Online Student Preparation

This is the right place to start. SPCS has developed this Online Student Preparation checklist to help you prepare for online study prior to enrolling in an online or hybrid class for credit. Our goal is to help all students taking an online or hybrid course succeed by better understanding how SPCS administers online classes, setting realistic expectations for themselves, and communicating support services available to online students.

For ongoing support, degree-seeking students should visit the SPCS Student Online Support Community (AD878) in Blackboard. Students enrolled in one or more classes each semester are automatically added to this resource.

We encourage you to complete the following procedure prior to enrolling in your first online or hybrid class.

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  • Self Assessment

    How online courses and online learning work at UR

    Online learning can be convenient and offer a level of flexibility that a classroom-based course may not, especially for adult students.

    Most online classes are taught using our course management system, Blackboard. Faculty post their syllabi and other course documents and assignments and library materials are placed on e-reserve. This allows students to gain access to course information at any time and from any location.

    Faculty also use Blackboard for threaded discussions, a way to keep the vibrancy of the course continuing outside of formal class meetings. Groups of students within a class can also use Blackboard as a shared space to post notes and project timelines, and to develop the project content.

    The average time an online student should plan to spend on coursework when enrolled in a 3-semester hour course is 9-12 hours per week. Some courses may vary in intensity, and the hours of coursework can change. 

    How prepared are you for online learning?

    Answering “yes” to the following questions may indicate that you’re ready for online learning:

    • Do you have regular access to a computer and reliable access to the Internet?
    • Do you read proficiently?
    • Do you manage your time efficiently?
    • Are you able to focus and avoid distractions while studying?
    • Are you motivated to succeed in school and complete your classes?

    If you’re not able to answer “yes” to all of these questions, or if you’re not sure about the online learning environment, we recommend that you consider a more thorough self assessment.

    Dr. Marcel Kerr from Texas Weslayan University developed ToOLS (Test of Online Learning Success) as a measure of online student success. Completing the assessment provides feedback specific to the answers you provide to the assessment.

  • Tips for Success

    What makes a successful online learner?

    In addition to the technical skills needed to complete the required tasks and assignments of your classes, online students also need to employ time management, organization, digital citizenship, and more. Here are our top five tips:

    • Develop a study plan — Log on every day
    • Time management — Set goals for yourself
    • Participate — Make the most of online discussion and conferencing
    • Ask questions — Asking questions of fellow students and the course instructor allow for deeper understanding of the content
    • Read and understand the course syllabus — Acquaint yourself with key dates and assessment measures. If you are unsure what to do, ask the course instructor.

    Being an Effective Online Student

    For more in-depth information, we encourage online students to read Northeastern University’s “8 Strategies for Getting the Most out of an Online Course.” These tips will help students new to online learning understand the skills they need and the resources available to them in order to succeed in their online classes.

    Online Student Checklist

    Follow this simple checklist to make sure your online learning experience has the best outcome for you:

    • Complete this online student preparation procedure to make sure online learning is for you, then submit the required confirmation form.
    • Reach out to your academic advisor to ensure the online class you’re considering meets your degree requirements and to request a departmental approval override.
    • If you’re a new student, review the SPCS new student checklist.
    • Register for your class via BannerWeb once you’ve received departmental approval from your academic advisor.
    • Pay your tuition bill.
    • Log in to Blackboard at least two weeks before the start of class to review the syllabus, texbook(s), required readings and any communication from the professor.
    • Reach out to the professor or your academic advisor with any questions or concerns before class begins.
  • Technology

    What hardware and software are recommended for online learning?

    Use the following guidelines to be sure you are prepared for the online learning experience. If you do not have consistent access to high speed internet (DSL or faster), you probably are not setting yourself up for a successful learning experience.

    Hardware Recommendations

    The University’s Information Services department provides hardware recommendations for student computers, Apple and Windows, desktop and laptop. The department also provides advice on purchasing a new computer. Online students may purchase computers at a vendor discount from Lenovo (Windows or Google Chrome) and the Apple Store for Education.

    Although these student recommendations target on-campus residential students, the hardware and wired and wireless networking recommendations apply to all students, whether online or on campus.

    You can also connect your device to the university’s network as an online student, both on campus and at a distance via VPN.

    Software Recommendations

    Information Services recommends standard software (with download links) for Apple and Windows computers. Many of the applications are available for free to students connected to the campus network (via VPN for online students). Of greatest importance to online students is a current web browser (Safari, Firefox, Chrome, Explorer) to connect to Blackboard and email access.

    Antivirus software (Sophos or Endpoint Protection, depending on operating system) is provided to students for use on personal computers (review the standard software page for links).

    You can purchase Microsoft Office at a discount from the UR Bookstore or directly from Microsoft.

    Network Information

    If you are a new student at the University of Richmond, the first thing you’ll need to do is activate your network accounts.

    To access online campus resources available solely on the University’s network, connect via VPN. Review the Network and Internet information for details.

    All computers connected to the University’s network, including online students, should have the university’s antivirus software (Sophos for Mac and Windows or Endpoint Protection for Macs with 4 GB or less of RAM) installed. If you visit campus, you should review the requirements for connecting to the on-campus wired and wireless networks. 

  • Academic Support

    We’re here to help you achieve your academic goals.

    Ultimately, you are responsible for your education, so take advantage of all the resources that are available to help you.

    Academic Advising

    In addition to assisting students in developing a program of study, advising provides tools and resources that are uniquely suited to adult learners. Your academic advisor is also your point of contact for registration questions, including granting departmental approvals and overrides for online classes. Advisors are typically available by phone and email as well as in-person appointments.

    Information Services and the Help Desk

    Information Services provides support for the University’s computing platforms, data networks, telecommunications infrastructure, and academic technologies.

    The University of Richmond Help Desk will attempt to diagnose hardware problems for students, but the Help Desk does not replace hardware on student-owned machines. Students may work with Attronica Computers (on-campus computer vendor) to purchase and repair equipment that may be out of warranty. We also recommend that you check with Attronica if your system is under warranty from the manufacturer, as they do perform warranty work for most PC manufacturers.

    Support is available from the Information Services staff for any of the software that is in our standard and for most of the specialty pieces of software that are found in particular labs.

    The Help Desk is open between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. weekdays during the academic year accessible via phone (804-287-6400), email and live chat via the IS website.

    The Information Services pages include detail about our information services and technology support.

    Library Services

    The University of Richmond Libraries provide services that suit the needs of all learners, whether on campus or hundreds of miles away. Commonly used links include:

    The University of Richmond provides proxy server service which allows UR students to connect to the Libraries’ online databases, electronic journals and books, and course reserves through any Internet service provider located off-campus. If you are a current student and your network account has been activated, you just need to enter this information when prompted to use a database. Online access to Special Collections that have been digitized are also available on the library Web site. The UR Library Catalog does not require a password and is available to any interested user.

    Technology Resources

    Information Services also provides students will online and on-campus tools and resources to assist in technology training and development.

    • Safari Books Online is a free resource for reading technology-related e-books online (requires VPN connection for online students). Also available are e-books from the library.
    • Books and CDs on a variety of software applications and technology topics are available in the Technology Learning Center (TLC), on the third floor of Boatwright Library.
    • Online video tutorials also give students access to online training resources to learn technology topics.
    • The Technology Learning Center, located on the third floor of Boatwright Library, is a premier new media laboratory. Students will find all of the hardware and software they need to develop multimedia projects.

    Online Writing Lab

    The Online Writing Lab (OWL) is a free University of Richmond service offered exclusively to currently enrolled undergraduate and graduate SPCS students. Papers of all types and disciplines can be sent via e-mail (owl@richmond.edu) to a professional writing tutor for assistance at any hour of the day or night.

    Additional Resources

    For a complete list of resources available to SPCS degree-seeking students, please visit the section of our website devoted to current students.

  • Links