Blackboard IM, you must first create an account:

  1. Locate the Blackboard IM link in the left sidebar main navigation of your Blackboard Learn course
  2. Click on the link. If a web page is loaded in the browser that asks you to create a Wimba Pronto account, click on the link.
  3. Follow the instructions to create an account, download, and install Blackboard IM
  4. Watch the video tutorial on How to Install Blackboard IM

Once you've downloaded and installed Blackboard IM, launch the application. A list of courses in which you're currently enrolled should automatically appear in Blackboard IM. A list of enrolled students and the instructor should appear for each course. Blackboard IM is useful for joining online office hours. If used for this purpose please see the PDF below Blackboard IM Office Hours for Students. You can also watch a screencast tutorial Blackboard IM Office Hours for Students.

Several quick reference guides are available to help you get started using Blackboard IM:

  1. Blackboard IM Getting Started
  2. Blackboard IM Managing Contacts
  3. Blackboard IM Introduction to Chat and Group Chat
  4. Blackboard IM Working with the Collaboration Window
  5. Blackboard IM Introduction to Audio and Video
  6. Blackboard IM Office Hours for Students (PDF)

For additional instructions or questions, please refer to the complete Blackboard IM user guide.  (Click on the Table of Contents button in the bottom left side navigation if no links appear in the main menu).

Providing information regarding basic technological skills you need to participate in an online course, expected course workload, and strategies for becoming a successful online student.

Computer/Technology skills

Online students are expected to possess a basic understanding of how to use and navigate a computer. For particular tasks that require setting up, configuring, or troubleshooting technology, support resources are available. For technology support, please click the Preparing your computer tab above, and the Tech FAQ's tab above, or visit the KSU Helpdesk 24/7, and Blackboard Tutorials links in the left navigation sidebar of your Blackboard Learn course.

To be a successful online student, you should be able to:

  1. Download, install, launch, and quit applications such as Microsoft Word or a web browser.
  2. Create, edit, and save files using word processing, spreadsheet, or presentation software applications.
  3. Configure and use an email client to retrieve, view, create, and send email messages including messages with attachments.
  4. Operate a web browser, including navigating web pages, clearing a browser's cache and installing or disabling plugins.
  5. Update your computer operating system and computer software applications.
  6. Access and change computer operating system settings as well as computer software application preferences, options, and settings.
  7. Understand basic computer terminology in order to describe technical issues you may experience with technology.

Course workload

Kent State University courses are organized by units of credit hours. Each credit hour equals 15 hours of "in class time" for the semester, and 30 hours of "out of class time". However, for an online course, there is no "out of class time", as an online class encompasses lectures or presentations from your professor, discussions with your fellow students, as well as work you will be doing on your own, such as reading textbook chapters or completing assignments.

So, for an online class, you can think of it as 45 hours of work total per credit hour. For a typical 3-credit hour course, that means you can expect to spend approximately 135 hours in the course working on course activities. Thinking that your online class will be less work or take less time than a face-to-face class is incorrect. Below is a breakdown of how many hours you can expect to spend each week in a typical 3-credit online class, based on how many weeks the class runs:

Remember: Though the length of a course may vary (e.g. 7 weeks versus 15 weeks), the workload expectations remain the same. Scheduling adequate time for course work is YOUR responsibility. Please take the information below into account when considering enrollment into this or any other KSU online course:

  • 135 hours of work / 15 week course = approximately 9 hours of course work per week.
  • 135 hours of work / 8 week course = approximately 17 hours of course work per week.
  • 135 hours of work / 7 week course = approximately 19 hours of course work per week.
  • 135 hours of work / 5 week course = approximately 27 hours of course work per week.

Study strategies

Many students assume that because a course is web-based that it will require less time and effort than a face-to-face course would.  Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, because the class does not meet physically, and therefore lacks the immediacy of face-to-face communication, everyone must work harder to establish the sense of learning community, and to stay focused and on task.

Successful online students:

    1. Possess good writing skills
    2. Schedule regular time each week to work in the course
    3. Work without direct supervision
    4. Meet deadlines without constant reminders
    5. Take the initiative to contact the instructor and/or seek out help as soon as a problem arises

As you work through this course, keep the following in mind:

  • Online Communication Takes Effort
    • When non-verbal cues are removed from human interaction (body language, facial expressions and tone of voice), only words remain to communicate. As a result, in an online course, in which there is no (or very little) synchronous face to face communication, the majority of communication is through writing. Not only does this make interacting with classmates and the instructor more difficult, even for good writers, but takes more time to communicate ideas, concepts, arguments, etc. than speaking in a traditional classroom setting.
  • Be prepared to interact with your classmates and instructor
    • Community features are heavily used in online courses. This could be in a discussion forum, a group project, and/or other course activities. You'll need to make time for establishing and maintaining your social presence in this course, as well as becoming an exemplary member of the class community.
  • Get organized: Online Learning is a "Flexible" Schedule, not an "Easy" Schedule
    • An online course saves you travel time and time spent in a classroom, not work time. It takes considerable discipline to stay focused and on task in an online course. So, though you have flexibility in scheduling your work, that is at which points during the week you will "attend" class, online courses have just as rigorous course requirements and assignment/assessment deadlines and due dates as face-to-face courses. It's easy to fall behind without proper time management skills; rely on the course schedule to keep yourself on track. Plan for several hours of online interaction every week to meet all posting deadlines to the discussion board, wiki, blog or journal in addition to time spent interacting with reading materials, audio or video files and interactive multimedia activities. Block out time in your personal calendar and allow ample time to meet all deadlines.
  • Create a work space
    • Even though this course is online, you will still need a place to work that supports the way you learn, study, and complete graded work. Remember: There is no physical on-campus classroom here. You will have to find or create your own work space. Is it too loud? Will you be interrupted frequently? Will you have to access this space for several hours at a time on a regular basis? These are things you should bear in mind when selecting a place to work. It also wouldn't hurt to locate a place that would provide free public access to a computer should something happen to yours.
  • Attend class when you are fresh and don't wait until the last minute
    • Do not save class interaction until the end of the week or the hour before the posting deadline. Work on discussion board posts and other class activities when you are rested, alert, and ready to spend time on the material; NOT when you are exhausted at the end of a long day of face-to-face classes or work.
  • Know where to get help BEFORE you need it
    • Links to help and support resources are provided under the Support subheading in the left sidebar main navigation. Most online courses also contain an open discussions forum where you can post questions to your classmates and course instructor. In addition, make sure you are aware of the course policy on virtual office hours. Because online courses lack regularly scheduled face-to-face interaction, you must be proactive when confronted with any issues. You must not only identify the issue, but also determine who to contact or which resource will best assist you in resolving it. This skill can make or break your experience as an online student.


University policies including details about course enrollment and withdrawal, incomplete grades, complaint procedures, student conduct, Flash Survey, and detailed information about expectations for course accessibility.

University policies

The following policies and procedures apply to students enrolled at Kent State University. For a complete listing of university policies, please visit the Policy Register page on the Kent State University website.

Course Enrollment and Withdrawal

University policy requires all students to be officially registered in each class they are attending. Students who are not officially registered for a course by published deadlines should not be attending classes and will not receive credit or a grade for the course. To determine the last dates to drop or withdraw from your course, follow the steps below:

  1. Visit the Kent State University Registrar
  2. Click on the "Schedule of Classes Search" button
  3. Search by Term
  4. Select "Detailed Class Search" option
  5. Find your course
  6. Click on the "Registration Deadline" link to view drop and withdrawal dates

Withdrawal from any or all courses is permitted through the 10th week of the semester (or the prorated deadline for flexibly scheduled sections). After that time, students are considered to be committed to all remaining courses and must complete them. If students are unable to complete the semester because of extreme circumstances that first occur after the deadline, students should consult their college or campus dean's office. Any course withdrawal(s) processed after the second week of the full semester will appear on the students' academic record with a grade of "W". No approval is required to withdraw from a course during the withdrawal period. A "hold" on your record will prevent you from processing course withdrawal(s) until all holds are cleared. Course withdrawal may impact degree progress. Therefore, consult with your advisor prior to processing your course withdrawal.

Incomplete Grades

The administrative mark of IN (Incomplete) may be given to students who are unable to complete the work due to extenuating circumstances.

Appropriate documentation is generally required to support the extenuating circumstance. The student must initiate the request for the Incomplete mark from the instructor, and it is the responsibility of the student to arrange to make up the incomplete work.

For a complete description of the Incomplete Grade Policy refer to Academic Policies – Grading Policies in the University Catalog.

Administrative Policy and Procedure for Student Academic Complaints

If a student has a complaint or grievance the Student Ombuds is available to assist. First review the matter with the instructor in an attempt to resolve the issue immediately. If the matter is not resolved immediately, the student may discuss the matter with the departmental chairperson before lodging a formal complaint. The student may also consult with the Student Ombuds in an attempt to achieve informal resolution.

Please refer to the administrative policy for student complaints if you have further questions.

University use of Electronic mail

A university-assigned student e-mail account (username @ shall be an official university means of communication with all students at Kent State University. Students are responsible for all information sent to them via their university-assigned e-mail account. If a student chooses to forward information in their university e-mail account, he or she is responsible for all information, including attachments, sent to any other e-mail account. To stay current with university information, students are expected to check their official university e-mail account and other electronic communications on a frequent and consistent basis. Recognizing that some communications may be time-critical, the university recommends that electronic communications be checked minimally twice a week.

Please refer to the administrative policy regarding electronic communications for more information.

Student Conduct, Plagiarism and Academic Integrity

Academic honesty and integrity are held at a high standard at Kent State University. The Kent State University Code of Student Conduct applies to all students. Students are subject to dismissal or suspension for violations of the code.

Students enrolled in the university, at all its campuses, are to perform their academic work according to standards set by faculty members, departments, schools and colleges of the university; and cheating and plagiarism constitute fraudulent misrepresentation for which no credit can be given and for which appropriate sanctions are warranted and will be applied. For more information, please see Kent State University policy regarding student cheating and plagiarism.

Students with Disabilities

Kent State University Policy for qualified students with disabilities requires that students with disabilities be provided reasonable accommodations to ensure their equal access to course content. If your have a documented disability and require accommodation, please contact the instructor at the beginning of the term to make arrangements for any necessary adjustments. Please note, you must first verify your eligibility for these through Student Accessibility Services. If you require accommodations, please contact Student Accessibility Services by visiting the KSU Student Accessibility Services website.

Flash Survey

It is a standard practice of Kent State University to distribute and administer to the learners the Flash Survey, a confidential and anonymous questionnaire at the completion of the course. The results will be forwarded to the Instructor only at the completion of the class and the submission of all grades. Please candidly and honestly describe your opinions of the strengths and weaknesses you experienced as a learner in the course.

Course accessibility statement

Kent State University works to support the provisions of General Standard 8, Accessibility in the Quality Matters Rubric. KSU online course design, development, and delivery support reasonable accommodation for all participants.

This course is delivered via the Blackboard Learn learning management system (LMS.) Blackboard Learn complies with all major international standards in the area of accessibility, including XHTML Strict 1.0. For more information on Blackboard Learn accessibility compliance, please visit the Blackboard accessibility page in the Resources section of the Blackboard website.

Youtube is also often utilized in many online courses, the accessibility policy for Google products can be referred to for any questions.

Kent State Online courses endeavor to include the following:

  1. Blackboard Learn LMS accessibility features.
  2. Tutorial on how to use Blackboard Learn with a screen reader.
  3. Use of (X)HTML Alt attribute to convey appropriate descriptive information about graphic images.
  4. Appropriate color combinations that minimize color blindness effects.
  5. Appropriate font and font-size combinations to improve readability.
  6. Minimal use of bullets and/or charts for participants using screen readers.
  7. Transcripts and/or closed captions for audio and video learning materials.
  8. Transcripts and/or PowerPoint files for narrated slide presentations.

Students who require additional accommodations should contact Student Accessibility Services by visiting the Student Accessibility Services website.

Links to Kent State University student support services including online tutoring through the Academic Success Center, online resources in Career Services Center, online Academic Advising, and accessibility accommodations for online students.

Academic Honesty and Plagiarism
Kent State University's policy on academic honesty and plagiarism. For additional information on understanding, identifying, and avoiding plagiarism in an academic setting visit the University Libraries' Skills Module 5: Avoiding Plagiarism and Academic Honesty & Plagiarism resources web page.

Academic Success Center
The Academic Success Center provides online tutoring assistance to students.

Career Services
Kent State Career Services offers a variety of career counseling information online

Kent State University Libraries
To access the library web portal from a remote location you will first need to install and configure Cisco VPN software (Windows instructions, Mac OSX instructions)

View the following highlights:

  1. Ask a Librarian: Need help, but can't get to the Library? You can now get expert help from a KSU Librarian via instant text messaging.
  2. Library Services for Distance Learning Students: University Libraries provides a variety of services to off-campus and distance learning students. These include off-campus delivery (to home or work), ebook access, and access to OhioLINK services.
  3. Library Research: The library offers several services for research including information about the collection, numerous databases to search, e-books, a journal finder, and tools to assist with citation.
  4. Course Reserves (Ares): Occasionally your professor may require you to read articles found in the electronic reserves section of the library. You will need a password and a link to a directory set-up for your online course.
  5. Copyright and Fair Use: It is very important when creating papers, projects, and presentations to make sure all sources and materials are used appropriately. Knowledge of copyright laws and fair use doctrine can help avoid unauthorized or inappropriate use of copyrighted materials.
  6. RefWorks: Provides folders for storing information by class or project. Citation tools help in making certain that all necessary information is present to generate an accurate, concise bibliography.
  7. Citation and Writing Resources: Proper citation is critical to scholarly writing and avoiding accusations of plagiarism. There are many resources available on the library web site to help online students learn how to properly cite reference sources in their writing. Links to both MLA and APA are listed as well as many others.

Student Accessibility Services
Student Accessibility Services (SAS) provides assistance to students with varying degrees and types of disabilities in order to maximize educational opportunity and academic potential.

Student Ombuds
Office of the Student Ombuds provides students with confidential consultation in assisting with resolution of university-related concerns, grievances or appeal.

University Bookstore
Textbooks, computer hardware and computer software applications can be purchased online through the KSU bookstore.

Writing Commons
The Writing Commons provides online tutoring to help students improve their writing skills.

Every course is different, but the basics of how to navigate and what to expect in a Blackboard course can be seen in this walkthrough of a course.

This walkthrough will show you how a Blackboard course may be laid out, how to navigate, and give you an idea about how several of the common tools in Blackboard are used.