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Technical Tips & Tricks

These technical tips and tricks have been compiled to support students using Life Strategies' e-learning management system, Moodle. This includes students from Life Strategies' LearnOnline programs and courses and also external clients (e.g., NCDA, CCDF). 

In each course, there is a Technical Support forum where you can post additional questions or concerns that are not addressed here. For direct assistance, please feel free to call our offices (604-856-2386) or email techsupport@lifestrategies.ca.

Site: Life Strategies LearnOnline
Course: Life Strategies LearnOnline
Book: Technical Tips & Tricks
Printed by:
Date: Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 10:49 PM

1. Introduction

These technical tips and tricks have been compiled to support students using Life Strategies' e-learning management system, Moodle. This includes students from Life Strategies' LearnOnline programs and courses and also external clients (e.g., NCDA, CCDF). 

In each course, there is a Technical Support forum where you can post additional questions or concerns that are not addressed here. For direct assistance, please feel free to call our offices (604-856-2386) or email techsupport@lifestrategies.ca.


2. Computer Requirements

This section will cover several important technical considerations including:

  • Hardware & Software Needed
  • Problems with Old Internet Browser
  • Potential Issues for MAC Users
  • Shared Computers
  • Uploading Files

2.1. Hardware & Software Needed

We recommend that students have a relatively new computer, either PC or MAC, with reliable high-speed Internet access. While slower computers and/or dial-up Internet will work, students may find the slow response times (e.g., loading course discussions or resources, following webinar presentations) frustrating and find they spend more time on coursework than they’d anticipated. Webinar attendees also need, at a minimum, a computer with speakers or reliable telephone line; note, long distance charges will apply for those calling in and are the responsibility of the individual webinar attendee. 

Students must submit their written assignments using products from the Microsoft Office Suite (i.e., Word, Excel, and/or PowerPoint) or compatible software. PDF assignment submissions will not permit instructors an opportunity to provide detailed feedback and so consequently be avoided. It is also expected that students have the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader for viewing resources; it can be downloaded free of charge, at www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html


2.2. Problems with Old Internet Browser

If you are using an old Internet browser to view web pages, you might have problems viewing certain features on any webpage, including Moodle. We recommend using the most up-to-date browser to ensure the best functionality, security, and speed.

At a minimum, you should be using one of the following:

  • Chrome 30 (Desktop & mobile) released OCT 2013
  • Safari 7 (Desktop) released OCT 2013
  • Safari 5 (iOS) released OCT 2011
  • Microsoft IE 11 & Edge released JUL 2015
  • Firefox 27 released FEB 2014

To figure out which version you are using visit https://www.whatismybrowser.com/ or check your settings:

  • Open your Internet browser
  • Find and select the “About” option 
    • Note: The specific location of this will vary depending on which system you are using. Use the help feature or search through your settings menu
  • Review the dialogue box which will indicate the version or edition being used and if there are any updates available

We’ve found that some Internet browsers seem to be consistently better with our Moodle system than others (e.g., Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox vs. Internet Explorer). If you do run into tech issues due to your Internet browser, try using an alternative. 

2.3. Potential Issues for MAC Users

When accessing the course site using a Mac computer, you may experience one of a few known compatibility issues. The course site has been tested using both Safari and Firefox browsers.

Some courses have video resources which have been uploaded as .wmv files. Although these will open using Safari, you may experience issues with Firefox. We recommend downloading Flip for Mac or some other compatibility program.

PowerPoint files that are created using a more recent version of Office that incorporates open XML in the files (.PPTX format). If you have difficulty opening these slideshows from your Mac, download the "open XML converter" tool from Microsoft's website.

Depending on your browser settings, when accessing documents using Safari, the documents will open into a second window, quite easily and without downloads. When opening documents using Firefox, the document will open in another window and will create a download to your desktop.

2.4. Shared Computers

When you share computers with anyone (e.g., a shared office or using computers in your resource centre), it is always best practice to:

  • Shut down/restart the machine after you have finished your session. Computers are set to store “cookies” (i.e., tiny bits of stored information about each user) to make it easier for you to login to various systems. You will need to get rid of these . . . if you share machines.
  • Use the “Logout button” at the top right-hand corner of the LearnOnline site instead of using the little “x” to close the browser window.

2.5. Uploading Files

We do not expect you to upload many files to the course site. The exceptions may be a photo for your profile, and your assignments. There is a maximum file size (100 MB) that the system allows. If you try to upload a file that is too big as the system will tell you that no file was found. On rare occasions, some assignments that are particularly graphic/image heavy may be too large to upload. Please keep this in mind when completing your assignments. If you are not sure how big your file is, highlight the file in the dialog box (as if you were going to double-click to open the file) then right-click and choose properties. The size will be displayed for you. (If you’d like to check while still creating the document within MSWord, simply left click on File/Properties/General.). Please ensure you submit files in a standard program and editable format, such as a Word document.  


3. Moodle Basics

There are several basics you'll need to familiarize yourself with as you get started in the course. This section includes:

  • Navigating through Moodle
  • Setting Your Profile Preferences

3.1. Navigating Through Moodle

To help you navigate to and from resources and activities, all links are set to open in a new tab. This way you can just close the window when you are done with the resource/activity. If you use the back button on your browser to access a previously viewed page, you may run into problems within the course site. You can get "kicked out" of the course and have to login to re-enter . . . a bit tedious and frustrating! A better strategy to move to different parts of the course is to use the (1) breadcrumb trail and/or (2) navigation block. 

  • Breadcrumb trail: This is the small writing near the top of your screen under the course title. To navigate back to your course’s main page, click on the course name. 
  • Navigation block: This block, organized by topic sections, provides links to all activities and resources posted on your course’s main page. It will be generally located within the slide-out menu panel on the left-hand side of every page of your course site. 

We use a responsive template, so you may notice some "blocks" shift from the slide to the bottom on your page if you've resized your web browser or are viewing the course on a mobile device or tablet.

Topics will open according to set schedule as detailed in the Course Syllabus or Detailed Course Overview. Topics which are not live will not yet be accessible to you; however, you’ll see a spot for them on the course site. Watch for an announcement via the News/Announcements forum for when the topic opens. You’ll then be able to wrap up your learning activities from the previous topic and move onto the new topic. 

3.2. Setting Your Profile Preferences 

Here are some tips to help you set profile preferences. Your profile can be accessed from the LearnOnline home page or from within your specific course at any time.

  • Click your name on the upper right-hand corner
  • Select "Profile"
  • Click “Edit profile” from the "User details" section
  • Review the options available to you
    • Click on “Expand all” to display all settings and options
    • Note: If we've set up your profile, you will notice that we’ve also set some standards. These are our recommendations to you; however, feel free to customize to fit your needs
  • Set your account preferences 
    • Email display: Set to “Allow other course members to see my e-mail address”; only hide if you do not want your email shared with other students
    • Time Zone: Set to “Server’s local time” so the Moodle times will match your time zone.
    • Description: Post a brief bio within this section. This is similar to the type of introduction you would make in a traditional classroom. 
    • Upload a photo of yourself or some other picture that represents you (e.g., an "avatar") within the "User picture" section. Because we won’t “see” you in person, a photo can help create the classroom atmosphere. You can either drag and drop the picture or click the ad file icon Add file to bring the “File picker” where you can select “Upload a file” and then 
    • Add any additional information you’d like within the "Additional names," "Interests," and "Optional" sections
  • Save your changes by click “Update profile” 

4. Course Resources

On your course site, you'll notice several icons, which represent different kinds of resources.

Course Resources include:

  • Book 
  • Pages 
  • Weblinks
  • Uploaded Resources 

We've provided details on several of these resources in the following chapter.

4.1. Books & Pages

Book 

  This resource is a Book. You will also find in many of your courses (i.e., your Course Syllabus is presented as a Book). You can read a Book in order, navigating back and forth with the arrows at the top and bottom on the page, or you can jump to specific sections using the table of contents on the left-hand side.

If you’d like, you can print the full Book or a specific chapter by using the “Print book” or “Print this chapter” under the Administration menu which is located in the slideout menu panel on the left-hand side.

Page 

  Pages are used to present a wide variety of content on one web page. In several of our courses, you will find Course Notes and Study Processes. Unlike a book, there are no chapters / sub-chapters and you, unfortunately, cannot print easily.

4.2. Weblinks

Beyond textbook readings, you will find links to various web resources (e.g., news/research articles, videos, blog posts) which will enhance your learning. They will be indicated with the following icon 

To ensure functionality, our LearnOnline team checks each link prior to the start of the course. If you are unable to open a web link, this may be a temporary glitch on the website. You can try back a few moments later and if it’s still not available, let us know immediately (i.e., phone our office, email techsupport@lifestrategies.ca, or a post within the Technical Support discussion forum). Our team can help you to access the resource or provide an alternative.

4.3. Uploaded Resources

PDF Resources 

Some course resources have been developed by Life Strategies (or other program developers) or we have obtained permission to share. These are typically posted in a PDF format to ensure compatibility.

If you are having problems opening PDF resources on the course site, ensure you have the latest version of Adobe Reader or a similar PDF reading software. You can download Adobe Reader for free at http://get.adobe.com/reader/.  

MS Office Resources (PowerPoint, Word  , and Excel  )

You may encounter other resources posted on the course site including PowerPoint, Word, or Excel documents. Due to compatibility issues on computers, you may experience issues opening files. It’s important to ensure you have MS Office or a compatible program on the computer you're using. 

Depending on how quick your computer is and whether you're using high speed or dial-up Internet access, it takes some time for a document to open. After you click on the icon, you'll usually see a blank white screen while the file is uploading. On a fast computer with high-speed Internet access, it may take 30 seconds to a minute before the file appears. From older computers or a slower Internet connection, it could take several minutes for documents to load. This is a good time to walk away from your computer for a minute or so . . . to go get a coffee or something. Otherwise, you'll be tempted to keep clicking away and then the computer has other commands to deal with. It gets "confused" or "overwhelmed" and nothing will happen to you. Remember - the mouse has a higher priority so, every time you click or move it, you are telling the computer to “stop what you are doing, I need something else.”

The version of MS Office you have may be older than the file you are trying to open. You can either open it on a computer with a newer version or contact us to send you an older version of the document or to send it to you in a different format (e.g., PDF).

For PowerPoint files, you can download a viewer at http://www.microsoft.com/en-ca/download/details.aspx?id=13. Many PowerPoint files include narration so be sure to open it on a computer with speakers so you can follow along.

Depending on the computer and Internet browser you are using, you may find the file doesn’t open up automatically. You may find it in your download folder on your computer. Check here if you don’t see anything pop up.

4.4. Problems Opening Resources

Occasionally, you may experience some problems trying to open the resources posted within the course. This could be due to an issue with your computer / Internet connection, our server, the course site, the resource itself, or a combination of any of these factors. Please let us know immediately (phone our office, email techsupport@lifestrategies.ca, or a post within the Technical Support discussion forum) if you can't open a resource. Our team can help you to access the resource or provide an alternative. 

To best support you, our team will need to know the following:

  • Name of the course you are enrolled in
  • Name of the resource you are trying to open and topic it is posted in
  • Operating system you are using (e.g., Windows 8, OS X v10.11 El Capitan)
  • Web browser and version you are using
  • Details on what specifically happened (e.g., URL no longer active, file won’t download)
  • Error message or code
While you wait for our team to respond, here are a couple of points to remember:
  • Be patient: The more you move your mouse around and keep clicking, the longer it will take, as this action interrupts what your computer is trying to do
  • Check your system: Ensure that you have the adequate program to view the file (e.g., Adobe or PDF viewer)
  • Log out and in again: If Moodle is experiencing a temporary glitch, you may simply need to log out and back in again
  • Restart your computer: Sometimes, glitches in your system can be solved by simply restarting the computer thus closing any interfering programs
  • Don’t panic. If you’ve notified our team, we will get back to you within 24 hours with a solution. Don’t let this problem get overwhelming or frustrating by trying the same thing over and over again. If you are concerned this issue will impact your completion of course requirements in a timely fashion (e.g., assignment submissions), email your instructor directly.

5. Course Activities

Course activities include:

  • Discussion Forums 
  • Assignments  
  • Wikis 
  • Chat Rooms   
  • Lessons 

We've described several of these activities here.

5.1. Discussion Forum

To participate in a discussion  :

  • Read the opening post
    • Almost all discussions will have an opening thread started by course administrators. If not, start your own discussion by clicking “Add a new discussion topic”
  • Click “Reply” when you’re ready to respond 
  • Compose your reply in the message box. 
    • You’ll notice some common formatting options (e.g., bulleted lists, bolded font) are available to you. 
    • If you don’t see a function you are looking for, click the “Toggle Toolbar” (Show/hide advanced buttons ; aka the kitchen sink) button to view more options. 
    • Some students prefer to compose their reply in Word and then copy and paste it in. If you do this, please be aware that your formatting may not copy over perfectly. 
  • Adjust your subscription settings (optional)
    • By default, you are not subscribed to receive email copies of posts to this forum
  • Attach a file (optional)
    • You have two options to upload a file (a) dragging/dropping the file or (b) using the “Add file” button Add file to bring up the file picker where you can browse/upload a file from your computer. 
  • Check off “Mail now” if you’d like send your post to forum subscribers right away 
    • We don’t recommend this
  • Click “Post to forum” to save and share your contribution with the rest of the class.


Please note: to ensure ease and efficiency in setting up courses, we work from templates that are restored to the system. As such, you may notice opening discussion posts with old dates. Please be assured that all courses are set up and checked 1-2 weeks prior to the start date.

5.2. Managing Forum Post

Your preferences can be accessed from the LearnOnline home page or from within your specific course at any time.

If you are subscribed to a discussion forum, you will receive email notifications when others contribute. Although this can be helpful for keeping track of course activities, it can also get overwhelming, especially with larger groups. You can always manually subscribe to a particular discussion when you post to it. 

To manage your discussion/forum posts settings:

  • Click on your name at the top right-hand side of the page
  • Select "Preferences"
  • Select "Forum preferences" from the User account list
  • Review and adjust your preferences
    • Email digest type: 
      • No digest - you will receive one e-mail per forum post* 
      • Digest - complete posts - you will receive one digest e-mail per day containing the complete contents of each forum post;
      • Digest - subjects only - you will receive one digest e-mail per day containing just the subject of each forum post.
    • Forum auto-subscribe: 
      • No: don’t automatically subscribe me to forums discussions*
      • Yes: when I post, subscribe me to that forum discussion - Forum tracking: Set to “Yes: highlight new posts for me;” this is a very helpful function for keeping track of new messages. 
    • Forum tracking:
      • Yes: highlight new posts for me*
      • No: don't keep track of posts I have seen
    • When sending forum post notifications:
      • Mark the post as read
      • Do not mark the post as read*
  • Click "Save changes"

Our recommendations are indicated with an asterisk. 

5.3. Responding to Discussions

Cutting & Pasting Content

We’ve discovered that it may not be that straightforward to cut and paste from Word into Moodle. Some issues include:

  • Formatting either doesn’t copy over correctly or “hidden” formatting copies over but cannot be edited
  • Coding is automatically added to your post which may or may not be visible to you until you post

 As such, if you decide to cut/copy a selection and paste into Moodle, we recommend to:

  • Compose content within your normal word processing program
  • Highlight and copy/cut the content as you normally would
    • i.e., Right-click and select “copy” / "cut" or use the keyboard short for copy (Ctrl + C) / cut (Ctrl + X)
  • Navigate to where you’d like to paste the selection 
    • e.g., discussion forums
  • Paste in content as plain text
    • i.e., Right-click and select “paste as plain text” or use the keyboard short (Ctrl + Shift + V) 
    • Note: If you use the normal “paste” / Ctrl + V option, you may need to highlight your text and use the “clear formatting” feature from the HTML editor 
  • Save/post contribution as you normally would

Spell Check

When posting to discussion threads (within each topical forum), you will want to ensure your contributions are free from spelling errors. With the enhanced abilities of Internet browsers, spell check is now a common function Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer. Ensure you have installed the latest version of their browser and enabled the spell checker in your browser settings. We have included some directions for the most common Internet browser systems below:

  • Firefox: This is in Preferences > Advanced Settings > General
  • Safari: This is in the toolbar >  Edit > Spelling and Grammar > Check Spelling While Typing
  • Google Chrome: Settings > Languages > Language and input settings > Enable spell checking
  • Internet Explorer: Auto enabled 

Remember, spell check will only look for misspelled words, not incorrect words, so read carefully before posting!

Site Time-Outs

Nobody wants to lose what they've typed within the discussion forums, especially if it took a long time to compose a post. Our forums are set to "time out" after 4 hours (e.g., if you walk away from your computer, with a reply partially composed but not posted, you'll lose it after 4 hours). 

For longer replies to a discussion thread, it's likely a good idea to prep your response using your word-processing software (e.g., Word) that is usually set to save every few minutes. You can then cut and paste to the course site when you’re ready to post your discussion. Please see the section on cutting/pasting into the Moodle system. 

Bottom line is "computers crash" so it's always a good idea to save as you go. Another option is to post your partial message to the site. You have 30 minutes to edit any of your posts. If for any reason you need to edit your post after the 30 minutes has passed, please email your instructor with the edits.

5.4. Assignments

Submitting Assignments 

After you have prepared your assignment offline using a word processing software, you can submit your assignment on the course site

  • Select the specific assignment
  • Click "Add submission" 
  • Find the file submission box and either drag and drop your file in or use the Add file icon
  • Click "Save changes"
  • Review submission status to ensure it reads "Submitted for grading"

Reviewing Feedback

Instructors will grade and return feedback via the assignment feature. In most instances, you will receive an email notification that your assignment has been graded. Generally, detailed feedback will be provided to you using the comments / track changes feature within Word. When reviewing feedback, be sure that your review settings are to show "All Markup." If you need more details on seeing edits within your document, visit Microsoft's help page.  

Viewing Final Grades

Your final grades will be available at the end of the course. They will be posted within the "Grades" section of the "Navigation" panel. We recommend students print an unofficial copy of their grades from the gradebook on the course site for their own records. 

5.5. Wiki

The Wiki   enables you to work collaboratively with your fellow students to add, expand, and change the content. It may be helpful to think of it as a white board or flip chart.

To contribute to a wiki:

  • Read the directions and any existing contributions 
  • Select the “Edit” tab to access the editing functions
    • Only one person can edit at one time
  • Make your contributions and edits within the HTML
    • Some common formatting options (e.g., bulleted lists, bolded font) are available to you. 
    • If you don’t see a function you are looking for, click the “Toggle Toolbar” (Show/hide advanced buttons ; aka “the kitchen sink”) button to view more options. 
  • Click “Save” to share your contribution with the rest of the class.
    • If you’d like to first review your edits first, click “Preview” – changes will not be saved until you click save

In some courses you’ll need to work collaboratively in a wiki on a specific activity or task. Here you can edit each other's work (great for catching spelling mistakes), add comments (just like you might have a conversation with each other before adding a bullet to a flip chart), and can expand on an existing point (Consider using a different colour and adding your name or initial).

In other courses, you may find wikis as group activity sign-up sheets. Here a table will be uploaded for you to find a partner, entering your name any other requested information.

Old versions are archived and can be restored by course administrators. 

Please note: Internet Explorer does not seem to support the Wiki function very well. We suggest you use an alternative web browser for best functionality.

5.6. Working Effectively with a "Virtual" Group

For those courses requiring group work, you will generally find a designated sign-up Wiki early in the course to assist you in forming groups. Typically, a table within the Wiki will stipulate what information to fill in when joining a group (e.g., name); however, you are welcome to add columns/rows. As some offline communication will be necessary to coordinate/complete your assignment, sharing your contact information is important so that your partner / other group members know how to contact you outside the course platform. 

Coordinating schedules can be tricky in this virtual world. This is why, when you're collaborating on an online project, it's so important to check in often (2-3 times a day would be ideal), both with the project website (in this case, the course site) and also with the email that you're using. 

If you can make that work (and not everyone can because of travel and limited computer access), you'll actually find it much easier to work online. You might even find it helpful to connect using an Instant Messaging systems (e.g., Skype) or web conferencing (e.g., GoToMeeting) that you may have access to. You can also exchange any other contact information you are comfortable with including phone, email, Facebook, and LinkedIn.  Given the short timeframe of your courses, we encourage groups to use whichever communication channels work best for them.

As with any group, taking time, in the beginning, to share your expectations and working styles and set "group norms" will make the rest of your time together flow much more smoothly. We strongly encourage respectful communications between students both online and offline and equitable division of responsibilities.

Your instructor can support you if you encounter any issues working with your partner/group. 

5.7. Chat Room

To access a chat  :

  • Select the relevant chat room
  • View the available chats
    • Select the chat you’d like to enter, or
    • Open by new chat by selecting “click here to enter the chat now” 
  • Your chat will open in a pop-up window
    • Your text will show on the right-hand side
    • Attendees will show on the left-hand side
  • Type your text in box at the bottom of the window 
  • Hit “enter” on your keyboard to send your message
  • End your chat by closing the browser window

Although chat logs should automatically save in Moodle, we have lost some before. Therefore, before ending your chat, you might want to appoint someone from the group to save your transcript (by choosing edit, select all, copy, and then pasting into a Word document that can be saved and emailed to everyone in the group). 

The Moodle chat is not like Skype or other instant messaging systems. It is not as advanced which results in the following:

  • It is built on a short delay between when you type/send the message and when the message appears
  • When it refreshes, it does “ripple”
  • You can’t see if someone else is online (and active in a chat) until you start typing
  • You can’t tell if someone else is typing a message which could leave you feeling uncertain whether to type or remain “quiet.” When in doubt, just ask.
  • You can copy and paste into the chat window; however, no formatting will copy over

5.8. Lesson

Lessons   will walk you through content in a structured manner. Although these lessons are not graded, they are an important learning activity. Generally, within the lesson, you’ll find some brief content followed by a question. Select the answer you think is correct and click “Submit.” The page will refresh and at the bottom, it will show if your answer was correct and why or why not. If incorrect, we’ll suggest some additional readings to help you better understand the topic.

You can then move onto the next section by clicking “Continue” (or some similar text) at the bottom of the page. 

When you’ve reached the end of the lesson, you can return to the main course page.