Guide to understanding online instruction

As an online student, there are certain things that you should know.  This short lesson should prepare you for your online class with SDCCE.

This page is designed to provide you with the knowledge needed to be a successful online Emeritus student.  You will find information as well as resources and examples.  

If you prefer print, you can download this handout.


In an online course, your instruction is delivered over the internet rather than in-person, in a traditional classroom. The course management system (CMS) is where your instructor will:

post all of the course materials,

conduct online discussions and perhaps other activities, and

receive your assignments.

For SDCCE, your instructor may use one of two CMS:  Canvas or Google Sites.

You can access the course materials on your CMS using your computer, smartphone or tablet.  You will need a faster Internet connections (referred to as broadband) for the Zoom sessions. 

Taking part in an online course requires a minimum of computer or device understanding.  

This guide summarizes some things that you will need to know to take part in our classes.  Please review it for important tips and ideas to help you connect safely and accurately to our courses. It includes (clicking on the link will take you to that spot in this lesson):

Technical requirements

Overview of requirements:


What to expect

What to expect:

Related resources:

How to prepare for your online course

How to prepare:

Passwords:  Your course may contain one or more passwords.  Make a note of them and keep next to your device.  Possible passwords you may create include:

A class registration password  (

A CMS password for Canvas (  

A password for Brain HQ, the brain training activity site for Brain Fitness students (

No password needed for Google sites

Web addresses:  You will also be working with a variety of websites during your course.  You need to understand how to get to your course website: 

If your course in on Canvas, you will access the course by going to, signing in, and then choosing the course from your list.  You will arrive at the home page, where you must then navigate to your module.

If your course is on Google sites, it may have a “shortcut”. This shortcut is a name which can be typed directly into the address browser on the course website.  Since it is a shortcut, after arriving on the site, you will see a much longer address.   NOTE:  The shortcut takes you to the Home page.  From there, you must find the current lesson.  Examples of shortcuts:

Organizing for your class:  It is a good idea to set up folders on your device.  You can then download handouts to keep on that folder.  This will be helpful if you want to find a handout in the future and your website is no longer able to be found. 

Open the program on your device where you can save documents.  On Windows, it is File Explorer (a small folder icon).  On Mac it is Finder (a square icon with a happy face)

Create a folder for the class.  You might include the year.  (Example:  Brain Fitness, Fall 2021)

If you wish, you might add subfolders to this main one. (Example:  Brain health tips, Exercise in the brain)

You can also use these files for additional information that you find.  By engaging in the class and filling in the blanks, you will be a better student. 


Handout on managing files and folders in Windows 10, Mac computers and Chromebook

Tips for Safe Online Use

Tips to consider when opening an email and/or attachment

How to tell if an email is malicious:

Carousel of Bad Emails

View this stream of emails to see examples of how email can be "bad"

Phishing:  Recognize and ignore!

The cyber threat landscape is ever-changing, but one thing remains consistent—cyber criminals continue to leverage email as a way to gain access to a network environment. The favorite tool of cyber criminals is phishing. Phishing involves sending emails, whether general in nature or specific to the recipient, hoping that the user either enters their credentials to access a bogus file or clicks on a malicious link or attachment which deploys malware on their system. The goal of phishing emails is to encourage you to act without thinking.  


Recognize Three Main Threats:

·         Malicious attachments that look like legitimate file attachments, usually an invoice, software update, or other file that seems urgent in nature. These attachments can infect your device with malware that can spread to other systems. Some attachments will take you to a website which asks you to enter your credentials to access the file. However, the file is bogus and your credentials are now in the hands of the attacker.

·         Malicious links that take you to imposter websites designed to resemble a trusted website such as a known bank or a cloud platform to access a file. The goal of these sites is to fool the target into entering credentials to access the site or file, which transmits the username and password to the attacker for later use. These links may be imbedded in email or as links on a website. 

·         Requests for sensitive data designed to seem legitimate, such as an email from the IRS or a fake email from a family member or co-worker.  These requests prompt you to fill in information like user IDs, passwords, credit card data, and so on.  Once you submit the information, it's used by cyber criminals for their personal gain. 


What You Can Do:

·         Check that the sender's email address matches up with the sender's name.  Often cyber criminals will masquerade as a trusted source, such as a valid business, but the sender's email address will not match up with the business mail system.

·         Watch for misspellings and poor grammar.  These can be an indication that the email did not originate from a trusted source.

·         Watch for legitimate-seeming organizations requesting your sensitive information or sending unsolicited attachments via email.  Most government organizations (such as the IRS) and major companies do not do this.

·         Watch for unsolicited emails that push you to act hastily or that seem too good to be true, such as emails saying that your account has been frozen or that you will receive a large sum of money.

·         Before clicking on a link, hover your mouse over the link.  This will show you the actual web address embedded in the link.  Check this against the actual web address of the trusted source.  If you are still unsure, contact the source through another trusted channel (for example, a customer support number listed on the official website) to verify the email is legitimate.

Activity:  Test your skills

Can you tell the difference between a legitimate website and one that is phishing?  Take this quiz.  When you are done, you will see how you did and learn more on how to tell if the website is legitimate or phishing.

Google has a test to see if you can spot when you are being phished.  How did you do on this one?

Here is another test to see how well you can spot legitimate or phishing email.  When you finish, they will ask for your name and email, but don’t fill it in.  Keep track of your score as you won’t see it at the end, but interesting quiz.

This quiz is about online scams.  How well can you spot them?

How to tell if a website is malicious

Malicious redirects

A malicious redirect is when you are browsing the web and are sent to a website which you did not intend to go to.  When you get there, there will be pop-ups and warnings that your computer is infected.  Your computer is NOT infected, you are just experiencing a malicious redirect.  They are actually bits of code included in the website which are designed to divert website visitors to a specified, unrelated site, often containing advertising,  pornography, potentially unwanted programs or browser extensions.

Why are they set up on the website?

What to do if it happens to you:


Your computer is NOT infected and the phone number listed in the pop-up is a scam. Do not call the number or give them any personal information. Follow the steps above to remove the threat. 

Also, Microsoft and Apple will never make an unsolicited phone call to you about your computer. These phone calls are scams. Do not give the caller any personal information and hang up the phone. 

Example of a malicious redirect:  You are NOT infected!

Learn more about and protect yourself against scams

Scams are becoming very common, as they become more sophisticated and widespread.  Here are some ways to recognize scams, and some tools for fighting back.  This information is from "Protect Seniors Online".

AARP has an excellent section on scams and fraud.  You can access it here.

What to do if you are hacked

Information and Resources through

For more information on the steps after you have been hacked, go to the FTC OnGuardOnline site at:

From the FTC:  What to do if your email or social media account is hacked:

Contact IdentityTheft.Gov:  If you are hacked, and your sensitive information was used, report it to at:

Free Credit Report:  If you have been hacked, you will want to view your current credit reports and continue to monitor them regularly.  It would be a good idea to freeze your three accounts (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).  You can order these free reports through at: .  You can learn more about this on the FDC website:

Reporting scams:  If you see a scam, fraud or bad business practice, report it on the FTC site.  On this site, you can also learn more about avoiding scams.

Avoiding scams:  Learn more about consumer scams, view specific Consumer Alerts and find quick links to reporting fraud, reporting identity theft, registering for Do Not Call and more:

Some possible fixes for computer problems

Although some problems may have to be remedied by professionals, there are a few quick tips you might consider if you have a common hardware issue.  They include:

    Protecting yourself and your device