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How your course is taught

Students talking in front of the Clocktower

Distance Learning at Otago

Distance learning involves self-directed study using course material and completing assessments. Interaction with other students and lecturers might be by web conference, online discussion forums, or audio conference. Course material may be provided in hard copy, online or via CD-Rom or DVD. Some papers involve attendance at on campus residential schools.

Online Learning Environments

Online learning environments provide access to course materials, discussion forums, workshops, quizzes, blogs and wikis, and online assessment via the internet. Other features provided include the ability to upload assignments, engage in real-time chat and link directly from course material to other web-based information.

Answers to many of the questions students have, including study time required, teaching periods and when exams are held are shown elsewhere on this website.

Web Conferences - Zoom

Zoom is a web conferencing tool used to conduct online meetings; hold discussions and tutorials; and much more. It enables you to connect to your lecturer and other students from your computer, tablet or smartphone.

It is "a bit like Skype to use - but with a lot more functions than just seeing and hearing each other".

Zoom has many useful features to encourage collaboration and learning, such as:

  • Group text, audio and video chat
  • Ability to share presentations (like Powerpoint)
  • Collaborate on a whiteboard
  • Conduct polls during your meetings
  • Share useful files
  • Create groups who meet in separate ‘rooms’ and report back

Hardware requirements for using Zoom

What you need:

A suitable computer in a quiet room with:

  • Internet Explorer 8, Firefox 3, Safari 2 or higher versions of these.
  • Adobe Flash Player 10.1 or better (A link to a free download is part of the test setup below)

A headset with microphone:

  • All participants should use headsets with microphones. Using the computer’s in-built microphones and speakers
  • may lead to sound problems for all users.
  • Apple computer users need to use a USB headset.
  •  Headsets that have been tested and found to be acceptable are (These range from $25 to $70 – cheapest listed first.)
    • 3.5mm jack Headset Logitech H110, H150
    • SB Headset Logitech H330, H390, H555.
  • If you cannot locate a headset with microphone readily, at a minimum headphones or ear buds are required to listen to the web conference.

A web camera (though you can still participate without one):

  • Laptop and PC inbuilt web cameras are usually quite adequate.
  • Microsoft web cameras may not be fully compatible with Apple computers.
  • Most Logitech cameras work OK on PC and Macs.
  • You do not need a high resolution web camera. One around $30 should be fine. E.g. Logitech Webcam C170, 1.3 Megapixels, USB 2

An internet connection:


It is very important that you check out your computer setup at least a couple of days before your first Zoom session so there is time to address any connection problems. Instructions on how to setup your computer to participate in Zoom sessions, can be found at:

Further information

Much useful information on using Zoom, including troubleshooting, tips and FAQs is available at:


For assistance with using Zoom, please contact the ITS Service Desk on:
Tel 0800 479 888 or

Course Material

Closer to the start of the course, you will be provided with course information such as staff contact details, any on-campus component, assessment information, course modules, a reading list and an audioconference shedule (if applicable). Course material and other information may be provided in a range of multimedia formats (in addition to print or online learning system). Your paper coordinator will advise which technologies are being utilised in your course and will provide access instructions. These formats may include:

  • CD-ROMs and DVDs
  • Podcasts
  • Streaming Media

Copyright of University resources

All material produced by the University as a course resource is for the sole use of students enrolled in the course and is subject to copyright constraints. This includes print, CD-ROMs, DVDs, other audio and video material, software, and web based resources.

Unless there is a specific statement to the contrary, you may not provide copies of the materials you receive as part of your course of study to any person, or re-use them in any other forum outside the papers in which you are enrolled, without permission. Note that this restriction does not affect your ability to re-use insubstantial amounts of any material because this is allowed under NZ law as “fair dealing” with copyright material for criticism or review. Find out more about fair dealing at

If you do wish to use a substantial portion of any piece of material you receive as part of your course in another forum, then you should contact the person or publisher who holds the copyright, or alternatively, email the University Copyright Officer at for advice.

Course materials that the University of Otago distributes are provided to students according to NZ copyright law, or with license agreements between the University and licensing agencies, such as Copyright Licensing Limited or Screenrights.

As a student, you are also the creator of material for which you may hold the copyright. As the copyright holder, you can specify what someone else may or may not do with the material you have created. One of the methods that will enable you to do this, is through licenses that have been established based on New Zealand Copyright legislation, such as Creative Commons

For more information about copyright, visit:

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Block/Residential Workshops attendance

Many of the University of Otago’s distance papers require attendance at on-campus workshops for blocks of teaching. These intensive periods of delivery occur at strategically important times of the tuition schedule and are organised by your teaching Department. If you have any queries or practical concerns, please contact your course administrator.