The Structure of English Words (LING150)
Department of Linguistics
University of Oregon, Eugene, OR  97403

Welcome! The Structure of English Words (LING150) is offered by the Linguistics Department at the University of Oregon in both a traditional classroom-based lecture course format and in an electronic version taught using the Internet and email. Students may enroll and receive credit for this course only one time. This document describes the web-based version of the course. For information about the classroom version, please see the University of Oregon Catalog and/or the current Schedule of Classes.

*Students enrolling for credit in the web-based course must have read and understood all information contained on this page.*

Course Description

In this course we will use linguistic principles to study English vocabulary. This involves studying the morphemes, or meaningful elements, in English words and examining how these elements combine to form words. We will also investigate the sounds of English and their pronunciation, and the historical development of English (both sound changes and meaning changes) and its relationship to other Indo-European languages.

Course Objective

This course is designed to teach you to approach English words in an analytical and historically-oriented way. This material provides the background for increasing your vocabulary, as well as improving spelling. More importantly, the techniques taught in our course can be used to efficiently increase your vocabulary for the rest of your life.

By the end of this course, you should

  1. be able to look at a word that you have never seen before and have some idea of what it could mean;
  2. have the skills necessary for coping with the technical vocabulary in fields such as medicine, biology, geology, psychology, neurology, chemistry, anthropology, etc.;
  3. have a strong background for preparing for the vocabulary portions of standardized tests required for graduate school, law school, and so on. Our method of building vocabulary is similar to that taught in some GRE preparation manuals.

More specifically, at the end of this course you should

  1. know a large number of word roots from classical languages and be able to identify these roots in unfamiliar English words. These roots occur frequently in many English words, especially those words used in academic and technical vocabulary.
  2. understand the history of English and how these historical changes have affected the modern lexicon;
  3. understand the basic principles of language change, such as sound change and meaning change.

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You do not need any previous linguistics courses.

You must be fluent in English at the level required for regular admittance by the University of Oregon. Please see the current catalog for specific requirements.

You must have reliable Internet access. Many course materials are only available via the Internet. Students are responsible for obtaining and maintaining their Internet access. Any questions about or problems with Internet access should be referred to your Internet access provider.

You must have access to a graphics capable browser. Some course materials can only be presented using graphics.

You must have an email account. It need not be your Gladstone account. However, if you don't hear from your instructor, it is possible that either you have no email account listed in Blackboard or that an email address which you do not check (probably your Gladstone account) is listed in Blackboard as your preferred e-mail address. Please update your preferred address in Blackboard, check your Gladstone account for possible missed messages, and email your instructor immediately with your preferred address.

You should download the fonts for the International Phonetic Alphabet to your computer to ensure that you will be able to accurately view all the material on the web lectures and on Blackboard.  These fonts are available for free from the SIL Encore IPA Fonts page.

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Registration and Fee Information

The course is 4 credit hours. It is available with both Graded and Pass/No Pass options.

Regularly Admitted Students:
To receive credit for this course, you must enroll using Duck Web.

Non-admitted Students:
To receive credit for this course, you must have completed a registration eligibility form and requested your personal access code from the University's Community Education Program before you enroll using Duck Web. Call (541) 346-5614 to enroll or visit their website for more information.

Testing Center Special Fee

There is $25 fee for this class. This helps offset costs for the specialized software that must be purchased (or in this case designed) for administering the tests. (See Test Taking Procedures.)

This fee is automatically billed to your account at Oregon Hall.

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Course Organization

There are 4 Study Units. Each unit covers approximately the same material that would be covered in two and one-half weeks during the regular classroom-based version of this course.

Topics covered in each Study Unit are as follows:

Unit 1 Basic Word Analysis

  1. Historical sources of English words
  2. Basic principles of word analysis (morphology)

Unit 2 Intermediate Word Analysis and Basic Phonetics

  1. Alternations in morpheme forms (allomorphy)
  2. Basic principles of English sounds (phonetics)

Unit 3 Advanced Word Analysis and Semantic Change

  1. More alternations in morpheme forms (allomorphy rules)
  2. Historical changes of meanings (semantic change)


Unit 4 - The Origins and History of English

  1. Pre-history of English and Indo-European languages
  2. English history

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Textbook and Course Materials

All course materials listed below are required.

  1. Text

English Vocabulary Elements, Keith Denning, Brett Kessler, William Leben (Second edition). Oxford University Press 2007.

  1. Web "Lectures"

Available at this Web Site.

Access from the LING150 Home Page

  1. Morpheme Sets
  1. Exercises
  1. A dictionary which gives etymologies, or word origins (a pocket dictionary is not suitable)

Acceptable dictionaries include:

  1. The American Heritage Dictionary
  2. Webster's Unabridged Dictionary
  3. Webster's Collegiate Dictionary

Webster's is available on-line. Links to that site are provided on each Study Unit Home Page.

These materials are discussed further in How to study for this course.

The required textbook is available for purchase at the U of O Bookstore. The required dictionary is also available for purchase at the bookstore, or you may use the one at the Knight library or on-line via links at the class website.

Remote site students: Information on how to obtain the textbook is available to you through the Continuation Center's Distance Education Program. Please contact Distance Education via email ( or phone toll-free inside Oregon (800) 824-2714.  You can also order it directly from the UO Duckstore in Eugene, either in-person or by placing an order for mail delivery. Call the course books desk at (541)346-4331 ext. 220. (You will need to make your purchase with a credit card when ordering over the phone or requesting mail delivery).

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Requirements and Grades

To receive credit for this course, you must successfully complete:

  1. 4 written assignments;
  2. 4 unit exams of approximately one hour each;
  3. 1 final exam of approximately two hours.

All requirements must be completed by the deadlines given in the Calendar section of this document.

Written assignments must be submitted electronically to the instructor. Each assignment must be submitted on or before the listed deadline or before the student takes the exam for that unit, whichever comes first (i.e. Assignment 1 must be submitted before the Unit 1 exam). Be sure to keep a copy of your assignment.

The instructor will *NOT* inform you via email that your assignment was received. Do contact your instructor if you don't receive a score for your assignment 5 days after the deadline (scores will be posted on Blackboard).

No incompletes will be given for this course.

Points for course:

Unit 1

Written Assignment

10 points


50 points

Unit 2

Written Assignment

10 points


50 points

Unit 3

Written Assignment

10 points


50 points

Unit 4

Written Assignment

10 points


50 points

Final Exam

100 points

Total for course

340 points

Grades are given according to the following schedule:

Graded option:

Cumulative points

Grade awarded

335 - 340


313 - 334


305 - 312


298 - 304


278 - 297


271 - 277


264 - 270


244 - 263


236 - 243


203 - 235

0 - 202





Cumulative points

Grade awarded

236 - 340


0 - 235


This course is not graded on a curve. However, extra credit participation points are offered as a way to improve your scores.

Reminder:  All students enrolled in this course are subject to the ASUO Student Code of Conduct and all work, both in required and extra credit assignments, is expected to conform to UO policies for Student Academic Integrity.

NOTE: The University of Oregon does not provide grades by mail. In order to find out your grade, you must use Duck Web. Information on using these options is available in the Schedule of Classes.

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Course Calendar and Deadlines

The University of Oregon operates on a quarter system. Thus, there are 4 terms in each calendar year. Each term consists of 10 weeks of classes and 1 week of final examinations.

Summer Term for this course consists of 8 weeks of class, with the final exam being offered at the end of the 8th week.

Written assignments must be submitted via the Digital Dropbox in Blackboard prior to the deadline. Exams must be completed at a proctored test site prior to the deadline. Please keep in mind that testing facilities have specific hours of operation and a limited capacity. You should contact your test site well in advance to make a reservation.  Also, if an exam is taken before the deadline, all work for that exam’s unit must be submitted before the exam is taken in order to receive credit for it.

The deadlines for completion of course assignments and exams are as follows:
(See blackboard for dates specific to the term for which you are enrolled.)

(Extra Credit is optional,
but deadlines must still be met)

Deadline by week

Deadline by day

Written Assignment 1

Week 2

Friday at 9:00 p.m.

Unit 1 Quiz & Extra Credit Homepage

Week 3

Tuesday at 9:00 p.m.

Unit 1 Exam

Week 3


Written Assignment 2

Week 4

Friday at 9:00 p.m.

Unit 2 Extra Credit & Unit 2 Quiz

Week 5

Friday at 9:00 p.m.

Unit 2 Exam

Week 5


Written Assignment 3

Week 6

Friday at 9:00 p.m.

Unit 3 Extra Credit & Unit 3 Quiz

Week 7

Friday at 9:00 p.m.

Unit 3 Exam

Week 7


Written Assignment 4

Week 8

Friday at 9:00 p.m.

Unit 4 Extra Credit & Unit 4 Quiz

Week 9

Tuesday at 9:00 p.m.

Unit 4 Exam

Week 9


Final Extra Credit Assignment & Final Quiz

Week 10

Friday at 9:00 p.m.

Final Exam

Finals week

(all exams must be completed by
6:00 p.m.)

All dates and times given above are with respect to local time in Eugene, OR, USA.

What about extensions?
The instructor reserves the right to discuss deadline extensions on a case-by-case basis. Extensions requested in advance of the deadline will receive the most consideration. Extensions requested at the end of the term and/or long past the deadline will most likely be rejected. Students must explicitly request and receive permission for extensions from the instructor in order to receive credit for the work.

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Test Taking Procedures

All exams are cumulative. We are building vocabulary, so each new unit builds on previous units. Unit exams focus on the most recent work, but I assume that you know anything which was covered in previous units. The final covers all course materials equally.

All course study materials, including web "lectures," assigned readings, and practice exercises are necessary for success on the exams. Questions may be based on any aspect of these materials.

Exam questions are multiple choice or short answer format.

Test Proctoring

Exams are given electronically at proctored web sites handled by Distance Education at SSIL.

All visits to the proctored test sites must be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance. For best results, schedule your visit four to seven days in advance. Drop-in appointments are not offered at any time.

Be sure to schedule yourself enough time to finish an exam. Budget extra time for possible software complications. Fifty minutes seems to be the average time needed to complete the unit exams, while the final exam will take about one and a half hours. To be thoroughly safe, give yourself twice the amount of time you think you will need.

Students who can NOT take their exams in Eugene

Students who cannot take the exams at SSIL need to locate a suitable proctor by the end of week 1. Go to SSIL's Distance Education Website and click on 'Taking Classes Off-Campus" to learn more about locating a suitable proctor and completing SSIL's proctor application.  This option applies equally to students who are taking the course from a geographically remote site as well as those in Eugene who are unable to take exams during SSIL’s regular hours due to conflicts with work or class schedules (this is most likely to be a problem during summer term when SSIL’s hours are more limited).

Students who can take their exams in Eugene

If you can come to the Eugene-Springfield area, then you will take your exams at the Social Sciences Instructional Lab (SSIL) on the fourth floor of McKenzie Hall. The elevator only has buttons to the third floor--there is a key to turn on the opposite side from the buttons that will take you to the fourth floor. There are also stairs. The phone number is (541) 346-2547. Check the SSIL Webpage for more information.

It is necessary to make an appointment at least 24 hours in advance to take your exams at SSIL. If you wish to take an exam on or near the deadline day, it is better to make your appointment 4-7 days in advance. It is not possible to drop in to SSIL to take an exam. Appointments can be made by visiting SSIL's website and following the instructions there.

Information about the exams will be available through the SSIL's Distance Education Website. From, there click on the links Testing, and then SSIL Site Testing Policies for more information. If you are interested, you can take a sample exam through SSIL in order to get comfortable with their examination process.

There is a $25 fee for this class which is charged to and paid through your account at Oregon Hall.

SSIL Policies and Hours of Operation (Eugene Campus).

SSIL is open through finals week of each quarter. SSIL is available to test takers only by appointment. Let me know if none of these hours are convenient for you. Appointments can be made by visiting SSIL's website and following instructions.

If none of these hours are possible for you, either let me know so we can discuss alternatives or consider getting a proctor (see above).

Remote Site Testing Center Policies and Hours of Operation.

All visits to the proctored test sites must be scheduled in advance. You can get all necessary information about your testing site by contacting the testing site proctor or the Continuation Center's Distance Education Program.

Testing Center Security Policies

For security reasons, the following class policies will be strictly enforced at both the SSIL testing center and the remote site testing centers. Students at the remote sites should be aware that each remote site may have additional policies.

  1. Bring a picture ID with you to the lab. You will not be allowed to take an exam without it.
  2. When using the lab to take an exam, leave any bags, books, papers or computer diskettes with the person administering the exam.
  3. While taking an exam, you will not be allowed to use any information resources such as books, notes, or computer files.
  4. Do not hesitate to ask the person administering the exam for help with the testing software.
  5. If you experience any problems with the software, notify the person administering the exam immediately. The person administering the exam will help you restart the software and contact the graduate assistant about the problem.
  6. The rule to live by is this: do not engage in any activity that makes it appear that you are attempting to cheat. Keep in mind that if you think what you are doing may look like an attempt to cheat, the person administering the exam and the graduate assistant will probably come to the same conclusion.

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How to study for this course

First Things First: Give yourself adequate time to study for the course. If you were taking the classroom-based section of the course, you would be spending 2 hours in the classroom per Web Lecture. Give yourself at least that much time to study each Web Lecture and its corresponding reading. Additional time will be needed to study the morpheme sets, do the written assignments and prepare for the exams.

There are 4 Study Units. Each unit covers approximately the same material that would be covered in two and one-half weeks (two weeks in Summer Term) during the regular classroom-based version of this course. See the Course Organization section for a list of topics covered in each Study Unit.

Each Study Unit is composed of a series of activities designed to enable you to master the material. Each Study Unit has a separate Study Unit Home Page which can be accessed from the LING150 Home Page. You must study the units in numerical order, beginning with Unit 1 and ending with Unit 4. Also, it is better to complete your study of a specific unit and take the test for that unit before beginning the next unit.

Begin your study of each unit by reading through the Study Unit Home Page. Then, do each activity in the order listed. Next, review the unit materials. I highly recommend making flashcards for yourself (you can make them by cutting an ordinary piece of paper into six or eight pieces). After you’ve made them, you can get your friends, family, roommates, etc. to quiz you on the material.  It’s also a very good idea to do the extra credit assignment and take the extra credit quiz (information on these and other study aids for each unit is available on Blackboard.)  Finally, email your written assignment to the instructor and take the unit exam. (See Requirements and Grades.) Be sure to complete the exam and submit the assignment prior to the appropriate deadline. You may check these deadlines in the Course Calendar.

After completing all 4 Study Units, review all course materials and take the Final Exam prior to the final exam deadline. (The Final Exam Study Guide is available from the LING150 Home Page.)

Each Study Unit involves the following activities and materials:


Morphemes are parts of words (or word roots). You need to memorize one set of morphemes and their meanings for each unit.

Morpheme sets are available from the LING150 Home Page and from each Study Unit Home Page. Memorize the set which corresponds to the unit you are studying. For example, you should memorize Morpheme Set 1 while studying Unit 1. The Unit 1 Exam will test your knowledge of Morpheme Set 1 (as well as other Unit 1 materials.)


  1. know the form(s) of the morpheme,
  2. know its meaning(s), and
  3. be able to recognize it in a word.

The BEST way to memorize morphemes:

  1. get 3x5 cards or other small cards or papers and make "flash cards," i.e. write the form(s) of the morpheme on one side of the card and its meaning(s) on the other;
  2. study the morphemes for short periods, two to three times a day.
  3. try to think of words that you already know that contain the morphemes you’re trying to learn.  If you can’t think of any, use a dictionary to find words that start with those morphemes.  Read the definitions of those words and try to think about how those definitions relate to the meaning of the morphemes you’re studying.  Do this with just one or two morphemes per day so you don’t get confused.

Don't try to cram this studying. Cramming may work in the short run, but students who attempt it often find themselves failing by the end of the course. This is because the material expands rapidly, and it is difficult to retain so much information when it is not well-learned. Psychological studies show that memorized material is retained best if done in small amounts and repeated at regular intervals. Successful students often carry their flash cards with them to study during odd moments throughout the day.

Remember to go back and review morphemes from previous units before taking each unit exam. ANY MORPHEME CAN APPEAR ON ANY LATER EXAM AFTER IT HAS BEEN ASSIGNED. After all, building vocabulary is a cumulative process.


Each Study Unit contains 4 Web Lectures. The Web Lectures for each unit are accessed from the Study Unit Home Page.

Web Lectures are designed to complement the textbook. They may

  1. discuss topics not covered by the textbook;
  2. expand on topics discussed in the assigned readings;
  3. summarize information covered in the readings.

Exam questions pertain to all materials, both the web lectures and assigned readings.


The textbook provides the bulk of the content of the course. Two chapters of the textbook are assigned in each study unit. You are responsible for all material in the assigned readings. Some topics may be discussed in Web Lectures as well.

Note: You are not expected to memorize specific examples in the textbook or the Web Lectures. For instance, a list of native and borrowed words is given on page 8 of the text. You do not need to memorize these specific examples. You do need to understand basic differences between these two types of words and be able pick out examples in a new list of words. If you understand the principles taught in the text and Web Lectures and have worked through the exercises, you should be able to deal with new examples with a high degree of confidence.


Exercises are given both from the textbook and at this web site. Answers to both types of problems are provided at this web site.

Exercises are strictly for your own benefit and should not be sent to the instructor.

The exercises are designed to prepare you for the exams. To get the maximum benefit from the exercises,

  1. do them with the same care as if you were turning them in for a grade;
  2. don't look at the answers until you have completed the assignment;
  3. review your mistakes and try to understand the reason you made it.


One written assignment must be submitted to the instructor prior to each unit exam deadline. (See the Course Calendar.)  If you are planning to take exams early, the written assignment for each unit must be submitted before you take that unit’s exam in order to receive credit for it.

Written assignments are intended to get you started applying the principles of word analysis to words you encounter in daily life or your field of study.

Each assignment involves finding and analyzing 5 words from outside the course materials. For more specific information, see the Written Assignment page.


While this course is not graded on a curve, and the online nature of the course puts much more responsibility on the student to do well in the class, there are 50 points of optional extra credit offered for this class. 10 points of extra credit are offered for each unit.

All extra credit activities (assignments, quizzes) for a given unit must be completed before taking that unit’s exam in order to receive credit for them.  The final extra credit assignment and quiz must be completed before taking the final exam.


There are 5 extra credit quizzes, worth up to 5 points each. One quiz per unit plus one quiz prior to the final are given, for a total of 25 possible points.

The quizzes can be found in the Assignments section of the Blackboard web site.


For Unit One, I'd like you to introduce yourself by building your personal home page in Blackboard. Worth 5 points of extra credit, it doesn't need to be long or elaborate. You can put in text, links to web sites you visit frequently and images. In order to receive credit, notify the instructor by email when you’ve completed this assignment. This notification is not necessary for other extra credit assignments, quizzes, or required written assignments.

If you decide to do this, please keep it informally professional. It's fine to mention interests outside of school, but don't post anything you wouldn't want any of your classmates announcing on the national news or in the Daily Emerald.  Just keep in mind what the person holding the gradebook might deem inappropriate when you're choosing material.

In Blackboard, click Student Tools and then click Edit Your Homepage.

To view your classmates' Home Pages:

1. Click the 'Communications' button on the left

2. In the right-hand frame, click 'Class Roster'

3. Click on a person's name.

Extra Credit Assignments on Blackboard

For units 2, 3, 4 and the final exam, the instructor will post extra-credit assignments on Blackboard (under Assignments/Extra Credit).  These assignments are due before the exam for each unit.  Hint:  it will be extremely difficult to do these assignments unless you’ve done all of the unit reading; although extra credit is given credit anytime until its deadline, you will greatly benefit from completing the quizzes prior to taking that unit’s exam (if you are taking the exam early). Also, the instructor may give you the option of posting part of your assignment to the Discussion Board on Blackboard to share with your classmates.

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Blackboard offers you the ability to send emails to the class and to me, so I won't operate a separate listserv.

All you need to do is to make sure that your correct address is listed in Blackboard by signing into Blackboard, clicking on the correct course, then

click Student Tools > Personal Information > Edit Personal Information

and enter the address which you prefer to use for this class. It is not necessary for you to use a Gladstone or other UO account for this class.  However, if you are using a web-based email program (Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.) with active spam protection, make sure that my email address is not blocked (by adding it to your Address Book, Safe List, etc.).  Otherwise, you may miss out on important announcements and reminders that I send out periodically to the class. You can find my email address at the bottom of this page.

I will use this list to communicate with you, so do check your e-mail regularly.

Please only use the email function of Blackboard for postings directly related to this class and do not post any messages of an inappropriate nature. Read the Nettiquette Guidelines posted in Blackboard's Discussion Board and Course Documents sections and see the UO Acceptable Use Policy for details.

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This course also makes use of Blackboard, an online technology used by many instructors at the University of Oregon. Once you register for the course, you are automatically signed up for the course in Blackboard. Once having registered, you should be able to sign into Blackboard, and this class should appear in your list of classes in which you are enrolled.

Check your Gladstone account (or other account that you have listed in Duckweb as your preferred email account) if you haven't received your Blackboard user name and password by the first day of the term or within a couple of days of adding this course.  If you have any questions, read the ITC Blackboard FAQ page, visit ITC in the Knight or Science library, or call them at (541) 346-1935. 

Be sure to update your e-mail address in the Student Tools section of Blackboard.

Scores for your coursework, the extra credit online quizzes and additional resources will be available on Blackboard.

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Dealing with problems

The rule of thumb for finding help with problems is this:  If it’s a content or grade question, contact the instructor.  Otherwise, contact one of the many technology resources that the UO offers. An excellent place to start for technical help is the help homepage for Distance Education (available to any student enrolled in this class).   Keep in mind when you’re asking for help to ALWAYS INCLUDE YOUR NAME AND THE CLASS YOU’RE TAKING in the email message.  The following is a general troubleshooting guide:


Your problem is:

Try this:

Trouble logging on for the first time

Read the ITC Blackboard FAQ page, visit ITC in the Knight or Science library, or call them at (541) 346-1935.

Can’t find your grade for a particular exam, assignment, etc.

Contact instructor

Problem with quizzes

Contact instructor

‘System Error’ message when you try to log on

1) Wait a couple hours and try again (system is probably down for maintenance).  2) Contact ITC (above).


Your problem is:

Try this:

Not receiving emails from instructor

1)  Check your preferred email address in Blackboard, make sure it’s correct.  2)  Make sure instructor’s email address isn’t blocked by your spam filter.

Can’t send email/attachments

1) Contact your Internet service/email provider.  2) Contact the Distance Education technology assistant at


Assignments (Written/Extra Credit):

Your problem is:

Try this:

Don’t know what assignment is

Re-read this page and/or check Blackboard site.

Don’t know when assignment is due

Re-read this page and/or check Blackboard site.

Can’t send assignment as an attachment

Either paste the assignment into the body of the email message OR contact the Distance Education technology assistant at


Haven’t received your assignment back with comments and grades

1) Wait a couple of days (it may take a little while for the instructor to finish grading for the whole class).  2) Contact instructor.

Can’t open attached assignment

1) Contact instructor and request assignment be re-sent.  2) Contact the Distance Education technology assistant at

Unit Exams (SSIL)

Go to the SSIL website ( for the following:

1.      Register to take exams (do this by the second week of classes).

2.      Register to take exams off-campus/Arrange for a remote proctor.

3.      Make an appointment to take an exam.

Your problem is:

Try this:

Can’t view answers to exam questions

Students are not permitted to view the exam questions after they’ve finished, only their final grade.  If you want to go over specific questions/answers, make an appointment with your instructor to meet and look over the exam in person.

Subjective questions on exam marked ‘ungraded’

Contact instructor.

Exam scores not posted on Blackboard

1) Wait a couple of days (instructor must enter grades by hand).  2) Contact instructor.

Quizzes (Blackboard) & IPA practices (Blackboard)

Your problem is:

Try this:

Can’t find quizzes

Log onto the Blackboard site for this course, then click on Assignments > Quizzes.

Can’t view quizzes/practices correctly

1) Log out of Blackboard and close your browser.  Re-open and try again.  2)  Contact instructor (explain what you’re seeing/not seeing in as much detail as possible).


Can’t find your grade

Read instructions in Quizzes folder carefully (no grade for practices).

‘Error’ message when you try to take quiz

Contact instructor.

Asks for password

Contact instructor.


Contacting the instructor:


See "Staff Information" on Blackboard for the instructor's contact information.

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Copyright 2008 by the Department of Linguistics, University of Oregon. Updated June 2008.