Recommended Computer Literacy and Personal Skills for Distance Education Courses

Students who decide to take Distance Education classes should have these basic computer literacy and personal skills:

  • Be able to navigate the Internet easily.
  • Be able to upload and download files.
  • Be able to install software.
  • Be able to send and receive e-mails.
  • Be able to attach files to emails.
  • Have self-motivation and self-discipline
  • Exhibit college-level reading comprehension

Students without this fundamental knowledge should attempt distance classes AFTER they have successfully achieved these skills.

Recommended Technology Requirements for Distance Education Courses

  • A Desktop or Laptop computer (preferably Windows based; not all software will work properly on Apple devices)
  • Microsoft Windows 7, 8, or 10
  • Latest version of Mozilla Firefox browser and Google Chrome browser (Multiple browsers give students options if technical problems occur.)
  • A reliable high speed, DSL/Cable Internet Connection (minimum 768 Kbps (download) and 384 Kbps (upload) recommended)
  • A webcam with 640×480 video pixel resolution and microphone (web cams built into laptops or monitors are acceptable)
  • Working speakers or headphones connected to the computer
  • Access to a printer to print important class documents (printing is available at our campus libraries for 10 cents per one-sided copy)
  • Microsoft Office may be required in some courses and may be downloaded for free through student email

Student Technology Request – If you are in need of a laptop or Wifi hotspot, please use the link below to request these items for checkout and pickup at our campus library.  Note:  You must be a current NW-SCC student or employee to request technology items and must show your driver’s license or state-issued ID upon pickup of requested items.  Items must be returned at the end of the semester but may be checked out again if needed.

Student Technology Request Form

Software Tools – Support, Tutorials, Privacy, and Accessibility

Below you will find information on a variety of tools used at NW-SCC, including support information as well as privacy and accessibility policies.

Adobe Reader

Many instructors post documents online for students in Portable Document Format (PDF). Adobe Reader is available for free and is needed view PDF documents.


Blackboard is the Learning Management System (LMS) used at NW-SCC. It is used as a starting point for all online courses and is also used by instructors in face-to-face courses to supplement activities in the classroom.

Intro Blackboard Tutorial

Visit the Virtual Learning Center for help with Blackboard, or contact us:

Phone: 256-331-5395
Monday – Friday
8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. CST


ConnectMath is a program developed by textbook publisher McGraw-Hill. It is developed to be used together with their textbooks. The program guides the student through the problems step-by-step to the solution.

Submit Help Form:
Phone:  949-390-2095

Hayden McNeil Online Labs (Macmillan Learning)

Hayden McNeil is a virtual lab system used in some online Biology and Chemistry courses.

Kaltura Video/Lecture Capture System

Kaltura is a video/lecture capture system used by many faculty to record course videos and lectures.

For support, please contact the Virtual Learning Center at or call 256-331-5263.


MindTap is a product developed by textbook publisher Cengage and designed to be used with their textbooks.


MyMathLab is used for all developmental math courses at NW-SCC and is also used for some higher level math courses.  Use the links below to get support or view the student user guide.

If you need additional assistance with MyMathLab, please contact Beth Brewer at or 256-331-8024.

MyNW-SCC (Banner)

myNW-SCC (Banner) is NW-SCC’s student information system. You can use it to register and pay online, view final course grades, and financial aid information as well as view your transcript and other important information. myNW-SCC is linked on the website homepage or directly at the link below. 



Microsoft Office 365 is available for free to all currently enrolled students.  Our student email site explains how to log into your Microsoft Office Outlook student email account. After logging into Outlook, students are able to download the Office 365 software by clicking on the Gear icon at the top right of the Inbox and then on Install Status.  There should then be a link to download.

To find your NW-SCC email address, log into your myNW-SCC Banner account, click on the Student tab and then Personal Information.  You should then see a link to View Email Addresses.

If you have trouble logging into your account, please contact Dr. Christy Shepard at  or 256-331-5263.


OpenStax is an online resource of open educational resources. These are free resources that your instructor may use to help with textbook costs. If your course uses an OpenStax textbook, you can find additional information below on using OpenStax.

OpenStax Support

You may also contact the Distance Education Office at or 256-331-5263.


Distance students who are unable to take exams at the campus testing center, have the option to use ProctorU, an online service that allows students to have exams proctored remotely from their home computer 24-hours a day and 7-days a week. There is an additional fee to the student and certain technical requirements, but this is a great option for busy students since it will allow them to take exams outside of regular Testing Center hours.


Quizlet is a review tool and website used in some courses. Below you will find information on computer requirements as well as accessibility and privacy policies.


Remind is a free messaging service that allows instructors and students to communicate via text or email without having each other’s cell numbers or email addresses. It is used by some NW-SCC instructors to communicate more efficiently. If you will be using Remind for your class, your instructor will give you the information needed to set up your account.

Respondus LockDown Browser and Monitor

LockDown Browser® is a custom browser that locks down the testing environment within a learning management system. Respondus Monitor® builds upon the power of LockDown Browser, using a student’s webcam and industry-leading video analytics to prevent cheating during non-proctored exams. Many instructors offer students the option to test remotely using Respondus Monitor.


Pearson’s Revel is an interactive ebook site used in some Music, History, and Art courses at NW-SCC. It uses the text, videos, quizzes, and other interactive components to help students learn the material.


SAM is a product developed by textbook publisher Cengage and designed to be used with their textbooks.

Smarthinking Online Tutoring

Smarthinking is a free online tutoring service available to all NW-SCC students. Students may access it by logging into Blackboard and clicking on the Smarthinking link.

If you are unable to see the Smarthinking link in Blackboard, please contact Dr. Christy Shepard at or 256-331-5263.

TurnItIn is primarily used by NW-SCC English faculty to check for plagiarism of student essays and research papers.  TurnItIn checks the Internet and all previously submitted student work for plagiarism.  Students may use the links below for help and support.


Note:  VidGrid will be replaced by the Kaltura video/lecture capture system beginning with the fall 2022 semester.

VidGrid is a video platform for watching videos using an interactive video player. VidGrid is a great resource for watching lectures and viewing supplemental video tutorials. It is available to NW-SCC students if an instructor decides to use it.  If your instructor uses VidGrid, links to videos or video folders will be provided in the course.  All the student needs to do is click on the link for a a video to open the player. Students are also able to make notes and share comments with other students.

Support and tutorials are available after accessing VidGrid through a link in your Blackboard course.

You may also contact the Distance Education Office at or 256-331-5263.


WebAssign is online software that is integrated with several textbooks. WebAssign is an assessment tool that provides students’ with helps to increase student performance.


WebEx is an online conferencing tool that is used by some instructors for live class meetings, office hours, and remote testing. To use WebEx, students need a high-speed Internet connection and webcam with microphone.


YouTube videos are frequently used within distance or web-assisted courses to provide additional information or instruction on various topics.

Copyright Basics

Copyright is an area of law that provides creators and distributors of creative works with an incentive to share their works by granting them the right to be compensated when others use those works in certain ways.  Under the fair use provision, a reproduction of someone else’s copyright-protected work is likely to be considered fair if it is used for one of the following purposes:  criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research.  It is important that all faculty, staff, and students understand how and when copyrighted works may be used. 

Digital Millennium Copyright Act Compliance

In 1998, the U.S. Congress passed into law the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which essentially updates copyright law for the digital environment.  Under DMCA, Northwest-Shoals Community College is considered to be an Online Service Provider (OSP) for faculty, staff, and students.

Northwest-Shoals Community College has established Dr. Christy Shepard, Dean of Instructional Technology/Information Systems, as the College’s agent to receive notification of claimed infringement from a copyright owner as required by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  The College is listed on the website of the U.S. Copyright Office.  Copyright information is available online on the NW-SCC Technology Resources site and on the website of the U.S. Copyright Office.

If you suspect that anyone at NW-SCC, including a student, is using any copyright-protected material without the permission of the copyright holder, immediately report this to Dr. Christy Shepard at 256-331-5263 or

If you are unable to find the help you need on this page, please contact:

Dr. Christy Shepard
Dean of Instructional Technology/Information Systems
Phone: (256) 331-5263