Starpath Online Course General Instructions that Apply to all Courses
|General procedure for working through the course...
Read the lesson assignments from the first topic of each lesson. This will have a lesson title in all capital letters (i.e., 1.1 — INTRODUCTION or 3.1 — GLOBAL WINDS). Then do the reading from the texts and software as called for on each lesson. All of the online materials can be printed for reading offline. There might also be practice exercises to carry out. If at any point in your study you have a question about what was assigned or what you have read, then you can either search the Student Discussion group for your answer, or post your own question in the Discussion Group. At the end of the lesson there is at least one practice quiz that you can use to confirm that the recommended materials are understood. The quizzes are discussed below.
There are additional links in the classroom to other references and related articles. These extra links are all optional materials to look at. All of the syllabus and quizzes are based on our own textbooks and workbooks. See samples of pages from inside the course including more notes on procedures.
One efficient way to organize your study is to print out the Practice Quiz at the beginning of a lesson, and use it as a study guide marking the items we want to be sure are covered in that lesson. Then as you read through the assignments you will spot the answers we are focusing on and can mark them on the print out. When you have all of the questions answered, you are ready to return to the quiz online, post your answers, print or save a copy for your records, and submit it to be graded by the instructor.
Ask questions as needed
If for any reason at all you are uncertain about what to do next or how to access any assignment, then please post a question in the Student Discussion Forum. This forum is not just for discussing content; we can also help with more general course matter as needed. If there are technical matters about accessing course content that are not easily answered in a post, we will ask you to call us and we will work these out over the phone. All course content questions, on the other hand, should be posted in the Student Discussion forum.
Remember the ebooks
Your course materials come with printed books and our own elibra ebooks that work on Windows PCs. For comfortable reading, the printed editions are usually preferred, but when traveling or for looking up specific topics, the ebooks are very convenient. The search-and-find-all function of the Starpath Elibra Reader is a powerful tool. There is a Help file inside the reader that explains how to use it.
We also have optional ebooks in all other formats (Kindle, iBooks, pdf, epub). All of these optional formats will work on a Mac or iPad, or any other computer or tablet that supports the readers. See starpath.com/ebooks. They are available at a modest extra cost, and there is an extra student special on all of our pdf or epub versions. Students of any course can obtain an extra 30% discount on the pdf or epub versions at ebooks.starpath.com, not just the ones used in your particular course. Using this discount, you can get a whole library of navigation and weather ebooks for the price of one or two printed books. The promo code is available once registered into any course.
Lesson Terminology (Glossary)
Each lesson has a selected list of terms presented in the bar on the left. It is a standing part of the assignment to read the definitions of these terms. The glossary can be very helpful answering some practice questions. There are often short multiple choice quiz questions on terminology. You can reach the glossary from within the course or from any browser at starpath.com/glossary. We share our glossary with the marine community.
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Each lesson includes at least one practice quiz at the end. There are multiple choice as well as numerical solutions, and some that ask for a short written explanation. The purpose of the quizzes are to double check that the key features of the lesson have been mastered.
The quizzes, however, are part of the training. These are not like tests in school! If a question is not clear to you, or you are not confident about your solution, you can post a question about the question before you submit the quiz. Our goal is that the subject matter be understood on a practical level that will ultimately help with your decision making and more discussion always helps with that. Likewise when you get your graded quiz back and then have access to the solutions we provide, you are encouraged to ask about them as needed.
One hint to all quizzes is the multiple choice questions are almost always directly tied to terminology, and the answers to these will be found in the Glossary. In short, there is generally one such multiple choice for each of the assigned new terms for that lesson.
Note too that since we want the quizzes to be part of the training, they are sometimes not simply asking for rote repeat of some stated fact, but involve thinking about the question or how it might relate to other things that have been treated specifically. On the other hand, if any of these seem to wander too far off the content as directly presented, just post a question for more discussion of what is intended by the question.
In some multiple choice, we might benefit from ruling out the answers that are definitely not right, and then choosing from the better or more general of what is left. This is very good training for USCG exams, in particular those that deal with the Nav Rules. More generally, though, the very process of ruling out some answers reflects understanding of the topics at hand.
You can find your solutions after they have been graded at My Account link. This link shows up on each of the quiz pages as well as on the top right of the Resources page. My Account link is where you can also change your email address or password.
Please read all quiz solutions
After you receive email notice that your quiz has been graded, please go to the solutions and skim through all of them, even the ones you got right. We ask this because we often add notes or related information there that might not appear other places.
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Print the Practice Quizzes
At the end of each lesson there is a practice quiz that is intended to summarize the main points of the lesson. We recommend that at the beginning of each lesson you print out the practice quiz and use is as a work form to record the things you learn from your reading. When the quiz is filled out, you are ready to go back to the online quiz, mark your answers and submit them to be graded. Once graded, you will get an email from the instructor with notes on the quiz, after which you can look at the full solutions online (must be logged in to see them).
Important note on "Printer Friendly" options
At the bottom left of many pages there is a printer friendly option for printing the page in view. This works fine for all pages except your quiz pages. If you use this one after putting in your quiz answers it will erase your answers, which can be very frustrating.
Hence, when making a copy for your records of your quiz answers, use the special Printer Friendly option that we have made. This one is not on the bottom left, but on the left side in the yellow band further up the page, just at the end of the other links there. It is always valuable to print a copy of your quiz answers before submitting.
Print or save quizzes as pdf before submitting
To be sure that you have transcribed your answers from your printed copy of the quiz to the online submission page, it helps to print a copy of the page you are about to submit, just before submitting it. Then comparing these is a final check that no transcription errors have been made.
An option to paper printing your quizzes before submitting is to print them as a pdf file saved on your computer. Chrome has a built in pdf printer. Mozilla firefox has a free Add-on called "pdfit" that will do the job. Mac users have a native print to pdf option, as do latest Win 10 on the PC. Another option if needed for an older computer is to use a free, third-party pdf virtual printer. One popular one is called Doro Writer. Once installed it shows up an an optional printer on your computer.
Print a degree sign ( º )
For some of your answers you may want to use a degree sign, such 47°. To type a degree sign from within any discussion group or quiz, type Ctrl+1. This is a custom keystroke we have set up for within the course; it is not part of any operating system. See special characters. Or you can just use as asterisk (*), such as 47* 23.5'. Everyone will know what that means.
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|Student Discussion Forums...
The Starpath online courses include some 15 years of archived student discussions. These are grouped according to the course topic, but students do have access to more than what is just in their course. The main resource in each course is called the Student Discussion Forum. This archive is a key resource to your training as it is effectively equivalent to having attended hundreds of courses on the same topic as you can search the discussion from all of them.
Ask for help by posting a question
Please remember there are no "spoilers." You can ask a question on any topic, even on specific quiz questions. In fact it is usually helpful to list in subject line of your post the exact quiz question or practice exercise that raised the question. This is often the most efficient route to the answer if there is a specific question involved. Here is a video example of how to post a question.
If you do not get the right answers to practice questions, or have any questions about the lesson or assignments, then you can ask the instructor about it by posting a new topic in the Student Discussion forum. The New Topic link is on the top right of each discussion page. If you care to, you can make a practice post on the page called Radio Check. That is a quick and easy way to see how this works.
When you post a question
try to give a brief headline of the question in the topic's Subject line. This helps other readers find what you have asked about. If the question relates to a specific quiz question or practice exercise then including the question number in the subject line is a good starting point.
Use a separate post for separate topics or subjects
Please make a separate post for each different subject of your question, rather than include multiple unrelated questions in the same post. This helps keep the database of questions organized by topic so it is more helpful to others in the future. It is also easier then for the instructor to answer the questions one at a time if short of time. If you do have multiple questions, there is no problem at all posting several topics at the same time.
How to post a picture or graphic in the student discussion
You can post a picture or graphic related to your ongoing discussion in the student discussion forum. The limit is 800 pixels wide, and not larger than 300kb total file size. You do this with a button just above the input field where the text is typed. Press that button, then navigate to the location on your computer where the picture is, and select it.
One easy way to make the picture is just take a cell phone pic of the plot or drawing and then mail it to yourself, choosing a size less than 300k. Many phones tell you the size before sending. The smallest will usually do fine, i.e. on an iPhone a typical email might offer these options: small 40 kb,
medium 107 kb,
large 546 kb, or
actual 2.1 MB. New phones often offer the option to crop pictures even before this stage, which helps limit the size. Then check your mail in your computer, and save the image to a place you can find, then when posting the pic just navigate to that location and select it.
How long to wait for an answer
Generally we are prompt with answers. We have instructors in five different time zones, and at least two instructors for each course, usually three. But we are not always on watch over the weekend, and we might get busy with other tasks. So we ask you to please let us know if we are ever longer than 48 hours in getting back to you with an answer or quiz score. This is especially important on your first quiz. More than once we have found that a wrong email was entered on registration so the score notice never arrived. Your quiz scores along with the solutions show up in the My Account link, once the quiz has been graded.
When answering or following up on discussion
Please use the Reply button when commenting on an ongoing topic rather than start a new topic. Again, this helps organize the discussion for future reference.
Student answers to posted questions
We encourage students to take part in the discussion. The discussion is a key part of the training. If you know the answer to another student's question, or have a comment on another question, please post it as a reply. Essentially without exception, these extra comments add to the ongoing discussion and everyone, including the instructors, benefit from your participation.
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| Other Discussion Options...
Please read the discussions
We encourage all to read the ongoing discussions. Even if you have not posted a question and waiting for an answer, if you see that there is new discussion (a yellow light bulb on the topic), it will likely be valuable more often than not to skim though it to see what is discussed. Oftentimes, new outlooks or more details on course materials are presented there in the answers. Likewise if you have some spare time to work on the course, you might just page through the existing topics to see if anything catches your eye that might be of interest. If you spot something this way that raises questions for you, you can reply to that topic and it will bring it to the top of the list for us to discuss more.
Check yellow light bulbs for new posts
A quick way to tell if there is something new posted in your course is to note the light bulbs to the left of the forum names. They will turn yellow whenever there is a new post in that section.
Public Discussion forums
We also have special discussion groups on specific topics that are open to the public to read, but only webcard holders can post questions or replies. Students who are not taking part in a specific course can still ask questions in the public discussions and an instructor will answer it. In other words, if you are taking a weather course, for example, and have a radar question, you can post this in the public discussion of radar. See www.starpath.com/discussion for an index to these public forums. On the other hand, if you are signed up for a course, we ask you to use that course for questions on that topic.
More than one page of topics
In the discussion forums, please be aware that there are more than one page of information for that section. Look for a tiny page number at the top right or bottom right of each page to see how many pages there are.
Most of our courses have a chat room for more general discussion off the course topic, if you care to use it. As a rule, we try to focus the main Discussion Forums on course topics. In some of our courses the chat is used a lot, in others not very often, but it is there if you want it. It is a place to introduce yourself if you care to and ask other more general questions about nautical matters and seamanship, talk about your boat or sailing plans etc.
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On the top right of each discussion page there is a tiny link called "Search." This lets you search over the many years of in class discussion we have recorded. Chances are very good that you can find the answer to your question in that search function. You can search the Student Discussion Forum on any subject, which might be a way to find the answer to your question. If there is a question number, that is often a good way to track down related discussion. Or try other keywords.
Summary of Search Options
Since we have more than 15 years of archived student questions and answers available to you, chances are good that you can find an answer on your own more quickly that writing it up and waiting for an instructor. There are several ways to look for an answer or more information on a specific topic. Step one is think of a few keywords that will identify the subject of your inquiry.
(1) Search Student Discussion Forum (maybe even Public Discussion). See video example of forum searching.
(2) Search ebook copy of the texts provided. Remember that most courses come with ebooks of several references, not just the main text. All of these can be searched as well. This process is explained in the Help link in the menu bar of the elibra ebook reader.
(3) Search full Starpath website. This is a powerful option sometimes overlooked. You get to it from the link on our home page or go directly from here search starpath.com. Instructions are provided for customizing your search. i.e. a search for pressure tendency will bring way more than you likely want, so enter "pressure tendency" with quotes to home in on the term. There are other customizations allowed.
(4) Remember the Glossary contains a lot of information. Each lesson assigns new terms and gives the definitions, but you can go directly to the full glossary from any browser at by www.starpath.com/glossary. The full starpath website search also includes the Glossary.
(5) In the Weather Course and the Radar Course you also have software with powerful search engines as well... that is Starpath Radar Trainer (search Tutorial and Help files) and Starpath Weather Trainer Live has a full program search engine that covers the full extensive set of materials it includes.
If you do not find your answer with the above searches, then just post a new topic and an instructor will help you.
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End of Course Gift Offer
At the end of each course we offer students a choice of a gift as a token of our appreciation that they have taken part. This is explained at this link end of course gift and request for feedback.
Certification of Course Completion
We offer several ways to document your course completion and achievements. The certificates provide written record of your work. They are recognized by bare-boat charter companies and insurance companies that offer discounts based upon educational courses. Certificates of this type can be especially valuable for operations in some foreign countries which require documentation to authorize boat operations by any crew other than the declared master of the vessel. See Notes on Certification and Licensing. See also Notes on Starpath Certification
Course Time Extension
The normal time period for course completion is one year, but this can be extended by extending your webcard, which provides your access to the courses and to all Starpath online resources. Your registration in the course does not expire, so you can take part as long as you have an active webcard.
Your course registration does not time out, but you must have an active webcard to access the online course and other Starpath Resources and discussion forums. The course registration includes a webcard that lasts for one year. If for any reason you wish to have access to the course and other resources beyond that period, you can purchase a webcard extension then register the extension at the bottom of the page, using your same username and password.
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