One of the many *new things for you to learn* as you transition to university is how to access information about your topics, and that means navigating two important things: FLO, or Flinders Learning Online, and your topic guidebook/handbook. Getting a handle on how to read and use these two important texts early will make your organisation and planning much easier and save you a lot of time in the long run.
So let’s get into it!
One of the key academic skills that you will need to develop at university is digital literacy. But it’s also one of those skills that no one really talks about or explains in any way. Most academics just assume that you have it, but this isn’t always the case! For example, I bet you probably aren’t even totally sure what I mean by the term ‘digital literacy’.
In a nutshell, digital literacy is the ability to use and understand technology, things like computers and smartphones and different kinds of software. But, importantly, it’s also about your ability to critically analyse information in online spaces and use technology to communicate, problem solve and participate in learning.
I’ll talk more about this in future blogs, but it’s this last part that we’re interested in today, because another key element of independent learning is being able to find information that you need online.
FLO (Flinders Learning Online)
So, we’re going to start with FLO. How do you access it, what types of information can you find on FLO, and why is it important to check it regularly?
FLO can be accessed by logging into your OKTA dashboard which is basically your personal point of access to a range of services at Flinders, such as your email, the student system, careers info and much more. Log in using your FAN (Flinders Authentication Number) and your password.
FLO is made up of a couple of important elements. There’s your:
- Current topics, which you’ll find under the current year tab
- The previous year’s topics, which you will have access to for a year after the course is completed.
- The ‘Additional’ tab, which contains non-topic related pages, such as us, Yunggorendi, the Library and The Student Learning Centre (and I recommend you check out those three very soon!)
You can customise the page to keep your most important topics up top, or include useful blocks that you can pin to the sidebar, such as a calendar, your library information, or a link to your email. You can favourite certain topics by going to the ‘My Topics’ tab at the top of the page and clicking on the star.
Play around with this and figure out what you like. And don’t panic if you accidentally delete something you think might be important. You can always ‘Reset page to default’!
I also recommend that you update your profile. This will help people know who you are and give yourself a social presence on FLO. Being present online will not only help your studies, it will help you feel socially connected and engaged.
Your topic pages should become available to you a week before classes start (though some may be earlier – bonus!). Get online and have a look as soon as the topic is available to make yourself familiar with the content, and so that you can flag any potential issues that you can ask about in your first class.
The arrangement of each FLO page will differ from topic to topic, but most will provide a semester breakdown and move through the topic week by week. This may look like a grid, or it may look like a list.
Some topics, such as in Nursing, for example, will have modules with lots of information. At the end of the day though, there are limitations regarding how each FLO site can be built, so they’re structurally still quite similar to each other.
At the top of the FLO page you will find the topic’s most important links. These may include information about the topic, discussion forums, announcements, the Topic Handbook, eReadings, the Statement of Assessment Methods (SAM), or links for extensions.
Make sure that, if it’s available, you download the Topic Handbook and the SAM (sometimes the SAM is included inside the Topic Handbook, so check there if you can’t find it listed separately).
The semester should be laid out week by week. Some topics will have the information for every week available immediately, others may update as they go, so don’t panic if you can’t see beyond the first few weeks.
What to look for
Scan through each week and get an idea of what content the topic will cover. You’ll notice that certain key words and themes will come up, and this will give you an idea of what you’ll be studying and when. There’s no point starting a textbook or reading about a concept that isn’t covered until week eight! Doing this will show you what you need to prepare for first.
Each week, a link to the lecture recording will be made available which you can stream or download, and often the PowerPoint slides or any other resources associated with the week’s material will be posted. While it might be tempting to miss your lectures and watch them at home, I do still recommend you attend if you are able and use the lecture recordings for revision.
Another important thing to look out for in each week is the readings. These are often split into required readings and recommended readings.
The required readings must be read every week in preparation for the lecture and tutorial, and for that reason it’s best to be looking at the week ahead when you are accessing these. The recommended readings are provided as extra support to supplement your learning, but you won’t necessarily be expected to have read them. They are, however, useful to keep in mind for when it comes time for assessment!
If a link is not provided to the readings in the week’s module, there might be a ‘Readings and Library Resources’ link in your side panel. This should include all of the topic’s readings in alphabetical order (not the order you’ll read them) with links to direct downloads, or to where they can be found in the library. You can also find the topic’s textbooks, topic-specific databases for when it comes time to do your own research, and to past exam papers (if they exist).
Assignment Submission Boxes
The next important feature of your Topic FLO page is the assignment submission box. This might be at the top of the page, or under the relevant week. Have a look at what type of file must be submitted: some topics will want a Word file only, some may request a PDF.
You will then have to upload your assignment to TurnItIn which is text-matching software. TurnItIn finds similar or exact matches between your work and other work, such as journal articles, websites, books and other students’ work. And don’t panic, I have a video all about academic integrity and TurnItIn coming soon!
You can submit your assignment as a draft only, and this means you’ll have the opportunity to change the file once you’ve received your TurnItIn result back. Pay attention to the ‘Submission Status’ at the top of the Submission page! If it says your status is a draft, you can still make changes to it. If you are ready to submit it properly, his ‘Submit Assignment’ and off it goes.
For more information about this process, check out this link: https://flo.flinders.edu.au/mod/book/view.php?id=1442588&chapterid=159461
Finally, have a look at the side panel on the right hand side of your FLO page. First, find the Topic Links section. Here’s where the Topic Readings and Library Resources link I mentioned earlier is (if the topic has one!).
It’s also where you can find other useful links like your topic grades and the link to your SETS, or Student Evaluation of Teaching, which you will need to access at the end of semester.
Next, you’ll also notice that you have a colour coded calendar (I love colour coded things!) that shows you important key dates, such as assignment due dates, and or You can sync your calendar with your student email address and export the calendar items to other calendars you may use such as outlook or google.
Some topics may also include a completion box. Many of the resources and activities posted on FLO will have a box that you can tick when you’ve completed the associated activity.
You can keep track of this, and thus keep track of your progression through the topic overall, by looking at your progression bar (if the topic includes one – it may not). Use this as a time management tool. It shows you what you have and haven’t completed and when they are due.
There are lots of other kinds of units that may be useful that are kept in this little sidebar, for example, glossaries, databases and URL links. So check it out!
Finally, FLO is your key go to point for online communication. Your topic should have a general discussion forum, and it may include content specific or week specific discussion forums as well. Sometimes your topic coordinators will ask you specific questions that you may be required to answer, or sometimes they can just aid you in your understanding of a concept (or get you some participation brownie points!)
But it’s also the perfect place to connect with your peers. If you have a question about assessment or a topic concept, chances are some of your peers are wondering the same thing, and chances are some of your other peers know the answer. Being active on the FLO discussion boards can not only activate your topic engagement and add to your understanding and knowledge, but it can connect you with people and help you feel more comfortable, confident and supported in your studies.
That’s it for part 1, but never fear, part 2 – navigating your Topic Handbook (aka the bible) – is here!
How have you gone navigating FLO? Let us know in the comments what troubles you’ve had, or any solutions to overcoming issues that you think might be useful to other students! Or, just share your thoughts and grievances!
And last of all, don’t forget to subscribe!