Help for Students

This page includes hints and tips for success in your biology courses but may be applicable to other subjects. There are also general instructions for accessing Blackboard and how to get help on campus if students need it. I have also included some handouts I give relating to studying and test-taking.  Feel free to share this information with other students!


Feeling Stressed Out? Follow this link for a one-page handout with practical tips for managing stress on a day-to-day basis: Coping with Life

What Do I Need To Do Before Classes Begin?

Visit campus and find the locations of all your classes so that you can arrive on time the first day.
Log in to Blackboard and see if your classes are available. If they are, look for the syllabus and any content the instructor has posted. See if there are any instructions for the first day.
Visit the Bookstore to buy textbooks for your classes or visit the bookstore website to find out what books are required for your class so that you can buy them elsewhere.


E-mail, Computers and Blackboard


I will use email as my primary contact method with you during the semester so remember to check your email every day. I prefer that you contact me via email rather than by phone. There are some simple rules that I ask you to follow:

  • Always put a subject onto your e-mails.
  • Include your first and last name and which class you are in
  • If you would like a reply to an alternative e-mail address, you need to put that at the end of your e-mail. This is very important if you are e-mailing me using Blackboard because the default is your account.
  • Please use proper grammar and spelling. Consider this a business letter rather than a text to your friend.
  • E-mail responses generally take 24-48 hours for a reply so plan ahead!
  • If you are asking questions that may be answered by referring to your syllabus or Blackboard, you will receive a short reply saying so.

I recommend that you put my email address in your “always accept messages from” list so that my reply to your message doesn’t go into your spam bin.


You absolutely must feel comfortable using a computer to do basic tasks for success in all your classes. If you do not, go to the Business Office Technology Flex Lab in the Tech Mall (70-131) or call them (644-7816) TODAY and discuss your needs with the staff. They will enroll you in a 1-unit work-at-your-own-pace tutorial class that will get you up to speed.


If you do not have a computer or Internet access at home, or particular software that you need for a class, there are many computers on campus that you can use. The Tech Mall and the Library have the most stations, but there is also a computer lab on the second floor of building 30 at the north end. Aides/tutors are available to help you in the Tech Mall Open Computer Lab area if you only have a few specific questions. Check on the hours for these facilities ahead of time to make sure you can get all your work done in time, taking into account possible waiting times.


For your Biology classes, you will primarily need to be familiar with Internet browsers, downloading and saving files, and printing. Additionally, you will need to use programs that can view documents in MS Word, Acrobat .pdf files, and PowerPoint. There are free programs that you can download to your home computer so that you can view Acrobat and PowerPoint files.


For Bio 215 you will also need to use MS Excel for homework and practice. For several lab classes, such as Physiology Lab you may need to use Excel for analyzing data and graphing your results. If you have never used Excel before or have not used it enough to feel comfortable with it, enroll in the Business Office Technology tutorial to become more proficient early in the semester.



Your class is supplemented with Blackboard, an online learning system that provides a web site for the class. You will need to access Blackboard on a regular basis to download lecture slide shows, study guides, lab materials, and to contact other students in the class. It is also where you will find your grades and various announcements, including schedule revisions if there are any.

To Log In:

  1. You must be enrolled in the class to have access to the site. If you use an Add Code, the Blackboard page will be available to you the day after you use the code.
  2. Connect to the Internet with a browser such as Internet Explorer
  3. Go the web address http://gcccd.blackboard.comamp;#160;or navigate from the link to Blackboard found in the Online Services menu on
  4. On the Login Page:
    1. Enter your username (firstname.lastname- i.e. bonnie.ripley unless you have a different username for WebAdvisor)
    2. Enter your password (your 6 digit birthdate PIN from WebAdvisor or your Blackboard password from a previous semester)
    3. Click on the “Login” button
    4. If you do not successfully log in, send me an email and I can find out your user name and reset your password for you!
  5. Once you have logged in, you will see a menu on the left side:
    1. Click on the “Personal Information” link in the Tools box on the lefthand side.
    2. Enter an email address THAT YOU CHECK REGULARLY
    3. Also change your password from your birthdate to something else and click on the “OK” button (You only need to change your password on the first login.)
    4. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on “Submit”.

To Get to Your Biology Course

  1. You should see a list of the courses you are enrolled in this semester on the upper right side of the page. Look for the one with the name (Ripley) after it.
  2. This semester I am teaching several courses but you will only be able to access the class you are enrolled in
  3. Click on the course you are in and you will arrive to the front page for your class.  The menu buttons are on the upper left side.
    1.  “Announcements” is where I will post additional information during the semester, especially syllabus revisions
    2. “Course Information” has a copy of the syllabus and my contact info
    3. “Lectures” includes lecture slide shows

Accessing and Printing Lecture Slides

Lecture slide show names correspond to lecture names on the course schedule. When you click on the link, you should get a choice to OPEN or SAVE the file.  SAVE the file to your class documents folder.  Then double-click on the file to open it.  If it doesn’t open, you may not have PowerPoint on your computer.  Go to the External Links tab on the Blackboard page and find the PowerPoint viewer link.  Install that on your computer and try again. 


Many students like to print the slides and bring them to class to take notes on. When you have the file open, go to the Print menu.  Most students prefer to select “Handouts” with the 4-6 slides per page or “Outline View” under the “Print What” menu and “Pure Black and White” under the Color menu to save color ink. 


Studying and Test-Taking

For a handout on dealing with TEST ANXIETY, click here! (This information was compiled by Pearl Lopez in the EOPS program/counseling and also contains useful information for not-so-anxious test-takers.)


More content coming soon...


Getting More Help


There are three main one-on-one supplemental study support systems available on campus:


1) Faculty office hours: These are times when your instructor is expected to be in their office and available for student questions.  Don't be shy about stopping  by for extra help.  Normally you don't need to make an appointment, but if the office hour times don't fit in your schedule try asking your instructor questions before or after class/lab or email them to make an appointment at another time.  Make the most of this time by having specific questions ready about the content.  Most instructors are also happy to talk about study skills and career advice in office hours as well


2) Peer tutoring: You are entitled to two free hours of peer tutoring per class in the Tutoring Center in the Tech Mall. Most classes have tutors available, but some may not (especially upper level courses).  These are students who took the class and got an A, so they can help you learn the material, prepare for exams, and improve your study habits. Don't ask tutors to do your work for you, however.  


3) Study groups: Organizing or joining a study group of fellow students in your class is an excellent way of helping improve your grades.  Discussing the content is a better way to learn it than re-reading your notes.  You will discover what things you understand and what things you don't understand by having to explain them to others.  Your group-mates can also help you fill in any missing notes and you may send a delegate to office hours if the times are bad for other group members.  You don't have to be friends to be in a study group together.  If one group is not working for you, find other people to study with.  Some groups are more effective than others.  This is not a good reason not to try, however.  If you don't know anyone and are shy, ask your instructor to introduce you to some other students. 

Other Life Issues

There are lots of services available on campus to help you navigate everything from Financial Aid to Health issues.  For example, if you think you are sick you can go to the school nurse for free and find out if you need to see a doctor or not.  If you have something going on in your life that is interfering with your ability to do your best in your class, let your instructor know. You don't have to say what is going on, but if you explain your limitations they can arrange with you, if possible, to make up course work or accommodate your situation. Your instructor may also be able to refer you to people on campus that can give you more targeted help.  Most faculty are not psychological counselors, so they may not be able (or willing) to help you solve your problems directly, but they probably are willing to work with you to succeed in their class as you get your situation under control.