Technical Requirements for this course
Having your own computer is highly recommended! To take full advantage of this class, you should have a recent-vintage computer, with a fast and reliable Internet connection at home (cable or DSL). In a pinch, as a backup plan, you can also do your work for this class in a computer lab or at your local public library, but given the amount of work required for this class, you will probably need to work at home, based on your own schedule (including late nights and weekends) rather than depend upon computer lab availability. You will find it extremely difficult to complete all the work required for this class each week if you are using a computer at your workplace. Using a computer at your workplace is highly discouraged, unless your employer has specifically given you permission to do your course assignments at the workplace.
Fast and reliable Internet connection required. Broadband access (cable modem or DSL) is highly recommended. Yet you can use a phone modem to complete this course. The pages are set up to use thumbnail images in such a way that you should be able to use a phone modem. If you click on these small images, you will be taken to a page that might display a larger image, and the page may take some time to load as a result. You might want to browse the image galleries, or watch QuickTime videos, when you are in a computer lab which offers you a high-speed connection.
Computer security. It is imperative to ensure that your computer remains virus free. If you use Windows, Internet Explorer, Outlook, or Microsoft Word, please keep your system and software patched and up to date. Virus damage and problems arising from poor computer security will not be accepted as a valid excuse for completing assignments after the due dates. Please work ahead to compensate for such contingencies. Here are steps for keeping your Windows or Macintosh computer secure.
Word processing: You do not need to purchase Microsoft Word for this course! Any text editor or word processor will work (I highly recommend Google Docs), because all of your writing will be communicated using email, discussion boards, or the world wide web. There is no Drop Box, nor will I accept Microsoft Word documents that are emailed to me. If you send me a Word document as an email attachment, I will delete it without reading it because of the risk of propagating Word macro viruses.
Printer optional. Some students like to print out the course webpages, either to do the reading offline, or to complete the quizzes with paper-and-pencil before entering the answers at Desire2Learn. You might also want to print pages from the website to make it easier to follow the directions without forgetting a step, to take notes or to change the fonts that are used (make larger, choose different font, etc.). In all cases, this is optional: if you are comfortable reading and working online, and if you do not have trouble following directions, you can treat this as a completely paperless class.
Web browser software: The course website and the Exhibits Online website are compliant with official html standards, and Desire2Learn is mostly compliant, so any recent web browser should work (Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, Opera, etc.). Given its notorious security problems, if you use Internet Explorer, you should make sure that you install all relevant Security Patches and Updates from Microsoft. If you use Internet Explorer, take a look at Firefox or Safari, both of which are faster, more secure, and more feature-rich than Internet Explorer. Safari is four times faster at loading pages than Inernet Explorer and twice as fast as Firefox. Both Safari and Firefox also begin playing QuickTime movies before they download; you will wait a lot longer to watch a movie with Internet Explorer. See more on browsers here.
QuickTime Player for online audio and video. Some of the weekly units include optional audio and/or video. The most common format for these is QuickTime. If you want to take advantage of these media formats, then make sure that you have the free QuickTime Player installed on your computer, and speakers or headphones that you can use to listen. If you have iTunes, then you have QuickTime, and do not need to install it separately. Note: Internet Explorer has trouble loading long QuickTime movies; for a faster and more seamless experience, watch online QuickTime movies with Firefox or Safari.
Web editing software. You are required to create and publish webpages as part of this course, which means you will need software for creating and publishing webpages. However, keep in mind that your web pages will not be graded on their technical sophistication; a simple page can meet all requirements for this course equally well as a professionally designed page. The software you will use is explained along with other web project technical notes here.
iPod or mp3 player (optional). Some of the assignments are available as downloadable audio or video files you can watch or listen to away from the computer with an iPod, iPhone, or mp3 player. You can also burn audio files to a CD with free iTunes software or other CD-burning software. All of these audio files are available as text on web pages, so running out to purchase an iPod is not required for this course! However, if your work schedule and study habits would benefit from being untethered from the computer, then downloading the audio files may be useful to you. For example, you could listen to assigned readings early in the week while doing the dishes, jogging, or driving to work. Then if you miss anything, before taking the quiz it will be easy to review or fill in a necessary detail or two by referring to the text on the web page at a more convenient time. This strategy may be particularly useful to those whose broadband internet access is limited to specific times: download the mp3 while you have broadband, and listen while away from online access.
Important note about Microsoft Word: Microsoft Word is not web editing software. Please do not use Microsoft Word for any aspect of your Wikipedia Editing Project. If you write text in Word and then try to publish it on the Internet, terrible things will happen. Word creates all kinds of "junk" code that will really mess up your pages. If you try to clean up the Microsoft Word junk in your webpages it will be a waste of everybody's time. So if you want to use Microsoft Word as your word processor, that is your choice. But for your Wikipedia Editing Project assignment, do not use Word. When you write the text that you will publish at your website, you need to use Notepad or Google Docs or Composer or some other web-friendly piece of software.
"Perfection of means and confusion of ends characterize our age." Albert Einstein
This course is currently undergoing major reconstruction to bring it into alignment with the new version of the course at Janux