Setting up to use the course materials

  Welcome to the OS411 series! This page is designed to provide you with some basic information that hopefully will make your experience more enjoyable and productive. We encourage you to carefully read all of the information on this page before you begin the courses.
Table of contents for setup page

  1. Operating systems and platforms
  2. Web browsers
  3. Web browser plugins
  4. Connectivity
  5. Course structure
  6. Windows
  7. Self-assessment activities
  8. Registration and Continuing Education (CEU) and Professional Developement Hour (PDH) Credit

Operating systems and platforms

The course materials are accessible on any "platform", including Windows 95/98/2000/NT, Macintosh using at least MacOS 8.5, and Unix/Linux machines. Due to the types of interactive tools that we have included in the courses, older machines will not work.
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Web browsers

The materials are designed to be cross-browser, but we strongly recommend the use of Internet Explorer (IE) for these courses. Some of the Java applets (which we use for many of the interactive models and calculators) work better in Internet Explorer than in Netscape. Some of the navigation windows, particularly the course contents windows, also work better in IE. If you use Netscape, you should know that the scrollbar up/down arrows sometimes do not work, but the drag box in the scrollbar does work.

Your browser version should be at least 4.0 for both IE and Netscape. We encourage you to use the highest version browser available. Most of the Java applets use Java 1.0, so IE 4.0 and Netscape 4.5 should be fine. Please let us know if you have browser problems that we should know about.

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Web browser plug-ins

We use a number of "plug-ins" for this course. A plug-in is an application that is installed into your favorite Web browser (IE or Netscape). The plug-in provides extra capabilities that are not available in "standard" versions of the browser. For example, the Chime plug-in allows you to display and rotate molecules in a Web browser window. To install this plug-in, download the plug-in, exit from your web browser, run the "Install" program, then re-start your browser. Once you have completed an install, your web browser is "enhanced" and ready to handle these special features. For each of the plug-ins listed below, installation instructions can be found at the download site.

  1. Livemath computer algebra system
  2. Chime, a plugin for viewing molecular models. We have also created a one-page quick guide to Chime for your use.
  3. RealPlayer or Quicktime
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Most of the material in these courses is accessible via dial-up modem or through a direct network connection (ISDN, DSL, T1, etc.). Most of the materials in this course are graphics-intensive, and there are a number of Javascript and Java interactive activities embedded in the course materials. For that reason, we suggest that you use a reasonably high-speed modem, such as a 56K modem. Use of a slower modem will probably result in a frustrating experience! We would appreciate your feedback advising us of your experiences in terms of loading times for the various pages and activities. We'll do our best to make adjustments to reduce loading times.
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Course structure

Each of the six courses uses the same design, or structure. Each course is made of three to nine modules, each module containing two to seven units. The generic structure is shown below:

  1. Course description
  2. Module
    1. Module description and pre-test: a short description of the course material is provided here. In addition, a short five-question, multiple-choice pre-test is provided as a way for students to assess whether or not they already know the material in this module.
    2. Unit
      1. Unit description and pre-test: a short description of the material is presented. As with the module pre-test, a five-question pre-test is provided for student self-assessment.
      2. Unit readings: each unit has up to nine pages of readings. Most of the readings are short, one- or two-pages in length, and can be completed in one sitting. Each unit has a one question, multiple-choice "quick quiz" at the end to assess your understanding of the reading.
      3. Unit review and post-test: a short review of the topics presented in the unit is provided, followed by a five-question, multiple-choice "pop-up" post-test.
    3. Module review and post-test: again, a brief review is posted, followed by a 20-question, multiple-choice pop-up post-test. Once you have completed the post-test, a grade and presentation of incorrect answers is provided.

Once the course has been completed, students taking the course for continuing education unit (CEU) or professional development hours (PDH) credit can request a course exam, done offline with a proctor.

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The course materials make use of a multiple "window" design structure. This means that the user, at any given time, may have one, two, or multiple windows open on the screen, each of varying size. For example, it would be typical to have three windows open at any given time: a small window on the left-hand side of the screen, showing a table of contents for the current course; the "main" window, containing the current reading; and a "pop-up" window, containing an interactive tool (animation, calculator, computer model, etc.). Some users may wish to have the glossary window open at all times, others may not.

Developing an ability to move, close, minimize (hide), and otherwise maintain control of windows on the screen is an important skill needed by participants taking any of these courses. Participants with larger monitors will have an easier time of this; students with small monitors will probably need to pay more attention to the managing windows task (sizing, moving, etc.). We have endeavored to "size" windows automatically to fit most standard monitors. We would appreciate your feedback advising us of problems that you have with window sizes.

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Self-assessment activities

As described in the paragraph on Course Navigation, there are a number of self-assessment activities built into the modules and units. All of these consist of "pop-up", multiple-choice activities. Follow the instructions on the page to start the "quizzes". Once you have completed the activity, a pop-up window will provide you with your percentage and letter grade, and a brief evaluation of correct and incorrect answers. We recommend that you not move on to the next unit or module until you have carefully review those concepts that you missed in the self-assessment activity. Results from these quizzes are not saved or sent to any instructor. They are provided for you to use as you see fit! We encourage you to be honest with yourself when using these self-assessment activities!
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