Internet Basics and Protocols

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A little about Internet Courses
Advantages of Internet-based courses
Disadvantages of Internet-based courses
Is this course for you
Computer skills
Hardware and software requirements
The right way to send e-mail
The right way to receive e-mail

Tips on surfing the WWW
How to use the forums
How to chat
Subscribable mailing lists
How to take practice quizzes
The right way to submit an online exam
E-mail me

A little about Internet-based courses

Let's talk a little about Internet-based courses.

An Internet-based course is a course that is delivered, wholly or partially, via the Internet to a student.  An Internet-based course may cover virtually any topic. It may even be a course about the Internet or how to use the Internet, but it doesn't have to be. The spectrum of Internet-based courses is getting bigger every day.

There are also many different ways to conduct an Internet-based course. Some courses are primarily on-campus lecture courses that use the Internet to supplement course materials. These partially Internet-based courses may involve exchanges of e-mail and assignments between the student and instructor. They may include online discussion forums or chat as part of the course. They might require students to take quizzes and/or exams online.

The other extreme is an Internet-based course that is entirely online. All course materials, assignments, quizzes and exams are provided through the Internet. Although students and instructors exchange e-mail, participate in discussions and engage in online chat, they may never see each other.

Internet-based courses can be a blast. I know because I have taken several. Let me give you a couple examples from my experiences as a student in Internet-based courses.

As of January 2000, I've taken three wholly online screenwriting courses offered through the UCLA Extension Program. These courses used strictly e-mail for exchanges of information and assignments between me and my instructor. For a writing class, this format worked very well. I wrote something, e-mailed it to the instructor and the instructor critiqued my writing and e-mailed it back to me. Sounds simple, but these courses were intense and I learned an incredible amount about screenwriting.

Another Internet-based course I took dealt with learning how to teach online. This course was delivered via the World Wide Web over a three-week period. All the course materials were posted online and assignments were completed online. A major part of this course was the use of bulletin boards or forums for discussing course materials and completing group projects. Although it was a short course, it was still quite a challenge. It definitely made me a better online instructor.

My final example comes courtesy of the California Highway Patrol. Yes, I got a speeding ticket for going too fast along the Grapevine. (I was framed!) To keep it from appearing on my record, I chose the option of taking traffic school online (see What a great course! This one was delivered via the web, only in a very linear fashion. At the end of the first reading assignment, I had to correctly answer a couple questions before I could move on to the next material. This page-by-page approach really helped make me aware of traffic laws and responsible driving conduct. I can't say that I don't occasionally still go a little faster than the speed limit (I will always deny it, though), but I am much more aware of my own emotions as they affect my driving. In short, I can honestly say that it has made me a better driver. Thank you, CHiPs.

The point I really want to make about Internet-based courses is that the sky is the limit. You may not be doing 900 degree Hawk-style rotations on a vert-ramp, but the feeling might be close. What is important is that learning takes place and students and instructors get excited about it!

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Advantages of Internet-based courses

Other than saving the planet, what are the advantages of Internet-based courses?

The biggest advantage of an Internet-based course is that your classroom and instructor (theoretically) are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Your only excuse for missing class is not getting online! Otherwise, everything is available to you. You can get announcements, access notes, review assignments, take practice quizzes, discuss questions, chat with fellow students and study any time you want. Other than exam due dates, you make your own schedule for completing the requirements of the course.

Internet-based courses offer flexibility. You can study any time you want. You can study with whomever you want. You can study wearing anything you want (or nothing if you want!) Internet-based courses give you the flexibility to spend time with work, family, friends, significant others or any other activity you like. You still have to complete the work (and this flexibility can be your downfall, see disadvantages) but for many people, with continually changing work schedules or people who make frequent business trips, parents with small children, students caring for others or whose health prevents them from making it to campus on a regular basis, students whose friends or boyfriend/girlfriend drop in unexpectedly, or for those days when the surf and/or snow is wicked, this method of course delivery can't be beat.

Internet-based courses bring education right to your home. I've had students tell me that their family, friends and/or boy-girl-friends have actually gotten involved in the course. Oftentimes, a student will study with someone special present. Everyone in the household can get involved in learning.

Internet-based courses offer more individual attention. Because you have a direct pipeline to the instructor via e-mail, you can get your questions answered directly. Many students aren't comfortable asking questions in class for fear of feeling stupid. The Internet (hopefully) eliminates that fear (as long as you feel comfortable with the instructor). Many times you think of a question after class or while you are studying. Rather that trying to remember to ask it or forgetting it, you can send an e-mail to the instructor immediately.

Internet-based courses can actually help you meet people. Many of us don't really take the time to get to know our fellow students, especially in large classes. We might be too busy or we're just plain shy. An internet-based course provides an opportunity to get to know other students via bulletin boards, chat rooms and mailing lists. I've had students form study groups online, meeting at a local library or coffee shop. Even if you just converse online, it gives you a type of interaction with other students and other people that just isn't practical in the time-limited on-campus classroom.

Internet-based courses give you real world skills. When you complete this course, you will be able to include e-mail and web browsing as technical skills on your resume. That gives you a definite advantage over someone who doesn't have these skills. Learning how to get information via the Internet opens up a world of possibilities for your personal and professional life. You can find jobs online, get college applications online, make travel plans online, get dealer costs for cars online, comparison shop online, access great works of art and literature online, meet people from around the world online, follow sports and movies online, etc. etc. The possibilities are practically endless.

Internet-based courses promote life-long learning. Most of the time, most of what we learn in a course is forgotten within a week or two of the end of classes. Having that spark of interest and knowing how to find information online insures that what your learning is always available to you. If you become interested in a certain topic, perhaps because of something you see, read or hear about, or perhaps because one of your children or friends has a question, you can get online and look it up. You will have developed the skills to find information, digest it, synthesize it and formulate an answer to any question that comes your way.

Internet-based courses have a few financial benefits. Although you may think that buying a computer and paying for Internet access is pretty expensive, consider what it would cost you in gas and parking each month if you were driving to campus. Consider the costs of eating out versus eating at home. Consider the costs for child-care, pet care or any other kind of care that you need to provide while you are away from home. Consider the costs of missing work to make classes or not being eligible for a promotion because you can't attend classes to advance your educational level. These are very tangible benefits of having access to education at home.

There are probably many more advantages to Internet-based courses, but I think you get the idea. The point is that we live in an ever-changing world that is ripe with new possibility. The ability to learn new information or a new skill whenever you want and wherever you want offers far greater opportunities for education than ever before. The scope and reach of education broadens to far greater horizons that perhaps ever imagined.

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Disadvantages of Internet-based courses

After all that, how could there possibly be any disadvantages of Internet-based courses?

Just as there is a dark side to that controversial midichlorian-based property known as the Force, there is a dark side to Internet-based courses. The dark side starts with procrastination.

Procrastination is to a student what Darth Maul is to Qui Gon. Procrastination will chop you to bits in an Internet-based course. Because of its inherent flexibility, it is easy to put off reading and finishing assignments. Before you know it, two weeks have gone by, you haven't done any homework and it's exam time. Scary bad. Creepy anxious. Too real.

An Internet-based course demands that you develop personal time-management skills. Now it certainly is an advantage to develop those skills, but if you don't manage your time properly, you will find yourself buried beneath a seeming insurmountable mountain of coursework.

In an Internet-based course, no one can hear you scream. There is no one to tell you to get to class on time. There is no one reminding you that assignments are due or that exams are coming. There is no one to preach to you, beg with you, plead with you to stay on top of your coursework. Sounds pretty good, huh?

In my opinion, it's a much better situation for the student. By the time a student enters a community college, they want to be independent. They don't want someone telling them what to do all the time. They want their freedom. (At least, that's how I was when I went to college.)

It's a sink or swim proposition and you can't have it both ways. If you desire to become a responsible, self-sufficient, independently minded citizen of this planet, then now's the time to start. Life is not a dress rehearsal. Get busy with it.

I also think it's an advantage for the instructor. I don't have to become the all-powerful Oz and threaten you with dire consequences if you don't do your work. I don't have to control you, manipulate you, scold you, act like a parent or babysitter to you. I can treat you like an adult with the respect that you deserve.

This freedom can be dangerous to you if you don't learn how to handle it.

Personally, I think it is far better to let students find their own way. Instructors can be beacons, lighthouses of knowledge, so to speak, but we can't steer the ship. Hopefully, everyone makes it safely to harbor. Occasionally, someone shipwrecks. But in all cases, everyone learns, and I think that is important.

Only you are responsible for your learning. I can't force it on you. I can't make you study. I can share a little knowledge and experience, show you a few tools and hope you get it. The spark and desire to pursue your dreams must be yours.

So, in a philosophical sort of way, the real disadvantage to an Internet-based course is that you might not own it. You might not take responsibility for your studies and the goals those studies can help you accomplish. You might get way behind and never catch up.

If you think you may fall into this category but still want to give this whole Internet thing a try, send me an e-mail. Let's discuss some simple ways to get your studies on track. I've spent 12 years in college as a full-time student and the past 3 years part-time. I have a few tricks up my sleeve that I'd be happy to share.

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Is this course for you?

This section really serves two purposes. First, it will help you decide whether you are the type of student who can work primarily online or whether you need to spend most of your time in the classroom. Second, it will stimulate you to consider carefully why you are in college in the first place. Read on.

To get an idea of where you fall in the spectrum of self-motivation and suitability as an Internet-mostly student, take the Fullerton College distance education self-evaluation test and/or answer the following questions:

  1. Am I self-motivated?
  2. Can I complete assignments without being told to complete them?
  3. Do I have basic computer skills and some experience with e-mail and the WWW?
  4. Am I able to take a college course with minimal face-to-face teacher and student interaction?
  5. Do I rarely procrastinate?

If you answered "NO" to one or more of these questions, you may want to take spend most of your time on-campus during our class meetings. If you answered "YES" to all of them, then you are probably well-suited to the Internet-student lifestyle.

Not satisfied with that answer? Want a second opinion? Here's another survey to take that will help you identify your learning style. Some of us are visual learners, we do quite well assimilating information through our visual senses. Some of us are oral learners, we like to hear things to learn them. Some of us are hands-on learners. We do best when we can practice our knowledge by completing a project or performing a task. What kind of learner are you? (You will take a Learning Styles Evaluation Survey as part of your first section of reading).

Now, on a more serious note, should you even be attending college?

Any college course demands time, lots of it. Be realistic. Make a weekly schedule for yourself. Are you allowing 5-10 hours per week to attend class (even if it's online) and study for this course? Are you allowing enough time to study for all your courses? Make certain you are not overcommitted with your work load and your course load. This is the single biggest mistake that students make (myself included). College courses are not for people with little time and they are definitely not for slackers!

Establish your priorities. How important is school versus work versus family versus friends versus boy- or girlfriend? Decide ahead of time which is more important and when they conflict, go with the highest priority. You may hurt someone's feelings or make them upset in your choice but if that person truly wants what's best for you they will understand.

Don't be afraid to make your own decisions and don't be afraid to make hard decisions. If school isn't for you right now, if you're just here because you don't have anything better to do (or think that's the case) or because it's cheaper on auto insurance or because your parents will kick you out if you don't stay in school, then quit. I'll be brutally honest: those are ridiculous reasons for going to college. (Maybe you'll come back in ten years and thank me for telling you the truth.)

Don't go to college if you don't want to. Life is too short to waste on something you don't enjoy. Most of us have many more options available to us then we realize. Seek advice. Follow your path.

Are you still with me? I hope so. Because if all of this serious introspection has you in a bit of a panic, take a deep breath. Relax. You don't have to make all of these decisions today. It's a lot to think about. In fact, it's likely that no one has ever asked you to consider these questions. That's how it was with me. And I stumbled through seven years as an undergraduate trying to figure out what to do and how to do it. If this little self-awareness exercise helps just one person make better decisions about their college career, then it's worth it.

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Computer skills

If you have never used a computer or if you really don't feel that comfortable using one, then contact me ASAP. You will not be alone. In about twenty minutes I can show you how to use a mouse to open an e-mail program and a web browser. Continued practice will sharpen those skills.

You might also check out A Learner's Guide to the Computer. This web site offers a great overview of hardware, software, the keyboard, the Internet, e-mail and much more. Be sure to take the online quiz to see how much you've learned.

If you are comfortable with computers, but need some help with the Internet, check out these Frequently Asked Questions on the Internet. Some of the information I've provided below will help you hone your Internet skills.

For a little history of the Internet, you might want to visit Hobbes Internet Timeline, a fascinating account of the development of the Internet, starting with the launch of Sputnik in 1957.

If you have some other problem or aversion to using a computer, contact me ASAP. You are not alone and you are not the first. I will help you find a way to overcome those limitations. Computers are not difficult, they are not mysterious, they are not agents of destruction against the human race, they are a tool. Just like a hammer, a saw, a toothbrush or a television. The computer is a tool for creating, finding and processing information. Sounds educational, doesn't it?

I will spend time during the first two weeks of classes helping students become familiar with computers and the Internet. Contact me during this time and we can set up an appointment. After that time, I am going to assume you know how to use a computer, can send and receive e-mail and know how to use a web browser.

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Hardware and software requirements

Assuming you've decided you are still cut out for this mission, what kinds of hardware and software do you need?

If you are using a computer lab, then the hardware and software available in the lab will be entirely adequate to take you through the course. If you have your own computer, then you might want to make sure you have the minimum specifications for completing the course.

If you aren't sure what kind of computer you have, whether you have a modem, what kind of e-mail program or web browser that you use, then ask someone. Don't get past this section without understanding it completely. Your survival in this course depends more on technology than perhaps any other course you have ever taken, with the exception of driver's ed (!)

At a minimum, make sure you have the following hardware and software components:

Other highly recommended hardware and software components, including plug-ins, include:

Other useful tools (in case you are making a wish list) include:

If you are missing any of the required hardware or software components, I highly recommend that you make use of the computer labs at school. You may want to use the school labs anyway so that you can work at school and/or as a backup to your primary computer system.

I am somewhat forgiving when it comes to hardware and software problems that invariably arise. Contact me as soon as you have a problem and I will help you solve it. There are lots of computers tucked away in various locations that you might be able to use on a very temporary basis until your problem is solved or until you have set up a school account.

However, you must make every effort to solve any computer problem immediately. Hardware and/or software problems are never an excuse for missing a deadline, not completing an assignment or failing to submit an exam. Never ever ever. Don't let two weeks go by and then tell me you have a problem and expect me to understand. Won't happen. I'm happy to help you before the problem impacts your ability to complete something. After that, you are on your own.

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The right way to send e-mail

If you know how to send e-mail, keep reading. If you have never sent e-mail in your life, click here for e-mail basic training.

What's so hard about sending e-mail, right? You do it all the time, right? Keep reading. This section is extremely important.

Everyone in this course must have at least one e-mail address. In fact, I urge everyone to obtain a web-based e-mail address in addition to their primary e-mail address. If you plan to take this course from a computer library or a public place, a web-based e-mail address is the perfect alternative. A web-based e-mail address also gives you a place to send graded exams and keep copies of important e-mails. It makes a perfect back-up system and it's free. To sign up for a web-based e-mail address, pay a visit to,,, or any other web site that offers free e-mail. All they ask is some simple marketing information and that's all their is to it. You don't have to buy anything and no one will spam you (send you junk e-mail) if you ask them not to. The point is that everyone must be able to send e-mail and receive e-mail to their own e-mail address. (No, I don't recommend sharing. Get a web-based e-mail address of your own.)

You must also memorize your correct e-mail address.  It's not terribly difficult. All e-mail addresses have this form: "">, where username is a unique series of letters or numbers chosen by you or assigned to you; provider is the name of the school, organization or company hosting your e-mail account (like Fullerton College, Earthlink, AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo, PacBell, GTE, etc.) and xxx is the extension for your provider, such as .com, .org, .net, .edu, .gov, .mil, or some other extension. All of these parts of an e-mail address are essential and all of them must be included when you enter your e-mail address on correspondence or exams. At Fullerton College, your e-mail address is usually, where studentID# is your 6-digit student number.

AOL USER ALERT: AOL users are the sloppiest when it comes to entering your e-mail address. You must include after your username. For example, would be my complete and correct e-mail address, scxq28 is not.

In a course like this, I deal with hundreds of students and hundreds, sometimes thousands of e-mails, every week. That is not an exaggeration. I don't have an assistant or anyone else to answer my e-mail. Just me. And I most happy to keep it that way. Because I love answering your e-mail.

However, you can make my life and your life a lot easier by following a few simple rules when you send e-mail. These rules are designed to insure that I can respond in a timely manner to your questions (generally, within 24 hours) and that I can properly credit you with materials that you submit to me via e-mail.

Please follow these rules exactly.

Send all e-mail pertaining to this course to Occasionally, you will get e-mail from my other addresses. Try to type in my oceansonline address if you do get e-mail from another address. This will insure that I respond in a timely manner.

If for some reason, my oceansonline account doesn't appear to be working, you may try sending e-mail to one of the following addresses: or

Provide your NAME, SID# and SECTION# on EVERYTHING that you submit to me. It may seem trivial, but it is impossible for me to recognize you by your e-mail address. For example, or or  How am I supposed to know who you are? I don't keep a list and it is way too time-consuming to search your e-mail to figure out who is sending it.

Type your Name, SID# and SECTION as the FIRST THREE LINES in the BODY of the e-mail, like

Sean Chamberlin
Internet Section 19080

Do not put your Name, SID# and SECTION on the Subject Line.

Put the SUBJECT of your e-mail (i.e. what the e-mail pertains to) in the SUBJECT Line.

In this way, you insure that I respond quickly to your e-mails and give you credit for your assignments and exams. Take note of the following:

Check three times before you hit send to make sure this information is correct. Please respect this requirement. It makes everything in this course run a whole lot smoother. =:-}

Here's a sample e-mail correctly formatted for sending to me. If you can't see it below, click here.

About attachments: Don't send them! I won't read them. Harsh, yes, but a restriction I must engage for my own sanity and the protection of my computer against viruses.

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The right way to receive e-mail

At the top of most e-mail programs, there is a button to press that allows you to send and/or receive e-mail. Many e-mail programs automatically check your e-mail when you open the program, but some might not. AOL notifies you that you have e-mail when you log on. Some programs may require you to go to one of the menus at the top of the screen and select "Check Mail" or "Receive Mail."

AOL USERS: Check to make sure that you have not blocked me from sending you e-mail. AOL is quite famous for blocking e-mail. Ask the person who set up your account whether blocking is turned on or use the AOL help files. A portion of the AOL help files for e-mail controls has been reproduced here. Please make sure you allow e-mail from all of my possible e-mail addresses: or Please continue to send e-mail to

I recommend that you check your e-mail every day. Because this course uses a subscribable mailing list (don't worry if you don't know what that is right now), it is quite possible that you will receive e-mail every day. You should especially check your e-mail after submitting an exam. You will be notified within 24 hours that I received the exam.

When you receive e-mail from me, SAVE IT. Save your confirmations from exams, assignments and anything other verifications especially. Save them to hard drive and floppy disk at a bare minimum. In addition to your exams, I strongly urge you to get in the habit of saving your e-mail to a floppy disk. If you lose your graded exams and I lose your graded exams, then you don't have any exams and you have to take the course over again. That is a wicked fact. Get in the habit. Make a floppy disk backup!

If you don't know how to save e-mail, use the help files that come with your e-mail software, ask someone who knows or call your Internet Service Provider. I can't stress enough how important it is for you to save your e-mails. Don't get trapped by the technology. Make a backup!

You might want to print your e-mails. It really isn't necessary if you save to floppy, but if you forget to bring your floppy one day and you receive an important document from me (like a graded exam), then you should print it. Always make a backup!

If you are not familiar with e-mail programs or are uncertain how to send or receive e-mail, ask someone, call tech support or contact me.

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Tips on surfing the World Wide Web (WWW)

If you are new or unfamiliar with the WWW, then click here for web browser basics. Otherwise, read on.

The very first thing to remember when surfing the pages of this site is: Click on Refresh (or Reload on some browsers).

Remember that your browser stores viewed pages (called caching). If you go to a site tomorrow that you looked at today, your browser will display yesterday's page unless you click Refresh. Make sure you do this, especially for the Daily Announcements page. If you are a skilled computer user, you may want to set the Preferences in your browser to prevent it from storing pages.

One of the most important features of the WWW is the access it provides to vast amounts of information. In some ways, it's like having a library at your fingertips. However, there are dangers you need to be aware of:

Probably the most important skill you can develop as a student is learning how to search for information on the WWW.  Search engines provide a means for finding web pages about topics that interest you. Unfortunately, it's an imperfect science. Search engines can't tell the difference between submarine sandwiches, nuclear submarines or submarine canyons. So a search on submarines to find out information on the Monterey Bay Submarine Canyon might yield a frustratingly large number of irrelevant hits. Hits are the number of pages that contain the keyword you type into the search engine.

UC Berkeley's Library maintains a very good site for learning how to search for information on the web. I highly suggest that you check it out,

The best way to learn how to search effectively is to practice. Practice typing different words or combinations of words into a search engine and check out the results. It's also a very good idea to check out the help files for searching. These files give you useful hints on how to narrow your search for the specific topic you seek and how to use + marks or other options.

Here's a list of useful search engine sites. You may enter the URL directly or click on the hyperlink. - breaks info into categories - also good for categories - one of the best "single" word search engines, but returns lots of irrelevant hits - another highly specific search engine    - gaining in popularity - a list of popular search engines and information about search engines

Another good place to find links to information is to look at the list of links that most sites provide. By some miracle of the WWW culture, it has become common practice to include a list of related links on a web site. Oftentimes, the list of links is more valuable than the site. So that once you've found a site pertaining to your topic of interest, it's usually quite easy to find links from there.

Once you've found a few sites, it's a good idea to establish their credibility. Never take information at face value. It's very possibly wrong. Check at least a couple sites to determine if the fact you just wrote down is truly a fact or something someone made up.

The reliability of information on a site often depends on the creator of the site. In general, organizations tend to be more careful in their statement of facts than individuals, but this is not always the case. Just make sure that you determine what kind of site you are viewing and try to get some perspective on their presentation of the information. Always double-check on other sites or in books to establish the validity of your information.

Here's a rough list of the kinds of sites you'll encounter and a few of the cautions you need to employ:

Surfing the web is part of the life-long learning process in which we are all engaged. Spending some time to become familiar with how to search and how to evaluate web sites for their content can make learning more efficient and rewarding. Above all, it should make learning more fun. So surf long and prosper!

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How to use the forums

Forums are electronic bulletin boards where you can view and post messages. Typically, a forum is dedicated to one topic or question to which people post their own messages and respond to other messages. In this way, a particular topic or question can be discussed by several people over a period of time and a record of that discussion is always on view so that new participants may join. These types of discussions are often called threaded discussions because the discussion can be followed (like a thread) from the first posting to the last posting, like one big conversation.

We will make extensive use of forums in our course. I can also guarantee you that people who participate in forum discussions will do better on the exams and have a much greater understanding of the material. Best of all, the forums provide a great place to meet people and get to know them in a controlled and intellectual atmosphere.

Specific information on X-games and forums is provided in the Course Guidelines and Course Syllabus. If you want to suggest a forum topic on something that interests you, send me an e-mail. I'm always open to trying a topic to see if it generates discussion.

The link to Student Forums is When you click on the link you will see something like this:

forumscrn.jpg (19723 bytes)

This is an example of forums that could be available. (Note that the actual forum topics will be different than those shown above.)

When you click on one of the forum topics, you will see everyone's postings for that forum. For example, if you clicked on the forum entitled Random Thoughts, you would see something like this:

tforum2scrn.jpg (12201 bytes) Click here to enlarge.

As you can see, a particular forum may have several responses, as listed under the heading Topic. But it gets even more interesting. Each topic may have a number of replies. The number of replies is listed as a number under the heading Replies. This number tells you how many people responded to that individual's posting. The person who posted the message and the time and date of the message are also listed.

To read any topic listed, simply click on it. That will allow you to see the original message and any replies. For example, clicking on the topic Posting to the Message Board brings up a screen that looks like this:

tforum3scrn.jpg (12466 bytes)Click here to enlarge.

To post a response, simply enter your name, e-mail address and your message. Then hit the Submit button at the bottom of the screen (not shown.)

Take heed of the advice posted here. When you post a message, hit the Refresh or Reload button to see it. Do not submit a message more than once. Go back to the Forum Page (by clicking the Back button on your browser), and click on Refresh or Reload. The number of Replies should have increased by one. If it has, then your reply was successfully posted. When in doubt, always remember to try the Refresh or Reload button first. It's common courtesy.

I really want to encourage everyone to take advantage of the Forums. I will use them extensively for disseminating helpful hints on studying and an occasional answer to a tough exam question. Besides that, they're loads of fun. So join us and be part of this great learning community.

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How to chat

On occasion, a group of you may want to get together to discuss something among yourselves or with me. Perhaps you are part of a study group and want to review exam questions or maybe you want to discuss the latest episode of South Park. Whatever the reason, a chat room is available to allow people to come together and share information in real time.

Chatting is the closest we come to face-to-face encounters through the Internet. Participants type messages that are displayed nearly instantaneously for all to see. In this way, a chat room works like a conversation among several people.

If you've never been in a chat room, you might find them highly confusing. They are highly non-linear! That's because many people may respond at any time and to different parts of the conversation.  A common chat conversation may look something like this:

>stan: whassup, everybody?
>marge: hi stan.
>kyle: stan the man!
>cartman: anybody see south park?
>stan: who has the answers to the oceanography homework?
>baby: i saw it.
>marge: I gotta go. cu l8r.
>kyle: marge has the homework answers...

And so on. As you can see, conversations may be woven together and unless you are on your toes, it can be confusing. But after a while you will get the hang of it. It's always a good idea to lurk for a while the first time you enter a chat room. Lurking means to hang out and watch the conversation without participating. But don't lurk for long because you'll be missing out on all the fun!

Not all chat rooms are so random. In a moderated chat or more formal chat, the moderator or group leader may ask participants to respond in an orderly fashion. This helps clear the way for an orderly discussion when the topic being discussed is more serious or important.

In any event, chat rooms are highly dynamic and a lot of fun. That's why so many tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people engage in chat nightly.

In this course, we occasionally make use of ICQ chat. I've only used it a few times but it's worth further exploration primarily because it is free. We may also try other chat rooms available through various web sites. I'll keep you posted on the details. In the meantime, if you are aware of a good free chat room, drop me an e-mail and I'll check it out. We'll schedule a few chats throughout the semester.

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Subscribable mailing lists

Subscribable mailing lists allow you to receive messages via e-mail on a topic that may be of interest to you and other people who are subscribed to that mailing list. For example, I subscribe to mailing lists that notify me of the new scientific publications or that inform me of the latest operations of  NASA space probes. Some mailing lists send you a joke or a new word or a uplifting message every day. Other mailing lists might be dedicated to a discussion of a particular type of software or politics or art. Mailing lists serve just about any interest and they are a very convenient way to keep abreast of an issue.

In this course, we use subscribable mailing lists to disseminate announcements and answers to frequently asked questions. Anybody can subscribe to the list and anyone can send a message to the list. Any time I or some other subscriber send a message to the list, it gets sent to everyone who has subscribed to the list. Truth is, it's just another great way to interact with each other and participate in our own learning.

Our mailing list is entitled Cybernauts. To subscribe, send a blank e-mail with no subject to Be sure to include your e-mail address in the From box. Shortly thereafter, you will receive an automated message something like this:

Greetings from your Captain! It's a pleasure to have you on board!

This subscribable mailing list supplements information provided in the Daily Announcements Page on our course web and provides an e-mail forum for your thoughts and questions as we proceed in the course.

This list has two primary purposes: 1) It provides e-mail notification of course updates, urgent announcements, late-breaking news, mind-bending seminars, global catastrophes and the latest information on the whereabouts of the Captain; and 2) It gives you a means to send messages to everyone else in the class.

To post messages, send an e-mail to Everyone who is subscribed to this mailing list (including yourself) will receive a copy of your e-mail. That's it!

At the end of the course, you will be automatically removed from this list. Also, this list is not a substitute for the Daily Announcements Page or other materials on the course web site. Always refer to the web site for the latest and most complete information.

Surf long and prosper!

This web site also maintains public subscribable mailing lists to inform members and other interested persons of newsworthy ocean events, field expeditions and other exciting developments in the field of oceanography. If you are interested in subscribing to one of these lists, check out the link on the welcome page or click here.

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How to take practice quizzes

Practice quizzes are the bread-and-butter of this course. The more you practice, the better your chances of scoring well on the real exams. Practice quizzes give you an opportunity to get used to the way that I ask questions. It gets you familiar with the material in the course and helps prepare your mind for understanding these topics.

In all my courses, I really emphasize critical thinking. While it is a challenge to get students to think, I strongly believe that problem solving, which requires critical thinking, is the most valuable skill any student can learn in a general education course. The honest-to-gosh truth is that students don't remember most of what they learn in a general education course. So what's the point? The point is to expose their minds to a new topic, expand their thinking beyond the usual range of narrow topics and challenge their ability to figure things out. That is really the heart and soul of college education.

The reason I'm telling you all this is because you may not have previously encountered a course where the answers aren't in the book or the notes or anywhere. Many of the questions I ask require you to come up with the answers by figuring them out based on your understanding of the material. That's quite a far cry from memorizing definitions and the names of currents.

The advantage of this approach is that it takes away some of the pressure of memorizing. Many (but not all!) of your exams in this course will be taken online. That means you can use your book and notes. But if you don't have a grasp of the material, if you don't understand the topic, if you are unable to figure something out from first principles, then you are going to be in trouble.

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The right way to submit an online exam

The course includes both online exams and in-class exams. This section explains the proper procedures for submitting an online exam.

Please read these instructions very carefully and review them before you take your first exam. Following these simple but vitally important instructions will insure that you get full credit for the exam and will save a ton of headaches at my end.

These instructions are not difficult but for some reason too many students fail to follow them. Failure to type in all the required information could result in zero (0) points for the exam. So I repeat: please read these instructions carefully.

Here are the instructions:

Upon submission of your student-teacher contract of understanding (which you will find in a subsequent section), you will be given a unique username and password. Keep this username and password in a safe place. Carry it with you at all times. You will need it for taking exams and gaining access to restricted portions of this web site.

Exams will be administered using our WebCT Command Center. You will be required to log in to gain access to the site. Once you log in, find the icon that says Exams and click on it. You will find a listing of current exams. Click on the proper exam to begin taking it. Follow the WebCT instructions very carefully. Failure to follow those instructions could result in a loss of points or a zero (0).

You will be required to enter your username and password to gain access to online exams. Once you log-in, you have two (2) hours to complete the exam. All exams must be completed in two hours or less. The clock starts ticking from the first moment that you log in. Before the end of two hours, you must submit the exam or you will receive an automatic zero (0).

You may only submit the exam once. You have ample opportunity to change your answers before you click on submit, but once you click on submit, that's it.

Once you submit your exam, there is no need to re-submit your exam after you see a page that says your exam was submitted. Do not attempt to print your exam(which you are not allowed to do anyway) before submitting it because you will lose all your answers and have to re-enter them within your 2-hour time limit. Again, pay attention to the instructions.

If you want to make sure that your exam was submitted, please send me an e-mail. Within 24 hours, you will receive an e-mail from me that tells you I received the exam. If you see the submission page, then your exam was submitted and you really don't need to e-mail me but if it makes you feel better, go ahead and e-mail me.

Finally, let me remind you that it is a crime (aka cheating) toprint an exam and/ or to share exam questions with another student. If I see anyone sharing answers at any time, I will fail you from the course. Keep your exams to yourself. I have devious ways to catch cheaters. Do your own work. Be honest. You'll feel a lot better for it.

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E-Mail Me

I love teaching and I especially love teaching through the Internet. This is a very powerful medium with tremendous potential for teaching and learning. Despite what many think, the Internet offers much closer interactions between students and teachers. We can respond to each other through individual e-mails. We can chat and discuss topics 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We can review charts and graphs, play with interactive demonstrations, review bits of video and explore other worlds in a way that we could never do in the classroom. I hope you enjoy surfing these pages as much as I enjoyed creating them. As always, if you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to e-mail me,

Surf long and prosper!

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