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Proficiencies & Tools for Online Students

Basic Technological Proficiencies Expected of Online Learners

To succeed in an online learning environment, students must be able to perform basic computing tasks, such as file management and software installation, and must be comfortable with critical Internet skills such as using an e-mail client and navigating the Web.

Students who are not confident in their technological preparation are strongly encouraged to take required online core class LIS 60003 Information Technology for LIS Professionals in the first semester of their M.L.I.S. program.

The following list details essential proficiencies that SLIS faculty expect students to have before taking online courses.

Computer Literacy Skills
  • Familiarity with basic word processing: creating, editing, saving a document. Should have access to and some knowledge of Microsoft Word (.doc) and Adobe (.pdf);
  • Ability to install and uninstall software programs;
  • Understanding of the concept and basic functions of an operating system;
  • Ability to save work to various file formats, find files, create directories, run/execute programs;
  • Ability to upload and download software and files;
  • Understanding of how to extract and create compressed (.zip) files;
  • Ability to create and upload audio and video files.
Internet Skills
  • A working knowledge of the World Wide Web and its functions, including the use of a Web browser, site navigation and search;
  • Familiarity with e-mail functions, including the ability to send and receive file attachments and the use of e-mail lists;
  • Familiarity with various asynchronous communication tools (e.g., blogs, threaded discussion boards/forums);
  • Familiarity with social media technologies;
  • Familiarity with interactive electronic discussion systems;
  • Familiarity with video conferencing and VoIP (voice over internet protocol) tools;
  • Experience using streaming media players.

Technology Requirements

The following list details hardware, software and Internet connectivity specifications required for online learning in the SLIS M.L.I.S. program. Instructors expect students enrolled in online courses to meet these minimum requirements and other requirements as detailed in course syllabi. Faculty will not make accommodations for students who cannot complete work in a timely manner because they lack required technology.


Students should own or have access to a computer with a broadband (high speed) Internet connection and sufficient processing power to view streamed audiovisual and multimedia content. Essential course content, such as lectures, may be delivered in the form of audio or video clips.

Students should also consider equipping their computer with a microphone and/or video camera as some courses may require students to participate in real-time virtual meetings or record audio and/or video content as part of virtual presentations. (Instructors will indicate this requirement on syllabi where applicable.)

Some courses will require students to download and install software on their local machines for use in class activities. If you are relying on a computer that you do not own and on which you cannot install software (e.g., a work computer or a computer at the public library), your ability to take some online courses may be limited.

Operating System

SLIS does not require a particular operating system and strives to make all course content accessible, no matter what OS is used. The Blackboard course management system, as well as other learning tools employed by SLIS instructors, will function on PCs, Macs, and Linux machines.


Students should have the following software installed on their computer:
  • A Web browser equipped with plug-ins that allow display of PDFs and Windows Media/Flash/QuickTime video (e.g., Windows Explorer, Firefox or Safari);
  • Personal productivity software, including word processing, presentation, spreadsheet and database programs (such as the Microsoft Office suite);
  • The VPN client program provided by Kent State, which will allow students to have remote access to library resources such as research databases; it is available for download here:
Your instructor will specify any other software required for a course prior to the first week of the term, with instructions for how to obtain and install these additional programs; tutorials to help students become familiar with course software will be suggested where needed.

Please note that some software may only be supported by certain operating systems, so students need to refer to course-specific requirements before taking a class.

Online Learning Tools

Important Disclaimer

While this document aims to give students a basic orientation to the technology used in SLIS online learning environments, instructors reserve the right to use other tools or deliver material in other formats.  Please read course syllabi carefully and contact your instructor if you have any questions about the tools used in a particular course.

Blackboard (Course Management System)

SLIS uses the Blackboard course management system to deliver many online courses and workshops. Through Blackboard, students can access readings, online resources, lectures, presentation slides, assignments, examinations, message boards and other course materials. Some instructors may choose to use another tool, such as wiki, either as a supplement to or as an alternative to Blackboard. (See below for an introduction to the SLIS wikispace.)

Communication with the instructor: Approximately one week before class begins you should expect an e-mail from your professor, sent to your Kent State University account ( This message will give you additional information about how to access course materials and what activities should be accomplished prior to the first week of classes. Once the term has begun, please use the internal e-mail system found within Blackboard for all course-related questions. (Note that this system is different from the e-mail server.) Do not use external e-mail addresses (such as Gmail or Hotmail accounts) for communication with the instructor.

Note for Mac users: While all content (lectures, assignments, discussions, exams) will be available to everyone no matter what OS/browser combination is used, the chat function of Blackboard does not currently work in Mac browsers (Safari and Firefox). For any activities involving synchronous communication (such as virtual office hours) the instructor will suggest alternatives, such as Skype or Web-conferencing software.

Instructions for Accessing Blackboard

Blackboard can be accessed via FlashLine, the Kent State student information system, which is found at You should log in with your FlashLine name and password, which you will receive from the university after you accept the offer of admission from SLIS. Click on "Blackboard."  This link will take you to a page containing links to all your online courses.  This link also opens a second window that allows you to check your browser's compatibility with the Blackboard system.

Assistance with the Blackboard System

If you have not used Blackboard in previous courses, please explore the Blackboard tutorial available from this website:

Visit the following page to make sure that your home computer meets the minimum technological requirements for accessing content found on the Blackboard website, including browser requirements and settings:

Trouble with Blackboard?

If you have difficulty setting up your PC or accessing Blackboard, or do not know your FlashLine user name and password, please contact the Kent State Help Desk at (330-672-HELP [4357]) for assistance.

Plug-Ins Needed to View Audiovisual Content on Blackboard

Flash Player: Lecture presentations and interactives can be viewed through your Web browser if it is equipped with a Flash player plug-in. To download a free Flash player, go to:

Windows Media Player: Some videos will be streamed as .wmv files and may be viewed with Windows Media player. To download a free Windows Media player, go to:

QuickTime Player: Certain videos may be distributed at QuickTime files (.mov) and may be viewed with the QuickTime player. To download a free QuickTime player, go to:

Accessing Electronic Readings (Journal Articles and E-Books)

Some readings referenced in Blackboard can be found at the OhioLink Electronic Journal Center (EJC) or the Electronic Book Center (EBC). Adobe Acrobat reader is required to view the articles. You should also be logged into the Kent State VPN (see above) to access full-text of articles and e-books.
  • To access the EBC from the Kent State University Libraries website, go to the catalog search page of the library (, click on the "E-Books" link, and then find "Electronic Book Center (OhioLINK)" in the list of links. The EBC can also be accessed directly by going to
Accessing E-Reserves

Some instructors may choose to make readings available through electronic reserves, a service provided by Kent State University Libraries. If e-reserves are used, the instructor will indicate which readings may be found there.
  • Passwords to access e-reserves will be supplied to enrolled students at the beginning of the semester by the instructor.
Course Wikis

SLIS has established a wikispace, which is used by a number of instructors in the M.L.I.S. program for class support. Wikis are used for many class activities, particularly those that involve a significant collaborative component (such as group projects). Instructors that use the wikispace will provide further information about how to access a course wiki (including providing login information) prior to the beginning of the term. The SLIS wikispace can be accessed here:

Synchronous ("Live") Communication

Instructors in certain courses may use a Web-based software application for real-time meetings with students. Such synchronous communication tools may be used for the purpose of delivering lectures, holding virtual office hours or facilitating collaboration among students working on group projects.  Two applications that faculty currently use include Blackboard Collaborate and WebEx. Instructors will advise students if these tools will be used as part of course delivery, and will inform students of any equipment, such as a microphone and/or a webcam, that the student should possess in order to participate fully in these live meetings.

Mediasite Player Requirements for Mediasite 5.x


  • Microsoft Windows 2008 (requires the Desktop Experience), Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2003.

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 SP1 or later, Firefox 2.0 or later, or Google Chrome 1.0 (Chrome is only supported on Mediasite version 5.0.3 and later).

  • Windows Media Player 9 or later.

  • For Firefox and Chrome playback, Silverlight 1.0 or later (viewers are prompted to install this when attempting to view a presentation).

  • If using a Silverlight player instead of a Classic player, Silverlight 3.0 or later is required.

  • Broadband Internet connection (256 Kbps,  2.5Mbps preferred)


  • Mac OS X 10.4.8 or later.

  • Safari 2.0.4 or later or Firefox 2.0 or later.

  • Silverlight 1.0 or later (viewers are prompted to install this when attempting to view a presentation).

  • If using a Silverlight player instead of a Classic player, Silverlight 3.0 or later is required.  Silverlight 5.0 is required for Mediasite 6.0.2 or later.

  • Broadband Internet connection (256 Kbps, 2.5Mbps preferred)

Note: Newer versions of Silverlight cannot be installed on Power PC Macs.  Silverlight 1.0 was the only version to be supported on the Power PC platform.