Since you're going to be using a computer to interface with the class, you have to be ready to use the machine to the best of your ability. This includes using the operating system well and becoming familiar with Blackboard's various functions.
You should also be comfortable literally! Learn about correct posture and the ergonomics of enjoying working on a computer.
Common Computer Issues
At some time in your online course, you may experience problems with your computer or with application software like Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. These moments of frustration can be minimized if you know ahead of time where to look for help.
Here are a few common steps for identifying and fixing computer problems:
- Save what you are working on (if possible) and reboot your computer (shut it down.) Attempt the same function that caused your problem. Often, rebooting your computer will clear up the problem.
- Find and use the operating system or application software specific Help function. You can usually do this quickly by pressing the “F1” key on your keyboard.
- Read the manual that came with your computer or software, starting in the manual’s index to locate relevant information.
- Use a search engine to find Internet resources that may help you solve the problem.
- Look for help from a knowledgeable family member, friend, or fellow student.
- For hardware problems that cannot be solved using the steps above, consider contacting the company that you purchased your computer from or contact a computer repair company in your vicinity.
- For software problems, consider calling the developer of your software product.
Extensive use of a computer can cause some short-term physical problems or possibly even long-term difficulties ranging from stress to wrist damage, fatigue, shoulder pain, and muscle tenseness. The medical term for some of these physical problems is repetitive strain injury (RSI). You can lessen the stress and its related problems by making some changes in your workspace and in your viewing posture and habits.
Review the “Personal Workstation Checklist” distributed by Ergonomics@Work, University of California at Berkeley. Once you are finished assessing your chair, work surface/keyboard, monitor, workstation accessories, and work habits based on the personal workstation checklist, please close the browser by selecting the "X" in the corner. Implement as many of the suggestions provided as you can. At the very least, pay close attention to the following suggestions:
- Adjust your monitor viewing angle so it is at a comfortable angle for minimizing stress.
- Adjust your chair for the best seat and back position, and adjust its height so that you are viewing the monitor at a comfortable angle.
- Take a break every 20 minutes. Get out of your chair and move around. Gently stretch your back, neck, hands, and wrists.
- If you tend to forget how long you are at your computer due to concentrating on your work, set a timer to remind you to get out of your chair for a short break.
Screen viewing is more vision intensive than reading textbooks and may cause tension, eye fatigue, or stress resulting in tired, sore, burning, itching, watery, or dry eyes. In extreme cases, you may experience blurred or double vision or an increased sensitivity to bright lights. These vision conditions, when caused by prolonged computer use, have been referred to as Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).
- Setup a work environment that makes for good screen viewing. Pay attention to the amount of light you have and angle of viewing. Your monitor should be placed so that windows to the outside are not behind the screen or behind you. You will strain your eye muscles less if you place your monitor slightly below your eye level. If you use a document holder, position it at the same height as your screen. Indirect or reflected light is best for screen viewing. Overhead florescent light is the least desirable type of lighting since its flickering may affect your peripheral vision.
- Have an eye exam to determine if you might have any problems in reading text on your monitor. During the exam, let your doctor know how much time you are or will be spending at your computer and ask about special prescription glasses for computer use. If you find that you need eyeglasses, get a pair that is specially designed to read text at a distance of 18 to 28 inches away.
- Adjust the brightness and contrast on your monitor. Controls to do this are usually located at the bottom of you monitor. Consult your monitor manual for directions.
- If you still have a glare on your screen, consider using an anti-glare filter. If you have any problems reading text on your monitor, increase the font size. You can do this in Microsoft Word, for example, by selecting “View” on the Toolbar, and then clicking on “Zoom” to see at what size percentage your screen is set. Normally it will be set at 100%. Change it to 200% for increased font size so that you can read the text easily. While you are in the Zoom mode, notice that you can also change page or text width and view a whole page or many pages. The Zoom mode offers a preview of any change that you might select.
- In Mozilla Firefox, for example, click "View" on the toolbar, then click on "Zoom." Zoom In and Out to find a more comfortable font size.
- Consult your eye care professional if you experience any unusual eye strain, pain, or headaches.