Any successful semester begins with the right tools, and students taking courses online should ensure they have reliable access to a consistent broadband internet connection and a computer that can meet the technology requirements of the content in use in their courses.
You should review the information on this page for some general guidelines around the the technology required for your online success, but note that your courses may have additional technical requirements for accessing content, so you will need to check the syllabus in each for more information.
Suggested hardware and devices
There are many options available for accessing content online, but ideally, students taking online courses will use a desktop or laptop computer to which they have administrative rights that allow them to install additional software and adjust configuration settings. Students using a shared or public computer to which they do not have administrative rights should be sure they have a way to make needed adjustments or have a backup plan for completing course work.
When it comes to processor speeds, memory, and storage space, the standard configuration available on the market should be sufficient in terms of browsing content and completing basic tasks. Some courses may have requirements that might make different demands, so it’s best to check for more information about technology requirements specific to your course.
Additional hardware: many online courses utilize video recording and web conferencing tools to facilitate course work, so you may need a functioning microphone and camera to participate. Many systems will come pre-installed with a mic and camera, but these can also be purchased separately.
A note about mobile devices: the convenience and utility of mobile devices make them a popular choice for students taking courses online, but students using a mobile device as their primary method of accessing course content should expect limitations inherent to current mobile operating systems that might inhibit their ability to participate in course work and have an alternative plan for access should the need arise.
A note about Chromebooks: these popular devices are a great, low-cost option for browsing the internet, but Chromebook users should be aware of their limitations. For example, Chromebooks only allows users to install apps from the Google Play Store, so if your course requires that you use a software program not available there, you will need to find another device that can accommodate your need.
Your internet connection
A stable, reliable broadband internet connection is essential for success in an online course, as issues with your connection can impact your ability to participate in course activities and submit work in a timely manner.
If you’re connecting with a network to which you do not have administrative rights – like a public network or one provided by your employer – then you should note the possibility that certain restrictions outside of your control may limit your ability to access content on the internet.
Troubleshooting connectivity issues: the speed of your internet connection can change depending on network conditions, and even users with optimal service access can encounter connectivity issues, which can manifest in different ways.
Are you receiving a network error when attempting to access content within your Blackboard course? If the issue is specific to your internet connection, you may need to restart your wireless router and ensure there are no programs installed on your computer that are blocking the desired network traffic.
A note about mobile internet connections:the internet connection available through your mobile device is a convenient solution for staying connected wherever you go, but the conditions of your mobile network may not always be ideal for participating in online course work. Your mobile connection may be useful for consuming course content, but you may need to make other arrangements for taking timed tests or other activities that require a stable, consistent connection.
Software required for your online courses can vary depending on your discipline, but there are some recommendations that all students should consider before taking an online course.
Your operating system: you should be familiar with the operating system installed on your machine and take the proper steps periodically asked of you to ensure that you’re running the most current version. You can visit the Blackboard Help site for more information about devices and operating systems tested for use with Blackboard.
Note that your operating system settings can be configured to personal preference at your own discretion. For example, Microsoft Windows 10 S Mode is a security feature that limits your ability to run software obtained outside of the Microsoft app store. This feature can be disabled, but you can not turn it back on – if you need to use software not available to you in S Mode, it is your decision whether you wish to disable it on your device or find an alternative.
Office productivity tools: students at UA Little Rock have a few options for accessing common office productivity tools through the university at no additional cost. Access to Microsoft Office 365 is available through IT Services and allows current students and employees to use popular programs like Word, Excel and Powerpoint either by installing to their personal device or through cloud-hosted versions online.
Access to Google Workspace — which provides online access to common office productivity tools — is available to all users with an active UA Little Rock email account. You can find more information about the tools provided through Google Workspace on the IT Services website.
Suggested internet browsers
Depending on your operating system, your computer will come pre-installed with an internet browser — Microsoft Edge for PC and Safari for Mac — but online students are encouraged to use Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome to access their courses because they give greater flexibility in customizing security settings specifically for Blackboard that are otherwise beneficial for browsing the internet.
It is also advisable to have installed and be familiar with more than one internet browser on your device. That way, if you encounter an issue with your course work, you can easily test to see if there’s an issue with the configuration of the browser that you normally use that’s at cause.