|Student Handbook for online classes at SRJC using the CATE system||CATE Handbook More Info for Students Distance Ed Home SRJC|
Chapter 1: Hardware and operating system
This chapter of the Student Handbook describes the basic hardware components and operating system elements with which you should already be thoroughly familiar before taking an online class. If you're uncertain about your knowledge concerning any of these topics, you should take an appropriate face-to-face class before attempting to take any online course.
Topics on this page
A. The computer
In order to take an online class, you'll need your own computer or reliable access to a computer. It doesn't matter who built the machine: Dell, Lenovo, Gateway, Compaq, Apple, Power Computing, Joe's Black Boxes, or any other computer manufacturer, as long as it can run the kinds of software required to function on the Web. Similarly, whether you choose to use a desktop machine or a notebook (laptop) is entirely up to you.
You ought to recognize all the components of your computer system (monitor, CPU, keyboard, mouse, modem, etc), and know how to turn your system on and off.
You should understand the basic units of measurements in computers (such as bytes, kilobytes, megabytes, etc) and you should know how to check your system's processor speed and memory as well as its hard disk capacity.
In all situations, whenever you're using your computer you should feel comfortable enough not to panic when something goes wrong, but to calmly assess what has happened, what might have caused it, and how it might be remedied.
You don't need to be able to type a million words a minute, but you need to be comfortable with using your keyboard.
The Internet is very much a GUI (Graphical User Interface) environment, so you'll need to know how to point, click, double-click, and drag with your mouse (or trackpad, trackball, etc).
At a bare minimum your computer will have an internal hard disk. You might also have/need/want a floppy drive, CD/DVD drive, zip drive, and/or portable flash memory device. You should be able to insert and eject all those various kinds of removable media and know how to locate and use files stored on those kinds of media.
Even online classes are not entirely paperless, and you'll probably have occasion to print hard copies of various documents. To do so, you'll need to have a suitable printer connected to your system and you'll need to know how to use it. (Most SRJC computer labs will NOT permit you to print webpages.)
Depending on how your computer is connected to the Internet, you'll probably have an internal dial-up modem or else an external DSL modem or cable modem. For external modems, you should be able to identify the hardware, understand the meaning of any LED indicators, and know how to turn the modem on and off if needed.
If your machine does not have built-in sound output, then you'll probably want to install a soundcard and connect a pair of speakers so you can hear audio files. (Nowadays, almost every computer already has these capabilities.) For a few online courses, the ability to listen to audio files and/or view online video files is a requirement. Check your class homepage for specific details.
On your machine there must be an OS (operating system). Again, you have a choice. You can use anything from Windows 3.1 onward: Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT, Windows Me, Windows XP, etc. Likewise, you can use any Macintosh OS, UNIX, etc. Most commonly you'll be using the Windows or Mac OS, butas with hardwareyou can use any OS that supports the kinds of software required to function on the Web. Whatever you use, you need know the name of the operating system and the version.
Note that modern operating systems almost always offer free, automatic patches and updates via the Internet. These often comprise critical security fixes that must be applied to keep your computer free of harmful viruses, adware, spyware, etc, so you'll need to be thoroughly attuned to that process.
File management involves a variety of skills such as downloading files from the Internet, installing applications, upgrading applications, creating folders, naming, renaming, and moving folders and files, organizing folders and files, locating folders and files, copying files, moving files to the recycle bin (trash), recovering files from the recycle bin, emptying the recycle bin, etc.
You need to be thoroughly conversant with all those skills, plus you need to understand and implement a strategy to make backups of all your important files and keep the backups current.
Unless you're stuck in a command-line time warp, you'll need to be able to use your operating system to control windows (not just in Microsoft Windows, but in every GUI OS, including the Apple Macintosh). That means opening windows, scrolling windows, minimizing windows, maximizing windows, using multiple windows, arranging windows, closing windows, etc.
Whether it's to log into your computer, log into your class account, or log into pages elsewhere on the Web, you will need usernames and passwords, and you'll probably need an assortment of them. You'll need to know the importance of remembering your username and password and of saving them in a safe and secure place. You will also need to understand the distinction between uppercase and lowercase letters and how the "caps lock" key can interfere with password entry. That's especially true when you have multiple username/passwords for multiple computers, multiple accounts, multiple classes, etc.
Understanding your computer (PDF file) Penn State
Family Internet Computing help for families
Take the self-assessment quiz to ensure you're comfortable with all the concepts and skills in this chapter. The quiz will open in a new browser window, and after submitting the quiz you'll immediately see your score.
Practice exercise: Identify the location of the computer you'll be using for your online class and identify its operating system.
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