Online Tutorial

If you have never taken an online class before, you are probably wondering how online courses compare to traditional courses and how you would perform in such a class. This tutorial is designed to introduce you to some of the fundamental concepts involved in being a successful online student. It will also help you become familiar with Blackboard itself, our learning management system.

As you read through each part of the tutorial, be alert to ways in which you can adjust your approach to studying and learning in order to be successful in the online learning environment.

At the end of this tutorial you should:

  • understand the major differences between online learning and traditional learning environments,
  • know the skills that are important to be successful as an online student,
  • know the technology requirements needed, and
  • understand Blackboard and how it works.

Online Tutorial

Differences in the Online Learning Environment

Online courses have many things in common with traditional classes. Like the classroom, there are still instructors, classmates, course materials and assignments. But the online environment offers more flexibility. However, this also means that it requires more self direction and self discipline on the student’s part. Let's consider what this means for you now.

Online courses are not easier than the traditional classroom. They require time and effort. For every credit, students are expected to have a minimum of 750 minutes of direct instructional time (i.e. time attending class) and a minimum of 1,800 minutes out-of-class work per semester. What does this mean for a standard 3-credit course in a regular 16-week semester? This means you are expected to attend class at least 2.5 hours a week and complete at least 6 hours of out-of-class work per week. These are the minimum expectations and some courses may require additional time due to the subject matter. Therefore, it is recommended that you login to your course every day, and at an absolute minimum of 5 to 6 times a week. If you let too much time go by, you may find yourself unaware of important deadlines or too far behind to catch up.

While online courses offer greater flexibility, they demand personal responsibility from you as the student. To keep up with the course flow, you need to be committed and complete assignments on time. You can do your course work when your schedule allows, but instructors expect your work to be submitted by the deadline set in the course schedule. If deadlines are missed, your work may receive only partial credit or no credit at all depending on course policies regarding late work.

The online learning environment provides opportunities to contribute your ideas, perspectives, and comments on the material you are studying and to share your life, work, and educational experiences. You also have time to ponder your responses and course input, so that you can provide meaningful and quality replies. When your peers and instructor join in this collective effort, a rich, new type of learning occurs. Read other students work when it is submitted to the discussion board. Don't be afraid to interact with other students and share comments about their work. This creates a community where you can all learn together and from each other.
Resolving problems at a distance can pose some challenges. Online students need to be assertive in order to make their needs known. If you're having problems (technical or learning related), your instructor may not know. You have to communicate these problems to the instructor. Don't be afraid to reach out to other students within your course as well. This type of communication generates an additional venue for learning. The bottom line is simple - stay in touch with your instructor, even when things are going great.
Within the virtual environment, most communication is written. It is critical that you feel comfortable expressing yourself in writing. You also need to be comfortable reading the work of other students and responding to them.

Skills Needed in the Online Environment

We have already briefly discussed some of the skills needed in the online environment, such as self-motivation, assertiveness, and good writing skills. Now we will discuss these and some others more in-depth.

University students do not all have the same circumstances and responsibilities that other students have. Some students have to balance their schoolwork with a career and family and this can be challenging. To be successful, these students must be motivated, committed, and organized. They need to make a schedule for accomplishing assignments and tests and follow it. Below are some tips to be successful. Some are obvious, but they are good reminders.

  • Design your strategy for your online course in the same format as a campus course.
  • Pick three 60 minute periods during the week and dedicate them to attendance in your online class.
  • Establish set study times, make them part of a weekly routine.
  • Plan your courses from hardest to least difficult, and plan more time for the difficult courses.
  • Plan a "cooling off" period between virtual classroom work and studying.
  • Review your calendar a week in advance, making any necessary changes.
  • When tests are planned, adapt your schedule for extra study time.
  • Carry study materials with you and use any 'dead time' to study.
  • Build time in your schedule for weekly exercise, date night, or family night. This will force you to walk away from the course work, rejuvenate, and spend quality time with family and friends.
  • Consider your schedule a firm but flexible guide.
A basic level of technical competence is necessary for the online learner. In order to be successful as an online student, you must maintain access to a reliable computer, with Internet access, throughout your course. Some courses also have other requirements, so know what is required before you start. These requirements can be found on the Schedules page.
Online learning is an adventure that will expose you to some entirely new - and not always comfortable - experiences. The ability to be flexible and remain open minded is critical to having a positive experience as you move into this uncharted territory. You need to be an active learner - one who is willing to shape your life and direct your studies. Also being a visual learner, who is able to learn easily from reading and writing, is another plus.

MSU offers a variety of services to students. You can find links on the Students Services web page. Below are also some links to additional resources. These are always available, so feel free to refer back to them.

When in your online courses, be polite and respectful. Even though you cannot physically see your instructor and classmates, you are dealing with a real person. Keep in mind the basic rules of Netiquette. You need to be prepared to work together with other students whether it be reading their work or with group projects. Have fun with your online course, you will get out what you put in to it.

Always keep copies of your homework on your hard drive or USB storage drive. This way if something is missing, you will have a copy of it.

Technology Requirements

Minot State University is not responsible for providing computers, Internet access, or software for students taking online courses. It is your responsibility as an online student to have access to a computer, Internet Service Provider, and the appropriate software (if required) to complete your online course. The minimum technology requirements are listed below.

Some online courses have additional requirements such as software or test proctors. These requirements are listed on the Schedules page prior to each semester.

» Schedules Page: Additional Course Requirements

It is important that you have a computer system that can adequately support your online courses. You will need to have access to a computer system that meets the following minimum technical requirements.  Planned, regular maintenance is also required and part of your ongoing responsibility to maintain access. Some businesses and institutions such as the military or education, do not give users administrative access to computers. You will need administrative access to your computer in order to make sure it is compatible.

  • Internet service provider (ISP) account with a wired connection or a strong wireless connection.
    • Minimum of DSL or cable modem (Students will NOT be able to complete some courses with a slower connection.)
    • You will be able to complete some functions with a wireless connection, but others will require a wired connection. We highly recommend a wired connection for the following functions: using Respondus LockDown Browser, SafeAssign, Collaborate, and YuJa.
  • PC 1.2 Ghz or greater (Intel Pentium or Celeron, or AMD Athlon processors)
    • Important note regarding mobile devices:
      You cannot successfully complete an online course using only an iPad, iPhone, Android device, or tablet even if you are using the mobile app. For example, certain courses contain assignments requiring the recording of presentations that can only be successfully completed with the use of a Windows or Mac OS desktop or laptop. The mobile app is designed for the convenience of receiving course announcements, sending and receiving course messages, and viewing grades. You will NOT be able to complete an entire course using only the Blackboard mobile app.
  • Operating Systems
    • Windows 8 or 10
    • Mac OS 10.8 or higher
  • Chromebooks are not supported.
  • 512 MB RAM or greater (1 GB recommended)
  • 8 GB hard drive or larger
  • 800 x 600 or greater video resolution and 256-color

Automatic Updates need to be set to check for updates but let you choose whether to download and install them. Before installing any browsers or service packs, make sure they are compatible with Blackboard.

We recommend that you have at least two browsers downloaded. If you have problems with one, you can use the other to see if the problem is related to your browser or browser version.

  • A current version of Chrome, Firefox, or Safari
  • Microsoft Edge 2020 version can be used, but older versions cannot be used.
  • Do NOT use Internet Explorer

For all browsers Cookies and Pop-up windows must be enabled.

  • Adobe Reader
  • Minot State email address (free of charge)
  • A current anti-virus application (Norton is not recommended at this time.)
  • A malicious software detection tool that can be run weekly.
  • Sound card with speakers (A headset with microphone is required for some classes.)
  • Office 365 with Word and PowerPoint is available for currently enrolled students.
  • Windows Media Player and other plugins are available by free download under Plug-Ins below
  • Respondus Lockdown Browser (available as a free download inside courses that require it)
  • External storage such as a USB Flash Drive, external hard drive, or cloud storage to backup coursework. While technology is marvelous, it is far from perfect. Even though it is rare, technology does fail at times and your coursework could be lost. You will want to have backup copies of each assignment and paper you submit. So from the beginning, create and save copies of your work. You won't regret it.

Some online courses require specific software to access course content or complete the coursework. Some are available as a free download if you follow the instructions. The schedules page will tell you what software is needed for each course. You can wait to download the plug-ins because not all are required for every course. Downloading only the required plug-ins will save space on your hard drive.

» Download Plug-Ins

Online students are required to have virus software and to keep it current. Computer viruses are major problems to the online experience. Their effects range from inconvenient to catastrophic. In an online learning environment, where file attachments are often shared, viruses have a good opportunity to proliferate. At MSU it is our policy to take every precaution to guard against viruses.

You can take steps to minimize your chances of infections by being careful of what you download, open only attachments you know are safe, keep your anti-virus program updated, install all updates, and install a spyware program and run it on a weekly basis (i.e. Ad-Aware). The Federal Trade Commission website has some tips to help protect your computer from all types of malware.

A list of low-cost or free antivirus and malware options is available on the MSU IT Central Software Downloads page.

Blackboard Tutorial

Blackboard is the learning management system (LMS) we use to deliver our online courses at MSU. As a student, it will be helpful for you to be familiar with its look and feel and know about its features before your classes start. We have provided access to a Blackboard tutorial course for this purpose. Use the instructions below to login to the course.

At this time, the Blackboard Tutorial is only open to current Minot State students.

If you are not currently enrolled at Minot State and would like to complete the Blackboard Tutorial, please send an email to

  1. Go to the Minot State Homepage
  2. From the Students menu, click on Blackboard Login
  3. Click on My Bb Login (If you are already signed in to your Microsoft 365 account, you will automatically be signed in.)
  4. If you are an MSU student, enter the following User ID and Password:
    • User ID: Your NDUS User ID is your firstname.lastname or some variation of it (i.e. john.smith, john.m.smith, etc.). This is assigned by the NDUS when you Claim Your Account. It is the same NDUS User ID that you use to login to Campus Connection.
      How to lookup your NDUS User ID
    • Password: Your password is the same as your password for CampusConnection
    • If you are not an MSU student, please email to request access.
  5. If you are a currently enrolled student, your page should open to the Minot State Institution Page. In the Helpful Links section, click on The Beaver Dam - Campus News & Info.
  6. The Blackboard Tutorial is available in the menu on the left under Full Tutorial for Online Courses.

Congratulations! You have completed the Minot State Online Tutorial.