If you have ever taken an online course, you have likely used an LMS, or Learning Management System. An LMS can take many forms. Here at UAF, courses are often delivered via Canvas LMS, but some may be available on Blackboard Learn, Google Classroom, or a WordPress website. Regardless of the LMS your courses use, there are common pitfalls that can easily be avoided. Technical issues and effective communication are all challenges you will likely encounter. The following is advice for overcoming them.
Navigating Technical Issues
Technology is ever-evolving and we can be challenged not only with new technology environments, but in trying to keep up as these technologies change.
Remembering the usernames and passwords for all of the sites we need to access these days can sometimes feel overwhelming. The LMS your class is on is likely tied to the University of Alaska single sign-on (SSO) service. That means you will log in with the same credentials you use to sign into your UA email account. If you forget your username or password, visit elmo.alaska.edu and reset it.
Troubleshooting Browser Issues
Web technologies update all of the time, to include web browsers. Sometimes an update may cause an LMS to display in unexpected ways. LMS platforms usually display well in the most common web browsers, such as Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari. I said they usually display well, but that’s not always the case. If you have trouble viewing your course materials and it appears to be an issue with your browser, one of the easiest troubleshooting steps is to try loading the site in another browser. Restarting your browser and restarting your computer are also easy steps to take while troubleshooting unexpected issues you may encounter.
Locating Grades and Feedback
Canvas LMS, Blackboard Learn and Google Classroom all have areas where you are able to check our grades throughout the semester. You will usually find a link to your grades in the menu of each individual course, labeled “Grades” or “My Grades”. What is easy to overlook is the feedback your instructor gives you on the work you submit. If you do not see obvious feedback, look at your “Grades” view in the course. If your instructor has left feedback, you will find your grade along with linked comments. Clicking on that link will take you to a screen with your assignment and any feedback your instructor has provided. See instructions for accessing grades and feedback in Canvas LMS.
A tip for the future, the UAF Nanook Technology Services website has a number of on-demand resources for students that may help with your technology questions.
Communicating in an online environment feels very different from communicating in a classroom, face to face. Without the aid of body language and context our words can be lost in translation and even worse, misunderstood. When writing to your instructor, be sure to include the course number and title of your class. They are likely teaching multiple classes and they may not immediately recognize the class you are in when you write them, especially if it is early in the semester. Additionally, it is helpful to take extra time to add clear context to your comments and questions so that your message can be clearly understood by others. If you’re writing about a technical issue, it is helpful to include screenshots of any errors you have received.
Communication from your instructor should be easy to find, but if it isn’t, check for an “Announcement” area in your online course. Most instructors set up announcements in their courses, and it can be an easy way for your instructor to get information to the entire class reliably. Check to see if your online class has an Announcements area, and check it frequently throughout the week.
In Canvas LMS, you may also see communication from your instructor in the “Inbox” area. This is where you will be notified of communication from your instructor, by default. Find details about using the Inbox in Canvas. You are also able to customize your notification settings in Canvas so that notifications go to your email or to your mobile device, if you so choose.
Most importantly, If you encounter issues accessing your online course and you are not clear on how to address them, reach out for help. Your instructor, Nanook Technology Services, and eCampus will be able to help you, or direct you to someone who can.