FIRST YEARS > FAQs LibraryDistance Education Technical/Computer Requirements
vertical line divider To participate in the FIRST YEARS Certificate, you must satisfy certain technical requirements relating to the computer system and Internet service you choose. These specifications, plus needed software downloads, are detailed in this document.

Students participating in the distance-format courses must have/have access to:

  • an "onyen" - the "Only Name You'll Ever Need" at UNC. When accepted into the program you receive a PID, a Personal IDentification number. This allows you to create your onyen, which then gives you access to UNC services.
  • Minimum: Pentium 4-level or Macintosh-equivalent computer.
  • Broadband connection, i.e. DSL, ISDN, or cable broadband/DSL
  • CD ROM and DVD Drives
  • Sakai-compatible browser. You will need to use a browser supported by Sakai, the "course management system" used by UNC for distance courses. Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer are the only recommended browsers to use with Sakai for all operating systems. We highly recommend Firefox: There are special configurations for IE at times, which you will not be bothered with using Firefox.
  • Other operating systems and browser combinations have not been tested by the Sakai company and are therefore not "fully supported" by them. In sum, this means that if you are using an operating system and browser combination other than the supported ones, you may need to make some browser adjustments.
  • Anti-Virus Software

  • These days it is extremely important to protect your computer from viruses. There are many good antiviral packages, but make sure that whichever one you purchase is updated frequently and includes free downloads of the latest virus definitions. As enrolled students, you can obtain the Symantec Antivirus software at the UNC-Chapel Hill Shareware site. If you need a good, free, additional one, try AVG Free from
  • Faxing capabilities
  • Internet/e-mail address. All enrolled students will be communicating with the instructor via:

  • 1) e-mail,
    2) "mailto" Weblinks, and
    3) "threaded discussion forums."
    • E-mail: 
      • When you officially enroll in the certificate program, you will receive a HIPPA-compliant UNC email address, which will have the format: Email from UNC will always come to your UNC "Exchange" email utility. For example, every 90 days, you will receive a security notice to change your password at the UNC address. Thus, while in FIRST YEARS you will need to check your UNC. See Exhange/Outlook WebApp Email at UNC.
      • On occasion, your instructor may require you to create a document using an application program (e.g. Microsoft Word) and attach this document to your e-mail message. See: how to attach files.
    • "Mailto" Weblinks: Course materials often have instructor e-mail addresses which, when clicked, display a "mail compose" form. To send the message(s) you compose, you must first configure your browser to tell it who you are and what your e-mail address is. That is, you must supply the browser with identification about you, the sender. If when you click a mailto link and are able to send it, you are configured. Success! If not, contact to learn more about configuring your particular browser to handle "mailto links."
    • Discussion forum:  Most courses will use threaded discussion groups, which use the Web's hypertext capabilities to group messages by topic. Sakai's discussion forums are very simple to use.

  • Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint). 
    • UNC-CH has signed a Campus Agreement with Microsoft to cover a wide range of its products. Faculty, staff, and enrolled students may participate in this agreement, once UNC activates your onyen.
    • With the introduction of Vista/Windows 7 and Office 2007/2010, you may have to convert these files to "rich text format"  for folks using earlier versions of Office or Windows XP (many still use these).
      • If you use another suite of programs, e.g. WordPerfect, you will have to convert to rtf/rich text format. There is a suite of Office-eqivalent programs called Open Office, which is free. Click here for more information on this product.
Browser Test
There are several "plug-ins" needed to handle multimedia and "interactivity" on the Web --  Javascript, Quicktime, Windows Media player, Flash*, RealPlayer, Adobe Acrobat "PDF" Reader. These are all needed for your distance courses. To test your computer for some basic system requirements, take the Browser Test below. 

* Note: If downloading FLASH, be sure to uncheck the box which installs the McAfee application.

Test your system now.Browser Test

Great ideaShould you need any downloads, make sure you scroll to look for the free readers. Sometimes the first download option will be for a product you must buy. Keep looking! The free reader will be on the page somewhere. In addition, look closely for any download options involving "piggyback" installations, like additional toolbars, free trial upgrades ...  Leave such choice boxes unchecked - and do not give your email address. You could end up on a SPAM list.

Bulletins for Internet ExplorerSuch special configurations are one more reason to use Firefox!
4/4/12: Copy/Paste from Word
Did you upgrade your web browser to IE9?  With IE9 you have to modify the document mode to 'Use IE8' in order for the "Paste from Word" tool to work correctly. You can do this by:

  • Open Sakai and login with IE9.
  • Open the compatibility screen for IE9 with F12. Then choose the 'Document Mode' entry displayed in the bottom window that opens. Choose 'Internet Explorer 8 Standards.'
  • Use the "Paste from Word" icon.
Bobby WorldWide Approved 508
Alexander Graham Bell Association | UNC-CH Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences

© FIRST YEARS, Last update: April  2012, Maintained by FIRST YEARS Webmaster