Being a successful online student requires a variety of skills related to working and learning in a digital environment. This section will outline some of the most important skills students need to be successful with online course work.

In this module you will get to know the:

  • Required basic technology related skills for your online courses
  • Required hardware and software
  • Process in-case you don't have access to a computer
  • Required mobile technology skills
  • Email and digital communication requirement
  • Technical difficulties to resolve
  • Process to get help with your online classes

Basic Computer Skills

While you don't need to know everything about computers, it would be beneficial to have a solid understanding of basic technical skills so you can function effectively in an online course.

If you're thinking about taking an online course, you already know that it requires some basic technological skills.
Understanding what these skills are up front will make things much easier for you as a student, which is why we've created this module. After completing it, you'll have an idea of what your online instructor might need you to know.

This includes becoming familiar with:

  • Applications and/or tools you will need
  • The value of a fast Internet connection
  • How to locate and download the free plugins that your course might require
  • The basics of email
  • How to obtain tech support when you need it

What Will I Need?

Students take their online courses using a range of devices, from desktop and laptop computers to smartphones and tablets. You may choose to do your schoolwork on one or more of these gadgets—it's about finding out which form of hardware best suits both your needs as a student and the requirements of the course.

If you're going to buy a computer, select something reliable, and more importantly, make sure that you have access to a fast internet connection (we recommend, but don't require, a broadband connection).

These are some basic programs that your device will need to be equipped with in order to interact with your school's Learning Management System (or Canvas in this case).

The following is a list of basic computer system requirements to use for Canvas. It is always recommended to use the most up-to-date versions which have better connections. Canvas will still run with the minimum specifications, but you may experience slower loading times.

Screen Size

Canvas is best viewed at a minimum resolution of 800x600. If you want to view Canvas on a device with a smaller screen, we recommend using the Canvas mobile app.

Operating Systems

Since Canvas is built using web standards, it runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, or any other device with a web browser.

You'll want to make sure that you have an up-to-date operating system. Your computer's operating system is the software that manages the programs and functions of your computer.

For the courses you take with Canvas, you will be required to have one of the following operating systems:

  • For PC, Windows 7 or higher
  • For Mac, OS 10.4 or higher
  • Linux
  • Chrome OS

Mobile Operating System Native App Support

As of January 5, 2019, Android apps require version 5.0 or later and iOS apps require version 11 or later. All Android and iOS both support the two most recent versions of their respective operating systems.

Desktop Computer Speed and Processor

  • Use a computer 5 years old or newer when possible
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 2GHz processor

Internet Speed

  • Along with compatibility and web standards, Canvas has been carefully crafted to accommodate low bandwidth environments.
  • Minimum of 512kbps
  • 2GHz processor

Screen Readers

Your individual course may also have its own hardware requirements. Check with your instructor or look at your syllabus to see if there is anything else you might need for your course.
Some common hardware requirements might include:

  • A printer
  • A headset
  • Speakers

Supported Browsers

Another factor that you'll want to keep an eye out for is whether your computer includes the following browsers to view your course contents on Canvas.

It is always a good idea to have several browsers installed on your machine when possible - that way you have a few options to choose from if you run into any problems.

Canvas Supports

The current and first previous major releases of the following browsers:

In addition to having a browser to view online content, sometimes your course will require you to install one or more of the following plug-ins so that you can view other media that the browser alone may not be able to handle: like animations, sound clips, PDFs, or any number of other things.
Some common plug-ins you may need to install could include:

These are free applications you can download from the internet, and your instructor (or even your computer) will let you know when you need a plug-in in order to view something.

What if I don’t have access to a computer?

If your computer isn't particularly reliable, or if you don't have a computer or other internet-capable device, don't worry—there are plenty of places where you can find computer access, and oftentimes for free. Here are few places on-campus or off-campus where you can find computers:

LAVC Campus Library

Registered students can use the computers located in Computer Commons and the first floor of the library. Additional computers and laptops are available in different labs throughout the campus. Please refer to Module 10 for the locations and the links.

Local Libraries

There are numerous library locations in the Greater Los Angeles County with access to computers.

Moreover, just make sure that the device you choose to work on is dependable and that the space you choose to work in is conducive to your study habits.

Slow computers and poor internet connections can significantly increase the time it takes for you to access and complete the requirements for your online course, and the last thing you want to deal with all semester is internet, hardware, or accessibility issues.

Mobile Browsers and Applications

Canvas is built on open web standards and uses minimal instances of Flash, so most features are supported on mobile devices. However, mobile browsers are not supported and some features may not function as expected compared to viewing Canvas in a fully supported desktop browser.

On mobile devices, Canvas is designed to be used within the Canvas mobile application

Canvas pages within a mobile browser are only supported when an action in the app links directly to the browser, such as when a student takes certain types of quizzes. Support is not extended to pages that cannot currently be used in the app, such as Conferences or Collaborations.

Additionally, Canvas offers limited support for native mobile browsers on tablet devices. For details, please reference the limited-support mobile browser guidelines.

Depending on your device, not all Canvas features may be available on the app at this time. View Canvas Student mobile features by version and device.

Digital Communication

You will also definitely need an email account, if you don't already have one. Los Angeles Community College District, Los Angeles Valley College, provides free email accounts for registered students. Every student at any of the nine Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD)'s campuses use a common email system called Office 365.

Look at your school's email policy and figure this out before you sign up for any online course, because this will be one of the chief ways that you will communicate with your instructors and classmates.

Your instructor will probably state in his or syllabus what the preferred means of communication will be for the term. And if you're not required to use a school email account, you can use one you've already got.

In Canvas, you can receive and send emails to your classmates and the instructor through the Inbox app. The Icon is located on the Global Navigation, which will be discussed in Module 9.

Technical Difficulties

Here's the bad news: during your studies, you're bound to have an issue with your computer hardware or software. But let's face it—that would probably be true if you were taking a course in a traditional classroom as well.

We suppose it's just another facet of the modern condition. The good news is that most technical problems are relatively easy to solve, and if you're really struggling with a technical issue, you can always count on the Canvas tech support team.

After all, your program is here to support you—we want you to be able to resolve your tech issues quickly so that you can get back to your online studies.

Most of the issues you might encounter when taking a course online don't require a complicated fix from tech support. In fact, you should be able to solve most problems yourself, and some may be so simple that they seem borderline ridiculous.

Bear with us while we go through some of the most frequent issues—some of these troubleshooting suggestions we're about to give you are very obvious. Like, embarrassingly so. But you'd be surprised at how often these "obvious" solutions are overlooked.

Try some of these quick fixes if you experience common hardware issues.

  • Check your computer cables and connections to make sure a cable or connection has not loosened or come unplugged. Sometimes things shift around without you noticing, and it's an easy place to start.
  • If your computer is plugged into a surge protector (which it should be, if possible!) make sure that the surge protector is turned on. It's often a good idea to reset the surge protector by turning it off and on, just in case this is the source of your problem.
  • If you are using a laptop, Netbook, notebook, or tablet, it is a good idea to check your battery status often while you work. You can generally move your mouse over (or click on) the battery icon shown on your screen and it will tell you just how much battery life is left.
  • If the device will not turn on at all, try plugging it in and charge it for a few minutes before trying again. Some devices have a battery indicator on the outside of the device as well, usually near or on the battery itself.
  • If your computer monitor is blank, make sure it is plugged in, connected to the computer, and turned on. Next, check the brightness control, generally located on the monitor or keyboard.
  • If you have no sound on your computer, check the volume control for your computer to see if it is turned up high enough. Some applications (and some plug-ins) have their own volume controls as well, make sure you check both places to resolve any sound issues. If you're using speakers, make sure they are plugged in, turned on, and properly connected to the audio port.
  • It can be helpful to test your system's sound by plugging headphones into the audio port on your computer to see if you can hear anything that way.

If trying one of these "easy fixes" does not solve your issue, save your work and try restarting your computer. Surprisingly, this troubleshooting technique often works best!

Getting Help

One last alternative before calling the help-desk support is to simply conduct an internet search for your issue. With billions of computer and internet users around the world, chances are that someone has had the same problem you're having, and that someone else has posted a solution.

The internet is full of these kinds of resources—from companies' official troubleshooting pages to community help forums; you'll often be able to easily find the solution you're looking for.

Here is some important advice: when attempting to solve a technical problem on your computer, keep track of any messages your computer displays, and the steps you've taken in your attempt to fix it. If the problem is complicated, you might need to explain to tech support everything you've done to try to fix it on your own.

If none of these strategies work, however, don't hesitate to contact LAVC’s Virtual Valley Helpdesk & 24/7 Hotline.

They're here to support you and your studies, they'll do their best to help you quickly find a solution to any issues they can. This Help page provides support during school hours.


Well done! You have successfully completed the Getting Tech Ready module and we hope you are feeling a bit more comfortable with some of the technology you will be using to take your online course! For additional information, make sure you check with Virtual Valley Helpdesk, as indicated above. They will be able to provide you with the valuable resources and instructive guidance you need to become a tech savy student.

Help Links

Canvas Live Chat Assistance 24/7
Class Login

Canvas Login Instructions

  1. In a web browser, go to
  2. LoginID/UserID: Your 9-digit student ID number (example: 881234567 or 900123456)
  3. Password: Same as your SIS password (where you registered for the class). Show me.