Technology Requirements & Support

The following information is about LAU technology systems and requirements. Some questions and answers for specific problems are included.

Tips for Parents

  • We recommend that parents regularly communicate with students about internet safety, and set rules about the types of websites and content students are allowed to view; just installing a filter is generally not sufficient, since all filters are imperfect; the goal should be for students to learn to self-govern online, because parents cannot always control access
  • Computers provided by LAU will come with filtering software pre-installed. Please note that no filtering software is 100% effective
  • Google’s SafeSearch and many other services offer search options that remove (most) adult content
  • Communicate with your students about the amount of time and the range of activities your students do online. In general, students should not surf the web or use social media during class or homework hours

Here are a few free resources:

We use:

  • Personal computer and software––needed by each student
  • Student Information Services (SIS)––the online system parents use to create an account with us, register for courses, view snapshots of their student’s academic progress, and access transcripts and grades for completed courses. Parents create their own SIS accounts first (both parents must create an account), then add students individually
  • Canvas––our learning management system (LMS). It’s where students will receive and submit assignments, complete some of their studies, collaborate with classmates, and access their course syllabi and assignments
  • Zoom––our online classroom
  • This website

To thrive in the online learning environment at LAU, students need a reliable internet connection (at least 4 MBPS download speed), a newer computer with a webcam, a headset, office software, and a quiet, distraction-free location for classes and study.

Computer

  • Each student should have access to a computer for several hours each day, depending on the course load. We recommend that students taking 4 or more courses have their own computer (not shared with another student), to avoid scheduling conflicts with live class sessions
  • Any mid-level quality Windows 7 or Windows 8 laptop or desktop computer that is 3 years old or newer should work well. Older computers will probably work but tend to be glitchy and slow. Depending on the quality of your older computer, it may be sufficient. If you have an older computer you think may be sufficient, see below for instructions on testing it with Zoom to see if does the job
  • Any Mac laptop or desktop that is 4 years old or newer should work well
  • Beginning Fall 2019, you may use a Chromebook (small laptops running the Google Chrome operating system)! We are transitioning to using Zoom for all live classes. This will give students the option to take classes on a Chromebook or even their phones or tablets. Check Zoom system requirements here.
  • We have seen some students running 3-year-old, low-end Windows 7 laptops (the ones that sell for $200-300), but they really struggle to handle the computing requirements of the online classroom environment and are generally slow and a source of frustration. Although low-end PC models are adequate, you will likely experience decreased, unsatisfactory performance after a year. We suggest that a mid-level computer will last longer, and cost less in the long run (for example, any machine with at least an Intel i3-level processor)

Software

  • Students submit most assignments in Microsoft Word or OpenOffice formats which are necessary to make use of Canvas’s grading and markup interface. As such, an office productivity suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations) like Microsoft Office or Apple iWork is required for many classes. OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice.org offer free alternatives. Google Docs can also be used if the student knows how to download the file as an MS Office DOCX file which can then be uploaded into Canvas
  • Keep your computer updated with recent security and operating system patches, anti-virus (for PC users), etc. Mac users, if you’re having trouble with Java, see the section on this page called “Mac Users––Help with Collaborate”
  • Your browser is your gateway to the Internet. We recommend Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. We do NOT recommend using Internet Explorer or Edge.
  • Ensure that automatic updates are enabled on your operating system, browser(s), and anti-virus software.

Tablets

  • Tablets, like the iPad and Kindle, are currently most helpful for reading and taking notes, doing research, and emailing. A tablet alone––with no computer––is not sufficient for students in our program.  Tablets work fairly well with Canvas, our learning management system, but a desktop or laptop is much faster for navigating and submitting assignments. They work marginally well for Student Information Services (SIS)––again, a laptop or desktop will be faster

Mic or Headset

  • Many computers have a built-in microphone that will work well. However, some built-in microphones do not allow the student to be heard very clearly. If you do not have a quality built-in mic, you should purchase a headset. Most current headsets have echo-canceling built in, and this is an essential feature. We recommend a headset that actually connects to the computer via a wire, i.e. not a Bluetooth (wireless) headset. A quality headset can be purchased for less than $20.

Setting/location

  • A quiet place. This is very important. The computer needs to be located in a quiet place, free from visual distractions and ambient noise, since the student will be interacting live via microphone and webcam with mentors and students.

You can join a test Zoom meeting to familiarize yourself with the Zoom and test your microphone/speakers before joining a Zoom meeting. Follow the instructions here to learn more and join a test meeting.

What is Zoom Like?

Some cool stuff about Zoom:

  • Everyone in the class can be on webcam at once! Students are expected to be on webcam the whole class.
  • It’s easy to launch (no Java downloads and configuration hassles)
  • Webcam is high definition

Can I get a free Zoom room for study groups and other online meetings?

Yes. Right now, go to www.Zoom.us and sign up for a free account.

Signing up for a free Zoom room is a good idea for two reasons:

  1. You now have a study group room! It can have up to 25 people on webcam and can have sessions that last up to 40 minutes
  2. Once the Zoom software is installed on your computer, it’ll be super easy for you to get into class

Canvas
Canvas is our learning management system (LMS). It’s where students will receive and submit assignments, complete some of their studies, collaborate with classmates, and access their course syllabi and assignments.

  • Students: If you have questions about an assignment or course in Canvas, message your mentor within Canvas. If you are having trouble with Canvas itself, click “Help” in the upper right corner of your screen while logged into your Canvas account. If you are having trouble accessing your Canvas account, email support@williamsburglearning.com
  • Parents: Parents can view student progress and pacing in SIS under My Students or they can sign up for a Canvas parent “observer” account by clicking on “Parent of a Canvas User” on the Canvas login page.

SIS
Student Information Services (SIS) is the online system parents use to create an account with us, register for courses, view snapshots of their student’s academic progress, and access grades and pacing information for active courses. Parents create their own SIS accounts first, then add students individually. Both parents must create an SIS account.

  • Students: Students typically use SIS to contact administrative staff members (technical support, registrar, etc. ). If you have an issue with SIS, email support@williamsburglearning.com. You can also use SIS messaging to communicate with LAU staff, although most student communication with mentors takes place in Canvas
  • Parents: SIS is your primary tool at LAU. Use SIS to register for courses, handle finances, view student progress, and message faculty and staff. If you have an issue with SIS, email support@williamsburglearning.com. Or call us 800-200-6869 x 103 (9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Mountain)

Grades 9–12
High school students should have a rudimentary understanding of computers, how to use a browser, how to email, etc. Students are highly encouraged to take our Educational Technology class the summer semester before or the fall semester of their freshman year. Students should know proper typing technique and be able to type over 30 words per minute so that they can work efficiently. Those lacking these skills should take the Typing and Tech Course or another form of instruction in typing technique.

Grades 6–8
Junior high students may require technical assistance from a parent during their first weeks at LAU, especially if this is their first time using a headset, Internet browser, site logins, uploading files, receiving email on a near-daily basis, etc. We recommend students take our Typing and Tech Course if they have not yet learned that skill.