Online Basics

From Gerald R. Lucas

First thing’s first for an online course: we need to get everyone set up and oriented with the digital components.


One of the great things about the digital world is that it offers options. Plenty of options. Perhaps too many. The purpose of this handy-dandy introduction is to narrow and focus just what online applications will serve you best in the college classroom.

If you're reading this, most, if not all, work done for this class will be through digital platforms. Writing for and with digital media is a public practice, so while we learn and practice the skills necessary for strong writing (no matter what course you’re in), we will also practice other online literacies that are integral to developing digital fluencies.

As the world of higher education becomes increasingly digital, we need to do our best to keep up. This means:

  1. My courses will use open applications available to all;
  2. They will follow similar procedures each week for design simplicity and accessibility;
  3. They will teach valuable media literacies along with course content.


  • To get connected in a general way for work this semester;
  • To open a Twitter account and set it up for use in this class;
  • To learn the fundamentals of Twitter and “tweeting”;
  • To emphasize the importance of developing an online presence and your own learning network.
  • Considerations

    Before you go any further, check out (if you have not already) “Considerations for Online Courses.”

    Online courses are not like traditional face-to-face classes. Traditional courses taught in classrooms tend to be teacher-centered — i.e., defined by what the teacher does. Online courses are student-centered. They require students willing and able to make their own decisions and budget their own time. Self-motivators who are not afraid to try new approaches and take risks usually do well. Folks who need a lot of personal assistance tend to do less well. The latter might be served better by a more traditional section of the course.

    To restate: if you’re the type of learner that prefers teacher-centered classes, you might do better by choosing a traditional face-to-face course.

    Stay Informed and Get Connected

    Always refer to your specific course syllabus for the most accurate information about course requirements, schedule, assignments, and due dates. News, announcements, and updates are available there and through communications components of each course, like Slack or D2L or whatever your course uses.

    Still have questions, check the FAQ.

    If your class does not use D2L, much of your work this semester will be done through various media platforms. It’s imperative that you sign up and practicing using these as soon as possible (see your syllabus). As these media are often part of public discourse, many of the assignments for the course will be posted on platforms accessible to all. If this makes you uncomfortable, please consider another section.


    Course syllabi are listed with all classes on the Course Directory. Begin your introduction to the course with the syllabus. Always refer to the syllabus first if you have questions. Do not print the syllabus as it is likely to change; bookmark it and refer to it online. If I change the syllabus, I will let you know though several communication channels and social media.


    Online courses will follow a certain procedure each week. While these classes are asynchronous, they do require students submit work daily or weekly. Be sure to check your syllabus for specific requirements, procedures, and due dates. Try to work a bit daily, as that will keep you from procrastinating and falling behind.

    Certain behaviors are required for online communication. Please see “The Core Rules of Netiquette” to familiarize yourself with these guidelines. You might also see “Academic Forum Posts.”

    Writing Online

    Some writing online requires the use of HTML to link URLs or to italicize some titles. Check out “Basic HTML” (or just Google it) to be sure you know how to do this. This is a basic skill for online communication that all college students in the digital age need to know.

    The golden rule for online writing: Write in English. Never paste in a URL when the platform allows linking English words.

    Online writing should exemplify your best work as a college student — this is paramount. These activities could use various media platforms and each has its own best uses.


    Keep backups of all your work. When submitting something online, you should also keep a local copy for your records — just in case something happens. For additional security, consider a cloud backup application like Dropbox or Box to keep all of your files safe automatically. When using public computers, save often to your own flash drive. I cannot help you if you lose your work because of a computer lab glitch.

    Test Your Knowledge

    Now that you have read through your syllabus, policies, “Humanities Basics,” “Online Basics,” followed the links, and set up your necessary accounts, take the quiz.

    Take the Foundations Quiz

    You will need to login with your Google Accounts ID. You should pass the quiz with a 70% or higher. Otherwise, you might want to review this material before proceeding.

     Note: this quiz is only available during the first couple weeks of new semesters. Be sure to take it early.