Ready for eLearning?

Traits of Successful Online Students

Online learning is different in many respects from the traditional face-to-face learning we’re all used to and the primary difference lies in the way in which information is communicated and the methods of interaction between instructors and students and students with peers.  For many students, these differences lead to positive results; many participants relate that they learn more online and experience better retention.  However, some students – even “good” students” – seem to struggle in an online class.

If you are a student considering taking an online class, it is important to consider your learning habits, as well as your lifestyle, in order to assess whether or not online learning is a good fit for you as an individual.  The following traits are those that are common to most successful students, but are critical to students in online classes:

  • Comfortable with computers
  • Able to use the course management system (Blackboard), an internet browser (Firefox or Chrome), a word processor, and the SUNY email system (Hawkmail)
  • Self-directed
  • Motivated
  • Strong reading and writing skills
  • Inquisitive
  • Disciplined
  • Independent
  • Able to stay on task

So, is online learning right for you? Review the following questions as you decide:

What should I do when I’m finished working with BlackBoard?

When finished with all tasks for any given session, be sure to log out by clicking on the logout icon at the top right-hand corner of the Blackboard page. This is especially important if you are working in a computer lab; failing to log out could potentially give others access to your private course information.

What should I know about Blackboard’s web-conferencing program, Collaborate?

Accessing a Collaborate Session

Collaborate is a component of the Blackboard course management system. To participate in a Collaborate session, your instructor will set up a session and tell you when the session will be available. To log in to a Collaborate session, you MUST have a Java enabled web browser and Java must be up to date (check your version of Java here to make sure you are up to date).

The first time you participate in a session you may be asked to download a .jnlp file (get the Collaborate Java adapter). Once the Java adapter is ready you will see a Blackboard Collaborate splash screen, some connecting messages, and you may be asked to accept the agreement to participate in the session. You may be asked about your connection speed; pick the appropriate type of connection from the drop-down menu to continue.

When the session begins, the instructor has the ability to give audio and/or video permissions for up to six participants. If you are given audio and/or video permission, click on the mic or video icon to begin speaking or showing video. In many cases, the faculty member may be the only person using the mic; however, all participants have the option of typing questions and/or feedback into the “chat” area.

For additional information about Collaborate, please see our full Collaborate resource page.

System Requirements for using Collaborate

  • Operating Systems:
    1. Windows XP (32 bit), Windows Vista (32 or 64 bit), or Windows 7 (32 or 64 bit); OR
    2. Mac OS X 10.5 (32 or 64 bit) or Mac OS X 10.7 (32 or 64 bit) Mac OS X 10.8; OR
    3. Linux Ubuntu 11.10 (64 bit)
  • 256 MB RAM
  • Up-to-date version of Java
  • 20 MB free disk space
  • 28.8 KBps Internet connection (broadband is highly recommended).
  • Soundcard with microphone and headphones (a headset with microphone/headphones is highly recommended).
  • Webcam (optional)
Do I need any additional applications or programs to use BlackBoard?

Yes. Some of the online materials in Blackboard require a CURRENT version of Java; if you don’t already have Java, click the link to download Java now. One specific Blackboard program that requires Java is Collaborate; check your version of Java here to ensure that you will be able to participate in Collaborate sessions. In addition, you may need RealPlayer or other audio/video players to watch content provided by your instructor. Links for all recommended downloads can be found at the Academic Computing download page.

How do I allow sites to get past my pop-up blocker settings?

Please see the Settings for Pop-up Blockers page for more information about this topic.

How do I submit an assignment?

To Submit an Assignment

Your instructor must first create either a regular Assignment or a Turnitin Assignment in Blackboard. Though it is possible to cut and paste your work into either type of Assignment, most instructors will expect you to attach your work as a Word file (.doc), PDF (.pdf), or Rich Text File (.rtf) (see the “Best Practices for Submitting a Digital File” FAQ, for more about how to save your document).

Submitting a Regular Assignment

After you click on the assignment link, you’ll see a screen like this:


Click “Browse My Computer” to find and select your file. When your file has been selected, it will look like this:


You then have the options of changing the “Link Title” and/or adding a comment for your instructor. When you are ready, click “Submit.”

Submitting a Turnitin Assignment

After you click on the Turnitin assignment link, you’ll see a screen like this:


Click the “Submit” button; this will bring you to the submission page:


On the submission page you will:

  1. Give your submission a title.
  2. Browse for your file by clicking on “Choose File.”
  3. Upload your file once it is selected by choosing “Upload”

After you have clicked “Upload,” you will have the chance to review your submission one more time before clicking “Submit.” After you click “Submit,” you will see a message that says, “Your Submission Was Successful” and you will receive a ‘receipt’ from Turnitin showing the first page of your document.

When my instructor sends an email to the class, what e-mail address will be used by Blackboard?

The campus supplies email to all students, faculty, and staff. You are required to use your campus email for campus business and to check your campus account frequently for messages. You cannot change the email address known to Blackboard, so all email messages sent through Blackboard will be delivered to your campus email address. Most frequently students will receive their email through their Hawkmail account and faculty and staff will receive their email through their Zimbra account; there are exceptions to this rule, however, so make sure you know which address is on record as your official New Paltz account and check that account regularly.

  • Students: Hawkmail (point your browser to
  • Faculty: Zimbra (point your browser to

For more information about your New Paltz email, please see the Email @ New Paltz page.

How do I take a quiz online?

Some (but not all) faculty ask students to take quizzes online and there are a number of options available to faculty to shape the format of the quiz. When you enter a quiz area, you will be informed of the various options your instructor has chosen and given the option to either “begin” or, if you are not ready to begin at that moment, you can “cancel” without ‘activating’ the quiz and can then return at a later time (depending on the due date of the quiz). Here is an overview of some of the options you may encounter:

  1. Availability Options: some quizzes are used for review and may be taken multiple times. Others may be timed and the clock will begin timing as soon as you open the quiz and will continue timing until you hit submit; this includes all time that elapses, even if you leave the quiz and come back to it at a later time (if that is an option). If a quiz is timed, instructors have the option of setting the quiz to automatically submit after the specified time has elapsed or he or she may allow the quiz to continue after the specified time has elapsed, but your quiz will be marked late. Further, some instructors may only allow quizzes to be taken once and may “force” completion, which means if you leave the quiz for any reason during the assessment, you will not be allowed back into the quiz. Finally, some quizzes may require a password and you will not be able to access the quiz unless the correct password is entered.
  2. Display Options: instructors have the option of either displaying all quiz questions at once or of only displaying one question at a time. If an instructor chooses this latter, one-at-a-time option, he or she can also determine whether or not you can go back to a previous question to change an answer. If “back-tracking” is not allowed, each answer will be saved as you proceed and you will only be able to go on to new questions.
  3. Question Types: Blackboard offers a wide variety of question types, so be sure to read each question carefully in order to understand the expectations of the quiz question. Some common questions types are multiple choice, multiple answer, drop-down menu selections, fill-in-the-black, true/false, short answer ‘free response’, and essay questions.

Taking Your Quiz

  1. Click on the link for the quiz.
  2. As noted above, you will first be shown the quiz options and can either opt to proceed by clicking “begin” or to leave the quiz area by clicking “cancel.”
  3. After you click “begin” you will see either the entire quiz (if your instructor chose to display the whole assessment) or the first question (if your instructor chose to deploy one question at a time).
  4. As you proceed through the quiz, save frequently! If you lose your internet connection or another type of technological glitch occurs, your instructor will only be able to see the progress you have saved.
  5. If your instructor has set a time limit you will be able to see your elapsed time in the “tray” at the bottom of your browser window. Near the end of the assessment, Blackboard will generate the message: “Timed assessment: You have 5 minutes to complete this assessment.” You will also receive a 1 minute warning. When you see this, be sure to save again!
  6. If your instructor has selected “auto-submit,” your quiz will close as soon as all time elapses whether you have click “Submit” or not; if your instructor has not selected “auto-submit” you will be allowed to continue with the quiz, but it will be marked late and will need to be evaluated by your instructor before a grade will be generated.
  7. If “feedback” has been enabled, you will see your results immediately (unless you have exceeded the time limit; in this case, instructor evaluation is required before the grade is generated). Some instructors only allow you to received your grade as feedback, but some will show some or all of the following: wrong answers, correct answers, and/or specific feedback or comments appropriate to either incorrect or correct answers.
What are the best practices for submitting digital assignments? (Or, how do I ensure my instructor will receive my file!)

Save Your Work in a Format Others Will be Able to Read

Recommended file types for submitting a digital file:

  1. MS Word (.doc): Although we do not ask that students purchase Microsoft Office, the .doc file type that is created when Word documents are saved is accessible by most faculty members.
  2. PDF (.pdf): If you have a tool that lets you create PDFs, this is a pretty universal file type that can be opened by both Windows and Mac users.
  3. Rich Text Format (.rtf): This is a universal file type that most users will be able to access, but may not support all types of formatting.

Following Proper File Naming Procedures

Blackboard will not display files with names longer than thirty (30) characters. Also, remember that Blackboard is a web environment and may not work well if you allow “blank spaces” in the file name. Keeping this in mind, follow these guidelines for naming files:

  1. Make sure your file name doesn’t include blank spaces.
  2. If you need a separating character in your file name, replace the blank spaces with a dash ( – ) or an underscore ( _ ). For example: john_smith-assignment_1
  3. Do not use “special characters” such as / * & ^ % $ # @ ! in your file name.
How do I send an attachment in the discussion?

Some (but not all) faculty will allow attachments to be incorporated into a discussion. If your discussion permits attachments, you will see an areas called “Attachments” below the main text editor box (see image below).


Click on the “Browse My Computer” button, locate the file on your drive, and click to open. When the file is opened, you’ll see it appear in the attachment section along with a box in which you can rename the file (see image below). Some faculty are very specific about what a file should be named, so be sure to follow the instructions of your instructor.


This is a good technique to learn as it is the same technique that you will use if an instructor asks you to digitally submit an assignment. This may be done as a Turnitin assignment (the Turnitin program checks your work for plagiarism) or as a regular digital assignment submission. Click for more information about submitting assignments.

How do I participate in a blog?

Accessing a Blog

When beginning a course, some instructors will place a specific “Blog” button or link on the main course menu; if so, simply click this button or link to access the blog area. If your instructor has not created a specific menu button or link, click on the “Tools” button or link and then browse for and click on “Blogs” to enter the blog area.

Blog Formats

There are two blog formats: individual blogs and course blogs. Individual blogs are grouped according to each individual student and course blogs are all presented on one main page. Some instructors will not require students to initiate their own blogs, but will instead set up blog topics that students will comment on and/or discuss.

Participating with Blogs

If your instructor wants students to initiate blog entries, he or she will have created the blog area as either a course blog or an individual blog and your blog posts will be categorized accordingly. To begin posting look for the “Create Blog Entry” button near the top of the page to begin posting (see image below).

On the screen that opens you will be able to type your post in the text editor box and/or attach documents (if your instructor has enabled this option). When your post is complete, click submit.

You will also have the ability to comment on blog entries posted by your classmates and/or your instructor. To comment, click on the “comment” button (see image below) and type your comment in the text editor box that opens. All comments will appear ‘in line,’ as opposed to threaded, so if you are commenting on a previous comment, be sure to indicate who you are responding to or specify the topic on which you are commenting.

Some instructors initiate all blog topics and don’t expect students to begin their own blogs. In this case, students are simply expected to comment on the existing blogs, as described in the paragraph above.


Helpful Blog Posting Hint

If your response is lengthy, it is a good practice to type your post in a word processing program first and to then cut and paste the response into Blackboard. Since Blackboard does not have autosave features, any disruption while typing a response will result in your reply being irrecoverably lost.

How do I participate on a discussion board?

Accessing a Discussion Board

When beginning a course, some instructors will place a specific “Discussion Board” button or link on the main course menu; if so, simply click this button to access the discussion board area. If your instructor has not created a specific menu button, click on the “Tools” button or link and then browse for and click on “Discussion Board” to enter the discussion board area.

Participating on a Discussion Board

If your instructor is using discussion boards, he or she will have already created a forum for discussion; most instructors choose to create a new forum for each individual discussion, week, or module (depending on course format), so be sure you are posting in the correct area.

When creating the forum, instructors must indicate whether or not students are allowed to create new forum “threads” – if your instructor allows students to create new threads you can begin posting as soon as a forum is made available (check specific syllabi or course rubrics for discussion requirements); if your instructor does not allow students to create new threads, you must wait until he or she has posted the first thread to be able to participate. In either type of discussion board, you will have the option of responding directly to anyone else within the course who has posted to the discussion by continuing their “thread.”

Helpful Discussion Board Hint

If your response is lengthy, it is a good practice to type your post in a word processing program first and to then cut and paste the response into BlackBoard. Since BlackBoard does not have autosave features, any disruption while typing a response will result in your reply being irrecoverably lost.

How do I log in to Blackboard?

Blackboard is web based. The preferred browser for all operating systems (Windows and Mac) is Mozilla Firefox. As long as you have access to the web and are using Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Chrome, or Internet Explorer (IE 8 or newer) you should be able to use Blackboard from any location.

To access BlackBoard, connect to your internet service provider and launch your browser (if it does not start automatically). Point your browser to:

At the Blackboard Portal page, you must enter your username (NPCUID) and password.


Click “Login” to proceed.

What are the browser and/or operating system requirements for Blackboard?

Click to see a list of supported browsers and operating systems for using Blackboard.

What is my username and password?

Please see the Getting Connected section of the Academic Computing website for more information about your New Paltz Computer User ID (NPCUID) and password.

I’m a student; how can I get help with Blackboard?

Student Blackboard issues are primarily resolved by contacting the Open SUNY Help Desk or accessing the Open SUNY Help Desk knowledge base. For more information about when and how to contact the Open SUNY Help Desk, please see the Resources for Blackboard Help page on the Academic Computing website.

I just registered for a class; when will I see the course in Blackboard?

You will not see your new course in Blackboard until the registration system has synced with the Blackboard database. Depending on the time of day that you register, it is likely that you will not see your course until the next day. If your course has not appeared within 24 hours, please contact Linda Smith ( or Kate Hurd (

What is Blackboard?

Blackboard is course management software that is licensed by SUNY New Paltz. Blackboard allows your professor or instructor to place course materials on the web in a password protected environment. Blackboard is also portal to many different academic communities on campus (departments, academic groups, student associations, etc.).

Every course at New Paltz has a corresponding Blackboard site, but not all instructors choose to use this space. Your instructor will let you know if you will be using any Blackboard features in conjunction with a specific course.

If you’re satisfied with your answers to these questions, you’re likely to do well in an online learning course!

Adapted from

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.