Technology Requirements & Support

The following information is about LAU technology systems and requirements. Some questions and answers for specific problems are included. At the end of the page, we offer some suggestions about safe internet viewing.

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
  • Blackboard Collaborate Web Conferencing––live online classroom
  • Zoom––our backup online classroom (and where some mentors hold office hours and certain class sessions)
  • Our websites, williamsburgacademy.org and williamsburgintermediate.org

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. See below for instructions on testing your computer with Blackboard Collaborate, to see how it works
  • Any Mac laptop or desktop that is 4 years old or newer should work well
  • Chromebooks (small laptops running the Google Chrome operating system) will not work with Blackboard Collaborate, our live online classroom environment, or Rosetta Stone, our second language learning program.
  • 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

  • An office productivity suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations) like Microsoft Office or Apple iWork, is required. OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice.org offer excellent alternatives, and best of all, they are free. Students submit most assignments in Word or OpenOffice formats; students using iWork or LibreOffice will learn to save their documents in Word or OpenOffice formats before submitting. Google Docs are also useful, but are not sufficient alone, because students need to upload documents in 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 do not work with Blackboard Collaborate, the software we use for live class sessions. They 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.

We use Blackboard Collaborate Web Conferencing for our live class sessions; it is the most widely-used solution for live online learning. Collaborate is generally stable and works well for both PC and Mac users. It’s a good idea to setup and test Collaborate on your computer before you try to join an online session.

  1. Click here and follow the instructions for First Time Users to see if your operating system is supported.
  2. Proceed to Step 2 and click on the “v12.6 Configuration Room (US-SAS)” link to load a test Blackboard classroom.  You will be prompted to download and install the “Blackboard Collaborate Launcher”, an app that greatly simplifies the Java-dependent requirements of the software.
  3. Once connected to the test Configuration Room, follow the on-screen instructions to run the Audio Setup Wizard to test your microphone and speakers. If in the future you ever have trouble with your audio, run the Audio Setup Wizard again.  You will not be able to use the “Talk” or “Video” buttons in the test room. That’s ok.
  4. If you still have trouble, try the troubleshooting steps below. If they don’t help chat or call Blackboard Technical Support before you contact us since they are more familiar issues related to their products.

If your problem is that you keep getting bumped out of the online classroom, skip to #4 below. If your problem is that you can’t enter the online classroom, begin with #1 below and work down the list.

  1. First, try switching web browsers. Safari, Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer all work, but be sure you’re using the latest versions. We recommend Chrome or Firefox.
  2. If you’re using Windows and you see the “Meeting (X).jnlp” or “Meeting (X).collab” file, but it doesn’t open properly, try the troubleshooting steps in this video.
  3. If that doesn’t work, you may need to update your Java. Go HERE and click on the “system requirements” link and follow the on-screen instructions to see if Java is up-to-date.
  4. If none of these steps work, chat or call Blackboard Technical Support. All our users have access to support. Work with them until you’re able to log in successfully.
  5. If you still have problems after contacting Collaborate Support, please contact Williamsburg. Email support@williamsburglearning.com (this is the best way to reach our support quickly). Or call us 800-200-6869 x 103 (9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Mountain).

For Macs with OS X 10.8.3 or older, Blackboard will require Java to work. For Macs with OS X 10.8.4 or newer, Blackboard has created a “Launcher” utility that includes Java and simplifies the process.

  • If you have OS X 10.8.4 or newer, here’s a video that shows how to download and use the Launcher
  • If you have OS X 10.8.3 or older, click here to make sure you have the latest version of Java
  • If you’re still having issues, call or email us!

On rare occasions the Collaborate classroom goes down due to Internet issues or other issues on Collaborate’s end. There’s nothing we can do to fix this when it happens. So we have a good backup online classroom called Zoom.

So, what do I do when I’m having trouble getting into the Blackboard classroom? 

First, check your Canvas messages for an email from your mentor. If Collaborate is down your mentor will sen a last-minute email saying, “Hey, Blackboard just went down. Today’s class will be in Zoom.”

On the homepage of each course, beneath the Blackboard Collaborate links, you’ll see a link to the Zoom backup classroom. If Collaborate seems to be down, you can also just log into the Zoom room and see if class is happening there.

What is Zoom like?

Zoom does not offer breakout rooms, moderator/participant privileges, whiteboards, polls, or hand-raising. However, you can still share your PowerPoint presentations by using “Share Screen” and students can use the chat box to share comments, etc.

Some cool stuff about Zoom:

  • 25 people can be on webcam at once!
  • It’s much easier 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 the backup Zoom classroom when Collaborate goes down.

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@lanv.org
  • Parents: By default parents do not have their own Canvas accounts. Parents can view student progress and pacing in SIS under My Students. They can also login to their student’s Canvas account (student should share password with parents)

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. Pacific)

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 Intermediate Typing 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 Course if they have not yet learned that skill.