Distance Education Tools and Tips for Students

This list of resources includes commonly used planning, presentation and study tools. Find quick answers to Laulima issues, get the most out of Google apps, and learn to connect with Zoom. Bookmark this page for future reference.


You can highlight and make notes on website content just as you do textbooks. Hypothes.is is a social bookmarking tool that highlights, annotates and saves bookmarked pages in lists. You can make your comments visible to others, or keep your annotations private. Hypothes.is is a Chrome extension and can be found in the Web Store. Diigo is another commonly used annotation tool and Chrome extension.

Whether you use Google Docs or Microsoft Word, you’ll need a good means to generate citations from source materials. For Google Docs, use an add-on like EasyBib or Paperpile to format citations or create bibliographies. For Microsoft Word, you can create a bibliography, citations, and references directly within the References ribbon.

Plan ahead to keep important course and contact information handy. 

  • Save a copy of the syllabus, assignment schedule, and course materials to your Google Drive.
  • You may want to print a copy of important documents.
  • If you plan on working offline, download the materials you’ll need while you have WiFi access.
  • Save your instructor’s email address so you can contact them as needed. 
  • Share contact information with a few classmates, so you can text one another in case of Laulima connectivity issues.

If you are manually logging in every time you come to campus, consider setting up your ITS Passthrough. Visit: https://www.hawaii.edu/wireless/pt/

Passthrough privileges are valid for one year and can be renewed annually. 

Adding UH Email to your Smartphone

Consider adding your UH mail account to your phone. It is important to check your UH email daily for class information. Adding it to a mail app on your phone will make it easier to access information about your classes.

Finding it hard to get students together for group projects? Use Google Calendar to set meeting times and notify participants. The Calendar is accessible through UH Google Apps. 

Doodle.com is an online scheduling tool that allows a meeting organizer to poll group members on their available times to narrow down workable options. 

PowerPoint is great for slides presentations and often comes bundled with Windows computers. Another option is Google Slides, which is included in UH Google Apps. Both PowerPoint and Slides have collaboration features. You can also upload your PowerPoint presentations to your Google Drive and convert to Slides with ease.  

Infographics can also be used for presentations. Check out Canva for infographics templates.

Powtoon is a site for creating animated video presentations.

Try TechSmith Capture, a free alternative to SnagIt, to create basic screenshots and screen recordings.

Create quizzes, flashcards, and interactive diagrams with Quizlet

Use Google Docs’ Voice Typing feature for organizing your thoughts or creating a quick transcript for a speech or presentation. To access this feature in Google Docs, click Tools and Voice Typing. A microphone icon will appear.

The Voice to Text extension for the Google Chrome browser recognizes over 60 languages. To add the extension, go to the Chrome Web Store

Many operating systems include speech to text software. On a Mac, enable Enhanced Dictation through System Preferences > Keyboard > Dictation. On a Windows computer, enable Windows Speech Recognition through Programs > Accessories > Ease of Access > Windows Speech Recognition.

Many online classes use Zoom for Web conferencing. Students also use the platform for group work outside of class. Go to Zoom.us to open a free account. The site has many helpful resources on how to host a meeting, handle audio issues and more. Another option is Google Meet, which has been newly tied to Gmail. Click ‘Start a Meeting’ to the right of your email listing and enable camera and audio access. For details, see Google Meet in Gmail quick start.


Laulima is the learning management system (LMS) used by the University of Hawaii system. Instructors use the LMS to post lessons, resources and requirements for their courses. Students use Laulima to check their classes, contribute to discussions, and submit assignments. As with any technology, learning to use Laulima takes practice. The Office of Distance Learning has created tutorials to answer frequently asked questions relating to Laulima. Our YouTube channel is UH West O‘ahu Distance Ed.

Laulima has several communication tools that may be made available by your instructor: 

  • The Discussions tool often includes a topics open to students to discuss assignement details and ask questions. 
  • The Mailtool is linked to your hawaii.edu email account. Use Mailtool to contact your classmates or instructor.

Experiencing a technical issue? Please use the Request Assistance form link at the bottom of any page in Laulima and provide a detailed description. While the helpdesk is ready to assist, here are a few steps you can take to determine or resolve the issue.

Is Laulima ‘down’ or is it your Internet Service Provider? 

  • Open another browser tab. Are other websites working? If so, it may be a Laulima problem that ITS is working to fix.
  • Try the Firefox browser, which is most compatible with Laulima.

With this video, learn how to get started by logging into your Laulima.

Instructors use Laulima differently based on their preferences and needs for each course. You may be asked to submit assignments in Drop Box for one class, while another instructor uses the Mailtool for collecting coursework. Tools can also be renamed by the instructor. For example, Discussions might be labeled as Communication Space. Familiarize yourself with the Laulima tools being used in each class. Ask your instructor if you are unclear about the purpose of any tool. 

Laulima Operations:

  • Laulima daily downtimes. Laulima will be unavailable on a daily basis from 3:00am-4:00am HST for server backup and maintenance.
  • Laulima auto log-off. For your protection, Laulima automatically logs you out if it does not detect activity for two hours. A warning message will appear notifying you of the lack of activity. 


  • Hardware – Full access is available via most desktop or notebook computers. Limited access is possible through smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices (these devices are not recommended for testing or graded submissions).
  • Internet connection – A broadband connection is recommended; a wired connection is recommended during a test or when submitting work. Please note that mobile/cellular connections may prove to be unreliable with Laulima and are generally not recommended.
  • Web browser – Most web browsers should work, but Firefox has been found to be the most compatible, and is recommended for test taking. We do not recommend using Internet Explorer (or Edge) for submitting work or taking tests in Laulima. Google Chrome is no longer recommended for Laulima.
  • UH Username and password – Use your UH username and password to sign into Laulima, MyUH, UH Gmail, and all other UH Google Apps. Verify yours here
  • Plugins – Some course content requires plugins to read and view. Common plugins:
    • PDF reader (eg. Adobe Acrobat Reader)
    • QuickTime Player
    • Windows Media Player
    • Java
    • Adobe Flash
    • Real Player

This video is a tour of a Laulima course site designed for student users. If you have any questions, you can email us at uhwode@hawaii.edu. (2019)

To make your courses more readily found:

  1. Log into Laulima and click ‘Sites’ at the top of the page.
  2. Star your current courses and remove the star highlighting from past courses. 
  3. Go to the Organize Favorites tab to reorder courses to your preference.  
  4. If you cannot find your course, you may not be enrolled and should contact your instructor.


Every UHWO student has access to Google Drive and Docs (among other Google tools). Find Google Drive, Docs and more by clicking the grid menu icon in the top right corner of the screen. You’ll need to be signed into a browser using your UH username and password.

Drive can be used to store all types of class content for easy online access. If you find yourself without internet access, you can continue to work in Google Docs, Sheets and Slides with a little preplanning. While connected to the internet, open the Chrome browser and install the Google Docs Offline extension from the Chrome Web Store. You have offline options to create, view, and edit files on an Android or iOS phone or tablet. Click the link for details from Google Drive Help.

Google Docs can be private or shared with others. When sharing, edit or view rights can be selected to maintain control of your documents. Once editing rights are shared, students can collaborate on a Doc as a group in real time. Each student can find shared docs as ‘Shared with Me’ in their own Google Drive.

Google Calendar is a handy tool for making sure that you don’t miss any of your important events and meetings (for example, graduation day or your graduation vacation). UHWO students have access to a Google Calendar account in the same way that they have access to other Google applications such as Google Docs and Google Drive. You can access your Google Calendar through your hawaii.edu email account. Click the grid icon at the top right of the screen, and the drop down menu will include your Google Calendar.

The best part about Google Calendar is that it will act like an assistant that keeps track of your events and reminds you about when they are getting close. Just click on any day in the calendar to add in the information for your event time. Google Calendar has a default setting to remind you of your event 10 minutes before the event time. If you would like to change the time of the notification, click the gear icon at the top right corner of the page. Next, click Settings. There will be tabs at the top left of the screen. Click Calendars, and then you can click the link to edit notifications for your events.


This interactive widget explains attendee access to Zoom meeting features based on computer or device operating system.

This interactive widget explains Zoom breakout room features based on computer or device operating system.

Some online class lectures may be delivered via Zoom. Watch your UH email to see if your instructor will be using Zoom. If so,  download for your device. 


It is good practice to save your data (documents, photos, videos, etc.) to the cloud in addition to your harddrive. Use your Google Drive to serve as a backup to your device storage. Make it a habit to send your assignments and creative work to the cloud in case your device is damaged, lost or stolen. Microsoft Word docs, PowerPoint slides, MP4 videos and PDFs can all be sent to Google Drive. 

Online courses are a great way to advance your educational goals and learn critical skills for a changing marketplace. Keeping on track is the key to distance learning success. Above all, don’t procrastinate! Here are some tips:

  • Check your course Announcements regularly. 
  • Add your major assignment deadlines to your Google Calendar.
  • Keep on schedule with weekly coursework. Don’t let readings pile up!
  • Review your Laulima Syllabus to plan ahead.
  • Exchange contact information with a classmate and ask questions. 
  • Contact your instructor when you need help or guidance.