What to do if

What to do if you are returning to study / learning online for the first time

Returning to study, or studying in a new environment, can be a challenge.  At the start there are a lot of new things to take on board but as you settle in all the routines become more familiar and you can focus more on your studies than on all the processes such as how to log on to the computer etc.

If your course uses Blackboard then at first you will spend so much time just trying to find your way around, manage your time and keep up with everything going on that you struggle to find time to learn anything else. It is very hard work. But one day, with practice, you will suddenly find that you not only know how to move around, how to find what you need and how to communicate but you don't even have to think about it anymore - and you can concentrate on learning the subject(s). It becomes easy, familiar and friendly.

That said, there are challenges especially at this stage while you wait for the magical moment when it becomes easy. This information is to help you when you need a quick answer to a problem.

What to do if you can’t access Blackboard

Very occasionally Blackboard is not available so please do not assume it is your fault.

  • You are usually notified of any down time in advance (by email) but not all circumstances can be predicted. It may be that
  • Your own internet access is unavailable so please check this first
  • It may be that you have missed a notified outage so please check your email
  • It may be that the weather or some other mishap has taken out some vital component of UHI technology so:
  • Try again after a few minutes
  • If it still fails try contacting another student to check whether the problem is widespread
  • If you become aware that it is not widespread, not a planned outage and not a failure of your own internet provider, then contact the UHI helpdesk on servicedesk@uhi.ac.uk

If the access problem is repeated you might like to discuss this with the helpdesk.

What to do if you can’t access Blackboard chatroom

The chat rooms are very useful tools for learning. They are used for tutorials in many modules and can also be used by students for informal conversations about study.

  • Using a chat room is very straightforward once your computer is set up to access it but it can sometimes require the installation of a small piece of software. The system tells you how to do this (it is easy) but there are some steps you can take to ensure everything works smoothly when you need it - and help is available if it doesn't work for you.
  • Firstly always try out the chat room in good time before you need it for tutorials. Do this on the computer you will be using for the tutorials.
  • Consider using Internet Explorer rather than Firefox or other browser. We occasionally find these cause problems and a switch to Internet Explorer can solve the problem
  • Follow the instructions carefully.
  • If you find you are still unable to access the chat rooms, please contact servicedesk@uhi.ac.uk for help.

If, as happens occasionally, you can get into the chat room but you can't see the 'conversation' you can often resolve the problem by exiting the VLE, closing down your computer and starting it up again.

What to do if you don’t get a response from your tutor

Most tutors will respond to you promptly during the working week, either by email or some other agreed method.

If you have emailed your tutor and not received a response after a reasonable time it is likely that there is some problem that needs to be addressed:

  • Try sending another email in case the first one has gone astray or been overlooked.
  • If that does not work it may be that the tutor is unable to answer (even tutors get sick sometimes and they all have others demands on their time) so you should contact another tutor on the same course
  • If there is no other tutor, then contact your local centre manager or Personal Academic Tutor (PAT)/ Course tutor by email or telephone
  • If you are still not satisfied with the response, you can email the Curriculum Manager

What to do if you need a library book

Multiple copies of all core texts and extensive additional reading materials are held in the libraries across Argyll College and other UHI partner colleges, and some are available electronically. Students are expected to purchase the core texts for their modules (unless these are ebooks) or books supplied through bursary funding but while waiting for these it is possible to use the library copies. If your local library doesn't have your book you should:

  • Ask to reserve a copy when it is returned
  • Ask the Centre staff  to order a copy from the college librarian. This will usually arrive within 3 working days and will be available for a period of 3 weeks.
  • Remember you can check the availability or location of the book you need by using the online library catalogue by following the link.
  • You can contact your librarian at ACLibrary@uhi.ac.uk or by phone on 01631 559673.

What do if you feel you are not coping

Taking on any course is a challenge so you may feel you aren't coping well at first. Most students feel that way at the start and some struggle to move beyond that point, becoming anxious and unhappy which, of course, prevents them studying effectively.

Perhaps the most important thing to do in this situation is to talk to someone - your course tutor, centre staff or Personal Academic Tutor (PAT). You can meet informally.

They will be able to help you to decide which areas of the course are causing the pressure for you. It could be:

  • The course content
  • The level of study
  • Anxiety about study skills
  • Difficulty with time management
  • Difficulty with the online environment

Your PAT/ Course tutor will be able to talk this through with you and, if necessary, help you to develop the skills to cope or to refer you to someone who can help you.

They will also help you to plan your work to manage your time.

They will be able to support you in any decisions you make about continuing study, about changing from full time to part time perhaps or about withdrawal and advise you on the implications of any such decision.

You should always discuss your problem as soon as you identify there is one. It does not help to either struggle on unhappily or to stop engaging with the course. Your PAT/ Course tutor can help you.

What do you do if you fall behind with your studies

Falling behind with study causes great anxiety because it is very hard to catch up again. Sometimes it is unavoidable because of personal crises but wherever possible you should avoid getting behind. The flexibility of online learning allows for some catching up but when the load is too great it becomes very difficult or even impossible.

Good time management is the best way to keep on top of your study. You should try to treat online learning as a flexible classroom, one that allows you to develop your own timetable. Your timetable will depend on your personal circumstances but you must schedule a session each week for each module. This time is for

  • Reading course materials
  • Taking notes and completing any tasks set for your learning
  • Undertaking required weekly reading
  • Additional reading to develop your knowledge and understanding
  • Assessment planning and preparation
  • Thinking!

It is important and easier if you are quite disciplined. For example, Monday is the day for module 1, Tuesday for module 2 etc - and this can be adjusted according to other demands on your time so the sessions may be weekend or evening.

You may need to be firm with family or friends to ensure they appreciate the time commitment of your study.

However, if circumstances lead to you falling behind you are encouraged to act quickly, as soon as you realise this is happening.

  • Speak to your course tutor. They will help you to develop an action plan for catch up.
  • If catch up is not possible they will discuss options with you - and there are options such as temporary withdrawal, application for an extension etc.
  • It is not helpful to avoid contact when you are under pressure. Resolving the problems becomes more difficult and leads to increased anxiety.   Tutors and support staff can all provide extra help for you.

What to do if you can’t submit an assignment on time

Assessment deadlines are very important. Working to a deadline is part of developing the learning skills you will be expected to demonstrate when you complete the course.

Assessment dates are usually set early in the course.  Check the course calendar or ask the tutor when these will be if necessary then make sure you plan time to prepare for them.

Late submission of assignments can result in penalties.  You must check with your tutor.

If your course includes exams or set times for assessments this means you:

  • might have to arrange a shift change at work
  • must not arrange holidays or other important events during the period of exams
  • should consider child care arrangements for this period
  • Failure to attend an examination will result in a failure for the unit and you may be required to resit the examination.

If you are unable to submit your assignments on time or attend examinations you should

  • Contact your tutor immediately. He/ she will discuss with you the best way to proceed.
  • Consider an application for mitigation if you have grounds. You will need evidence of the event for this and your tutor will help you to present this.

What to do if you fail an assignment

Many students fail an assessment at some stage in their course and this is always very worrying for them.  A failed assessment can lead to distress and panic.

There are many reasons why students fail assessments.

  • Misunderstanding a part of the course content
  • Inadequate reading so failing to develop a good understanding of the subject
  • Skimming course materials so missing the deeper meaning
  • Misunderstanding of the question (this is very common)
  • Failing to submit on time
  • Adequate knowledge and understanding but not able to demonstrate this in written form

If you find yourself in this position either because you have been notified by your lecturer or by the Board of Examiners, you should try to avoid panic.

Students are sometimes allowed to resit failed assessments or remediate some aspects. Your tutor will tell you what you need to do in the circumstances.

You should read carefully any feedback you have received from your tutor because this will indicate where the areas of weakness are and it may suggest what you need to do to achieve.

If you fail because you have misunderstood the question (we sometimes refer to this as 'missing' the question) you should discuss this with your tutor. Understanding a question is called question analysis and it is a skill that can be learned. Your tutor will be able to help you.

What to do if you feel a comment in class or a discussion board posting or email is inappropriate or offensive.

It is important to treat everyone on your course with respect and you should expect respect in return.

Students enrol on the course from a wide range of backgrounds and they are of wide ranging ages so it is important to avoid any posting or email that could cause offense.

While emails are private, the discussion board postings are public within the course. Ensuring these do not offend is the responsibility of all students and staff and any potentially offensive posting will be removed.

If you find a posting that causes you offence or anxiety you should:

  • Contact your tutor to alert them of the problem
  • If there is no response to these actions then you should contact the Curriculum Manager