First Steps, SP16

Vital First Steps to Success in Our Spring, 2016 Online Class

Hi, Everyone!

This web page should help you get ready for our online class.

Some of the online documents for our class can be pretty long, so I want to ensure that you know this tidbit about how to search web pages:  For most web browsers like Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Firefox, you can search for a term or string of characters you need by holding down the Control key (on most keyboards, it’s labeled Ctrl), then, while it’s down, tap the “F” (as in “find”) key.  When you do this, look for a search box on your computer’s screen, usually near the very top or the very bottom; then type in what you need and hit Enter.  Example:  You might want to check out the grading information in the Syllabus, so you’d search for “grading” or maybe “grad” or “grades” (no quotation marks), moving through the entire document until you get to the section you want.  Use the up and down arrows that appear next to the search box once at least one instance of the search term has been found.

There is so much to read and do as you get ready for the semester, it can feel overwhelming.  This is partly because we are in an online class, so I’m not there in front of you to provide the information and answer questions as a group.  This page will help you manage the ramp-up.  Some of the information here may repeat what’s available elsewhere, but at this early point, it’s best to ensure that all targets are hit.  The amount of class information you need to read and act upon drops significantly just after the semester is under way.

While it is very important that you read, digest, and understand EVERYTHING in the Syllabus, following is a list of things you should do, in order, to get ready to begin the class.  Please DO NOT assume that just doing these things is enough.  You still need to read, digest, and understand EVERYTHING in the Syllabus.  MOST technical problems students have in online classes happen because the student has not read, understood, and digested everything in the Syllabus!

So here are the critical FIRST steps, in order:

1.  Read and act on the information in the Welcome Letter.  You can find the Welcome Letter by clicking on its link in the link bar at the top of this page.  It’s not just a “Hi, how are ya!” letter:  It has VITAL information for our class, some of which you won’t find anywhere else.

2. Be aware that Major Exams take place on Sunday nights.  If this cannot work with your schedule, do NOT take this class!  You’ll get more detail on this in other online documents like the Welcome Letter and the Syllabus.

3.  Ensure that you are actually enrolled in the class.  You can do this by going online to the LAVC Portal, which is here:  You may have to log in at the very top of the page.  Then click on the big MY CLASSES box.  If you’re not enrolled, take appropriate steps with the Admissions Office to get in officially ASAP.

4.  Get all the materials (available as the textbook bundle, or purchase all its items separately if necessary) ASAP.  This should be available in the LAVC Bookstore several weeks before the semester begins, and available immediately at the publisher’s website.  There’s a link to that in the Welcome Letter.  The bundle is much more than just the book for the class.  The detailed bundle information (particularly its ISBN and how to get it online if you wish) appears in the Welcome Letter.

5.  Ensure you have Excel 2013 (or any version of Microsoft Office 2013 that includes Excel 2013) installed on your computer.  Our class will study Microsoft Excel 2013.  Even though the formal name is Microsoft Excel 2013 it is more just called Excel 2013.

Expect there to be two textbook bundles available, and the difference between them will be that one bundle will include a 180-day version of Microsoft Office 2013 that will include Excel 2013 automatically.  The other bundle won’t include the software, and that would be the one for you if you already own Excel 2013.

If you decide at any time to use the on-campus computers in any of the labs, you will need to show your Student ID card and you’ll need to have your student login.  (This same login is needed to see your grades online.)  Note that you must NOT use on-campus computers for either Major or Minor Exams.  It would be impossible for Major Exams anyway, because Major Exams take place on Sunday nights, and the labs aren’t open Sunday nights.

6.  Ensure that your college records are correct.  I can only assign grades to a student whose name matches exactly the name in the college records.  If you have aliases, nicknames, or perhaps different married and single names, coalesce them and ensure that the LAVC Admissions Office knows who you really are.

7.  Become VERY familiar with Etudes.  This is our main communications system. As of the day the semester begins, our class will NOT be using e-mail; we will be using Etudes instead.  To communicate with me, you will be using Etudes Private Messages (“PMs”).  And you will see lots of extremely important Etudes Announcements will appear throughout the semester.

The Etudes PM area lets you send a Private Message to me or any student in the class.  Names are listed alphabetically once you tell the computer you want to send a message.  You know how to spell my last name, right?

Once the college has placed you in the system (which LAVC does automatically, usually one to two weeks before the semester begins), you will really need to consult Etudes DAILY (that means every day, weekends included).  There’s an Etudes phone app called Etudes In Touch that can help you keep up to date with Announcements.  You still need to check them manually, but you don’t need to be at a computer to do it if you use the app.

Also, after you are established in Etudes, please post an avatar for yourself!  The Resources section in Etudes (look over to the left side of the Etudes screen for navigation) includes two entries related to how to make and upload avatars.  These pictures (or representations of you) will be used in the Discussion and Private Messages section of this website.  Whenever you post a discussion response, or if you send a Private Message (PM), your avatar will accompany it.  You get to the place in Etudes where you upload your avatar by going to discussion and Private Messages, then clicking My Profile (near the top), the scroll down to the bottom.  You can click on this for more information: Etudes.  Don’t forget to come back to this web page to finish reading the First Steps!

8.  Ensure that you have a PC-type computer (not a Mac or an Apple) that has a wired (NOT A WIRELESS) internet connection to use the SAM system.  Do NOT use SAM with a wireless connection!  Again:  Do NOT use an “Apple” or “Mac” computer.  Also, ensure that you have the free Firefox web browser on your computer and use this browser for all of your SAM work.  See for the free download.

9.  Become familiar with SAM.  SAM2013 (sometimes just called “SAM”) is our online testing and training system, so it is absolutely critical that you and your computer are fully ready for it.  Read the document called Your Sam Account now.  Also note that, on the SAM opening screen, there is a box at left called, Welcome to SAM, and it has a button to see SAM Help Videos in that box.  VERY useful!

10.   Establish a Dropbox Account, then Create a Shared Dropbox Folder with Me.
You will be submitting all of your assigned textbook homework by placing it in a SHARED DROPBOX FOLDER online.  Also, you will be able to download all of the required publisher student files from Dropbox.  To do all of this, you must have a free Dropbox account.

Click on the DROPBOX INFORMATION link at the top of this page to learn all about how to manage this.  Even if you already have a Dropbox account, you’ll need to read the whole DROPBOX INFORMATION document.


Once you have completed all of this it’s time to read every word of the Syllabus.  Go through each and every section at least once.  When you go through the Syllabus, please DO NOT SKIP ANY SECTION.  Even though it’s pretty long, you may wish to print it.

Now you’re in a position to confirm that you’re truly ready for the class.  Click on The Readiness Checklist on the first screen to ensure that nothing has fallen through the cracks.  Completing that, you’ll be fully ready to master the class!

Good luck with everything!

. . . Professor Steve

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