By Jerry Pearson
Center for Creative Instruction & Technology
Delaware Technical Community College
I am sure there have been many times you have felt frustrated with how your Learning Management System (LMS) works or fails to work in your web browser. Some of the fault may lie with your LMS system but usually it comes down to how the LMS and the web browser you are using interact. Other faults will duly rest within the confines of your very own computer or how you deploy the various content within your LMS. Within this article I hope to give you a few tips on how to make the learning experience through your LMS as smooth as possible for you and—more importantly—for your students.
First, let’s cover a few basic guidelines for deploying multimedia content within your course. If you are deploying videos that are available on a web page, the best method is to link to it and make sure it opens in a new page. I strongly advise against embedding videos into your LMS, as doing so will significantly increase the chance that your students will experience technical difficulties. Secondly, the preferred format for videos is MP4. This format will be most accessible to most of your audience.
Another guideline that will save you heartaches is to set all your links to open in a new page or tab. This will ensure that your students can easily navigate back to your course by simply clicking on the appropriate tab or window, rather than trying to navigate back through a series of pages they may have clicked on. The same guideline applies to files (documents, powerpoints, pdfs, etc.) that you have uploaded to your course. The reason for this is to avoid plug-in issues that arise from time to time because most Learning Management Systems use frames to display their content. The same guideline applies to virtually any time you use technology not directly accessible through your LMS. Sometimes, you may even give additional instruction for your students to download the video or document to their computer to open if they are experiencing any problems opening it.
Next, let’s talk about your computer. Many Learning Management Systems have minimal technology requirements. Currently, if you use anything less than Windows Vista Service Pac 2, you are not supported on a Windows PC. If you are on a MAC, you need to have at least MAC OS 10.6. And how about the support software you have installed on your computer? These include the Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash, Apple Quick Time, Windows Media Player, and JAVA. Do you have them installed and are they up to date? Are you giving your students MS PowerPoint or MS Word documents thinking they have the software installed? You may want to consider converting them to Adobe Acrobat so the students can open them with the free Adobe Acrobat reader. Lucky for us many of these support software can be downloaded for free including MS Word and MS PowerPoint viewers. (Click here for links to free software: http://ccit.dtcc.edu/students/download-center)
Then there are the issues regarding your browser settings. These include items such as your computer operating system, the version of your browser itself, Java Script, cookies, popups, Adobe Flash and Reader, Apple Quick Time, Real Player, and the Windows Media Player. That is a lot to keep up with and many of us just don’t have the time. Lucky for us, many colleges and LMSs provide links to check a lot of these issue and more. These links will commonly be called “Browser Requirements Check” or “Browser and Plug-in Check.” Many colleges and LMSs also provide a page showing all of the minimum requirements to help faculty and students resolve any issues they may have. Delaware Tech has a page that outlines the minimal technology requirements for your computer and browser, which also provides links to check your browser to see if it meets the minimal requirements. It can be found at http://ccit.dtcc.edu/students/tech-requirements.
Finally, sometimes your browser is just plain acting up, and nothing you do seems to work. In that case you have four options. The first option is to open another browser to see if that works. If it does, it just may be that your favorite browser is having issues with the specific technology at this time. It’s always good to have more than one browser installed on your computer. Your next option is to perform a browser reset. If that fails to work, you can also de-install the browser program and re-install it. If all of that fails you can call support, but your best defense to a smooth web experience is always to keep your computer, software, and browsers up to date. So make sure to use the links provided above and don’t forget to let your students in on the secret too.