Best Practices

Here are some tips to make sure you can access your classes and important Penn State resources, no matter where you are.

Optimize Your Personal Computer for School

Install an Antivirus Program

Ensure that an up-to-date antivirus program is installed on your computer. Penn State provides Symantec Endpoint Protection free to students, staff, and faculty (select “Virus Detection/Spyware Tools”).

Install Penn State's Virtual Private Network client

If you travel or use publicly accessible networks, such as free WiFi in coffee shops, book stores, etc., you should install a Virtual Private Network (VPN) client, which creates an encrypted connection from your location to the Penn State network. Such a connection is useful when accessing library resources from a distance and required for accessing the campus wireless networks. Penn State provides the Cisco VPN client free to students. (Select “Connecting to Penn State.”)

Tip: Use the "ISP to PSU" connection entry for general access; "LIAS-VPN" for accessing library resources.

Create a Penn State Folder in Your Documents Directory

This will help you keep your class work organized. In your Penn State folder, create folders for each class to hold course assignments, handouts, and notes. If you need to make your Penn State folder available to multiple user accounts, add your Penn State folder to your Windows C: or Macintosh HD drive.

Back Up Your Files Regularly

On your home computer — If your computer does not automatically back up important files at least monthly, copy the contents of your Penn State folder/assignments and create a compressed zip file. Many operating systems include a basic zip utility.

  • If you use Mac OS X: in Finder, click on a file while pressing the "CTRL" key, then select "Create Archive of [filename].”  A zipped copy of the file will appear next to the original.
  • If you use Windows XP: right-click on the folder you’d like to compress, move the cursor to “Send To,” and select “Compressed (zipped) Folder.”
  • In Windows 7/Vista: right-click on a blank spot on your desktop and select "New" from the context menu, then select "Compressed (zipped) Folder."

Save the compressed zip file to alternate media such as an external hard drive or flash drive.

Tip: Pick a name for your compressed zip file that will allow you to quickly identify when you made it (e.g.“”).

In a shared space — All Penn State students receive Penn State Access Account Storage Space (PASS), which allows them to store files on Penn State's personal server, accessible via Webfiles at As an alternative, you may also access your PASS space via the PASS Explorer at Your quota is initially set at 500MB, but you may request an increase of up to 10GB of storage space.

Use Microsoft Office 2003 or Higher

This is what instructors typically use in courses. As a Penn State student, you can download free versions of Microsoft Office Pro Plus 2013, Office for Mac 2011, and Windows 8.1 Upgrade.

Get to Know Penn State's Online Resources and Systems

Check Your Penn State Email Regularly or Forward it to Your Personal Account

It is important to check your Penn State email regularly as essential communications from Penn State will be sent through that account. You can access your Penn State email anywhere online using WebMail. You will use your Penn State Access Account to log in to WebMail.

Tip: You can also use an email client such as Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird. Settings can be found at

If you do not plan to check your Penn State email regularly, you can set it up to forward messages to your personal email account by following these steps:

  1. Log in to the Penn State ITS secure server.
  2. Click on the link to change your email forwarding address.
  3. Enter your Penn State user ID and password.
  4. Enter the email address to which you would like to forward your mail.
  5. Click the change button.

Because the Penn State Directory is publicly accessible, you may receive spam and phishing emails. Remember: Penn State will never ask you for your Access Account password.

Find Free Software Training

There are several ways you can learn the technology you need to complete course assignments:

1. Tech Tutors — real-time tech support for completing course assignments and projects

Get help with the technologies commonly used in your courses by talking one-on-one with a peer tutor who has been specially trained by Penn State Information Technology professionals. Tech Tutors can assist with:

  • Microsoft Office (Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Access, etc.)
  • Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, InDesign, Dreamweaver, etc.)
  • Sites at Penn State and WordPress
  • Coding
  • Wikispaces
  • Visio
  • Other software and technologies needed for your courses

Bring your assignment to a Tech Tutor and he or she will walk you through how to use the technology at a pace that works for you.

Drop-in hours (no appointment needed): Sunday–Thursday, 6:00–10:00 p.m. ET

If you are not available during the scheduled drop-in hours, email the Tech Tutors to request an appointment.

2. — More than 2,000 video tutorials on hundreds of programs and applications

These how-to videos are created by industry experts and are always available for you to access using your Penn State user ID and password. Log in at

When Accessing Courses on ANGEL, Use the Recommended Version of Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla Firefox 17 ESR is currently the recommended Internet browser for accessing Penn State's Course Management Server, ANGEL, for both Windows PCs and Apple Macs. Due to known compatibility issues, the most recent versions of Apple Safari and Google Chrome are not recommended for accessing ANGEL. Internet Explorer 7 through 10 are also supported. Please note that mobile devices are not fully supported with ANGEL. While you may be able to view ANGEL on a mobile device, we do not recommend submitting any graded lessons via mobile browsers on phones and tablets.

Installing and setting up Mozilla Firefox — During the installation, Mozilla Firefox will ask if you want to make it the default browser. If you are happy with your current default browser, deselect this check box before continuing with the installation.

We recommend the following settings in Mozilla Firefox for accessing ANGEL:

  • Make the World Campus “Current Students” page your homepage. In Mozilla Firefox, enter into the address bar and press the enter key on your keyboard. When the World Campus page appears, click on the "Firefox" menu in the top left corner and select "Options." In the “General” tab, under Startup, click on "Use Current Page" and click "OK" to set this as your new home page. This will give you easy access to ANGEL and other valuable Penn State resources.
  • Always save files to a place where you can easily find them. If you created a Penn State folder as suggested above, go to the "Firefox" menu, click “Options,” in the Downloads section of the General tab, click on the option "Save files to," and browse to your Penn State folder. Or, you can select "Always ask me where to save files."
  • Disable Firefox’s pop-up blocker when you’re accessing ANGEL. ANGEL uses a security cookie to authenticate, which can be blocked by pop-up blockers. To allow pop-ups for ANGEL, go to the "Firefox" menu, click “Options,” and click on the Content tab. Make sure that "Block pop-up windows" is checked, but click on the "Exceptions..." button to add ""; ""; and "" as allowed sites.
  • Check Your Privacy Settings. To ensure that old information from previous sessions is not being kept and incorrectly displayed by Firefox, please take the following steps: In the same "Options" dialogue, click on the "Privacy" tab. In the History section where it says "Firefox will:" select "Use custom settings for history." Please make sure that you select "Accept cookies from sites"; "Accept third-party cookies"; “Keep until I close Firefox"; and "Clear history when Firefox closes." Select the “OK” button to save your settings.

Get to Know ANGEL

You’ll be using ANGEL for many activities related to class, including taking exams, turning in assignments, and participating in group work with other students. Understanding how ANGEL works can help you do these activities more successfully.

Time-out period for inactivity­ — If you’re inactive for 90 minutes, you will be logged out of ANGEL. Activity in ANGEL includes clicking links, submitting a post, or submitting an assignment. It does not include typing in a text box or selecting answers in a quiz or test. Because all work takes place within your browser window, it is possible that you can be logged out while taking a long quiz or exam and lose all of your work. If available, please remember to regularly press the "Save and Continue Later" button at the bottom of your quiz or exam to save your answers and to remind ANGEL that you are still active.

Please note: "Save and Continue Later" does not stop the timer in timed quizzes and exams. If you start a thirty-minute quiz at 5 p.m., you will have until 5:30 p.m. to submit the quiz.

Maximum File Sizes — ANGEL Drop Boxes are limited to 2MB unless your course states otherwise. If your attachment is larger than 2MB, you will need to compress it as a zip file, divide it into two or more parts, or re-examine the file to see how you can make reductions.

Tip: Learn the basics of ANGEL through our ANGEL tutorials.

Be Ready to Access Content Outside of ANGEL

Some of our courses use additional content provided via a publisher-provided website that requires a code to access. This code is usually provided in a new textbook sold by our provider, MBS Direct, or it may need to be purchased separately. Please review your course syllabus carefully for required course materials before ordering.