Wilmette Institute Student Handbook (updated 1/8/21)
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Wilmette Institute, 1233 Central Street, Evanston, IL, USA 60201-2886; email@example.com
General Inquiries: 1-877-945-6388; Registrar: 1-847-733-3466; www.wilmetteinstitute.org
Welcome to the Wilmette Institute! We are an educational agency of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States dedicated to offering courses on Bahá’í-related topics to anyone, both for credit and noncredit. This Student Handbook outlines how our learning community works. It provides an overview of our overall purpose and approach to education, the courses and programs we offer, their prices and requirements, what you can expect from us, and what we expect from you. We hope you will read the Handbook carefully and refer to it periodically, especially to ponder our learning outcomes and how they relate to your service to humanity. We welcome your comments about the Handbook so that we can continually strengthen the bonds of our learning community, deepen its exploration of the truths of the Bahá'í Faith, and broaden its impact on the world.
Mission Statement of the Wilmette Institute (2020)
An agency of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States
The Wilmette Institute is a higher educational institution offering courses in Bahá’í history, texts, and the Bahá’í approach to social transformation. We are committed to a diverse academic community in our student body and faculty. Our courses facilitate consultation, action, and reflection leading to personal and collective transformation for the common good.
We seek to provide innovative and transformative learning experiences for university students and others who want to make the world more compassionate, just and inclusive.
Our Guiding Principles
The Wilmette Institute has five Guiding Principles that shape our vision and planning:
The Wilmette Institute designs its courses to meet these learning outcomes. Every course does not focus on all these outcomes:
The Wilmette Institute offers just over 100 unique online courses to students from all over the world. The majority of its courses are introductory courses which can be taken by anyone who has an email address and Internet access, regardless of educational background. Courses are conducted in English. In a few cases the Institute has collaborated with faculty who speak another language (Portuguese) to offer courses locally in Portuguese. Courses are divided by subject matter into the following departments and sections. The numbers in parentheses indicate the number of courses in the Institute’s Course Catalog.
Many students have made important contributions to the Bahá’í community, serving as teachers, enriching their participation in their Bahá’í community activities and Bahá’í inspired projects, participating more actively in social action and public discourse, and sharing what they have learned informally with family and friends. Some have been inspired to continue their formal education at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
The Wilmette Institute wants to multiply the opportunities for people to take its courses for college, ideally with articulation agreements that include tuition reimbursement. It is also pursuing accreditation, so that it can be a recognized post-secondary educational institution. For advice on taking one of our courses for college credit, see: Obtaining University Credit for a WI Course.
Application and Completion of the Certificate Programs
One can apply to take the certificate at any time. When applying, one must specify whether one is applying to take the Undergraduate Certificate (300 level) or the Graduate Certificate (500 level). The Certificate is not offered at the 100 level at this time (although individual courses can be taken at the level by individuals who are not in the certificate program). The application fee is $50. One must submit an image of government- or university-issued photo identification with the application and a university transcript. The acceptance process includes an acceptance interview via Zoom.
Students who have not completed at least two years of university at the undergraduate level will be accepted provisionally to the Undergraduate Certificate with the understanding that they need to receive a grade of at least C (75) in their first course in order to continue with the certificate. Similarly, students pursuing a Graduate Certificate need to have completed an undergraduate degree, be in a graduate program, or need to have been in a graduate program; undergraduate students will be accepted provisionally and expected to complete the first course at the 500 level with at least a C (75). Only one grade of C will be accepted for completion of either certificate.
Each course is worth three credits and costs $175 per credit hour, or $525 total. Six courses, therefore, will cost $3,150.00. In addition, books and other materials must be purchased, but they will not exceed $50 per course. The Wilmette Institute does not participate in federal financial aid programs at this time, but it does have ample financial aid available. Students apply for financial aid from the Institute course by course. There are no other fees.
If a student needs a leave of absence, s/he can apply for up to one year (renewable if circumstances require) for a $25 fee. If a student is unable to complete a course on time, they can request a six-month extension. They may also repeat a course for a $50 re-registration fee if personal circumstances (sickness, domestic difficulties) prevent them from completing it the first time.
All the courses for the certificate should be completed in a two-year time span. Rare exceptions can be granted for personal circumstances.
At the end of each course, the certificate coordinator will contact the student via email, telephone, or Zoom to see how he/she is doing. When the last course is completed, there will be an exit interview via Zoom. The certificate will then be issued.
The Bahá'í History, Texts, and Teachings concentration seeks to explore the new understandings of the Faith, recognizing that the Bahá'í community’s own understanding of itself is dynamic and evolving. It is designed to provide a general review of the major aspects of the Faith as a concentration within a Master’s degree in religious studies, but the courses can also be taken at the undergraduate level. It looks at the Bahá'í Faith as a religious community, highlighting its similarities to and differences from other religious traditions to provide comparative perspective and an understanding of the phenomenon of religion in general.
The program consists of 6 three-credit courses, including:
It is recommended that one start it with The Bahá'í Faith: A Comprehensive Introduction (which is offered once or twice a year). Students can skip it if they have familiarity with the Faith already, which would allow them to substitute another course such as Introduction to Shi’ism (to provide a deeper background of the Faith’s development) or an elective. The course Bahá'u’lláh’s Revelation could be replaced by one of several in-depth courses about specific works by Him, and the Bahá'í Theology course could be replaced by another course exploring a Bahá'í philosophical subject in-depth, such as Science, Religion, and the Bahá'í Faith or Interfaith Dialogue.
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Non-Credit Courses (and university-level courses being audited))
20% off Seniors/
How do I apply for tuition support?
We have ample resources from our donors and are pleased and honored to make them available to anyone wishing to take our courses.
2020/21 Tuition Support:
What is your tuition support policy?
The Wilmette Institute’s tuition support policy is as follows:
Why does the Wilmette Institute charge for its courses?
The Institute was mandated to be independent of the Bahá'í funds when it was established in 1995, and to date we have covered all our expenses through tuition charges and fundraising. We have to pay staff, we provide many faculty an honorarium for their many hours of professional teaching efforts for our learners, and we have numerous software, communications, and publicity expenses, like any professional organization would. We have also found that when people pay some fee, however small, they take the course more seriously.
We are, however, developing courses for youth or members of the community of interest that will be free or have a small nominal charge only. To cover our costs and provide ample scholarship discounts to those who need them, the Institute does fundraising.
How much do online courses cost?
It depends on the course. Before you register, you can click on the Fees tab to check on the fees and discount deadlines for your course. The “base rate” (for one learner) is usually $75 for a 7-week course. Senior citizens, pioneers, and students get a 20% discount. For groups, creating the group and registering the first person costs the “base rate” and each additional group member is registered at a 40% discount. Our registration system automatically gives a ten percent discount for a registration a month or more in advance. The base rate for shorter courses is between $30 and $50. See also Tuition Fees Table.
Note: a “senior citizen” is 65 or older; groups can have up to 10 members. See Study Group Benefits for more information on Study Groups.
May I pay in installments?
Yes. If you are unable to pay full tuition at the time of registration, you may pay in up to four monthly installments. We prefer that you make a down payment by credit card* when you register and then complete the relevant tuition support application form. The Institute will schedule the remaining payments and confirm them with you. Often, people find that installments solve their payment problem without the need to ask for tuition support.
As of September 2020 downpayments are again available through Cvent. If you wish to register and need additional tuition support, submit a Tuition Support application (college/credit students) or a TS2019 application (all other learners) and await further instructions. You can expect a response to your application within 48 hours.
May I contribute to the Tuition Support (aka “scholarships”) Fund?
Absolutely! See our latest appeal (August 2020). Checks made out to “Wilmette Institute” may be mailed to us at Wilmette Institute, Bahá’í National Center, 1233 Central St., Evanston, IL 60201. Please specify they are for the “tuition support fund.” You may also contribute through the National Bahá’í Fund’s Online Contribution System. This is accessed through the password-protected section of the US Bahá’í website: https://www.bahai.us/community/.
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The Wilmette Institute encourages diversity and provides equal opportunity in education, employment, all of its programs, and the use of its facilities. Employment decisions at the Institute are based on merit and qualifications. The Institute does not discriminate in educational or employment opportunities or practices on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, veteran’s status, age, disability, height, weight, marital status, political belief, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic protected by law. The following general policy statements apply:
The Wilmette Institute is doing its best to assist learners with disabilities. A staffer has taken an online course about accessibility and helps us with specific issues. Moodle, our online course delivery system, is designed so that it can be scanned by reading software. Most course readings are presented in Adobe PDF format and can be scanned by reading software if they have been run through optical character recognition software (which we do as we update each course). Scans of some older printed documents have not been processed with optical character recognition software, and thus cannot be read reliably by it. Most of the online readings via other internet websites are accessible.
All our videos are stored on our YouTube channel, where automated software generates a transcript. This software often makes mistakes, especially with unusual words; for example, the name “Taherzadeh” is usually rendered “two hairs a day.” We are cleaning up the transcripts whenever we can and need volunteers to help. The Wilmette Institute continues to look for ways to improve course features and functions to ensure better accessibility.
Participants with disabilities may find that taking the course with a study group will enable better access to online materials. The Wilmette Institute encourages local study groups, and gives registration discounts to groups of 2 to 10 people who wish to study a course together. These groups need not live in the same locality.
If you have a general question or suggestion, please use the online contact form on our Contact page. We look forward to hearing from you.
See also: Technical Assistance and Accommodations
The Wilmette Institute is committed to maintaining the privacy of all Personally Identifiable Information (PII) it collects from its students. All Students have the right to ask the Wilmette Institute what pieces of personally identifiable information it holds, and to ask that the information be removed from its databases. All students also have a responsibility to play their part in maintaining the privacy of information supplied to them in the course forums. While course materials are generally free for students to use (with appropriate credit) in preparing and enhancing devotional materials, presentations to local communities, and art projects, forum discussions should be kept completely private. Other students’ ideas, comments, questions, etc. should never be shared outside of the course platform without explicit consent.
Wilmette Institute student data is contained in three main places.
Moodle was first released as an open-source platform in 2001. It is a very widely-used educational software. Both the Institute’s Moodle website and public (Wordpress) website are housed on secure servers in the offices of a Canadian-based contractor. Moodle privacy notice.
G Suite is a set of cloud computing, productivity and collaboration tools, software and products developed by Google. G Suite for Education privacy notice.
Wilmette Institute faculty and staff members are responsible for maintaining the privacy of any personally identifiable information transmitted to them by students. This includes but is not limited to:
In extreme cases, deletion by faculty or staff of a student’s forum post or posts may be warranted. The student who created the post(s) should always be made aware of the deletion, and of the reason for deleting the post(s). Repeated infraction of privacy rights should be reported to the Director, and is grounds for expulsion from the learning platform.
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The Wilmette Institute’s program is based on interactive teaching, learning, and communication. Learners, faculty, and staff are responsible for maintaining high standards of scholarship and collegiality. Faculty and learners actively contribute to one another’s learning through critical dialogue, integrative learning, and collaborative learning. As learners interact with faculty and other learners they can expect to be challenged and to feel a sense of accomplishment, to be treated with respect, and to become part of the Wilmette Institute community. Diversity—of thought, values, and opinion—is valued at the Wilmette Institute. All members of the Wilmette Institute community are expected to be respectful of diverse perspectives.
It is strongly recommended that learners have a broadband (cable modem or DSL) Internet connection, and their own computer or laptop with up-to-date software, including the free Adobe Acrobat Reader. The Moodle course management platform works through the Internet, and can be easily accessed on either a Windows PC or a Mac. Moodle also has mobile apps for both Apple and Android devices (see download.moodle.org/mobile/ or visit your App Store). Each learner must have their own email address, and must be able to speak and write English. Basic computer and Internet browsing skills are required of all learners.
The Wilmette Institute has a small staff, and its ability to provide live assistance is limited. You can call us at 877-wilmette (877-945-6388). Please be aware that since listening to voice mails may be delayed, we cannot always respond immediately.
If you have difficulties following the guidance in our Tutorials, please feel free to get in touch with one of the administrative staff listed below. We will do our best to assist you.
The best way to get help is to email the Director, Robert Stockman, at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is generally available Monday through Friday, 9 to 4 Eastern Standard Time, as well as many nights and weekends within an hour or two. At odd times, it may take him 24 hours or more to respond. The Director can change passwords and deal with many basic problems using Moodle.
The Registrar/Student Services Specialist, Niki Daniels is available at email@example.com. She can change passwords, assist with registration, and grant tuition support. She can also answer questions about Moodle course pages, social media postings, and internet resources.
Every time a student takes a course, they are required to read the following information, and to indicate that they have read it.
The purpose of Wilmette Institute courses is to promote knowledge, insights and service in a unified manner. To enhance the learning experience for all participants, we have provided the following guidance for posting in Wilmette Institute forums. By using the forums you are agreeing to follow these guidelines.
Web-based forums have unique limitations
It is very important not to read negative feelings into other’s postings. In Wilmette Institute courses the students come from many cultures and may not understand English well. We urge you to be as courteous and polite as possible. If you think you might have hurt someone’s feelings, it may be a good idea to apologize. You can write students and faculty privately if that might help smooth the waters; the course provides a way to do this.
Post useful messages. If everyone sent a post saying “I agree” or “good point” when they read someone’s posting, we would be flooded with superficial messages. But if everyone liked something and no one says anything, the poster may feel his comments were ignored or disliked. There is no easy solution to this problem. We suggest that everyone send their messages to the Forum in a detached manner without expecting any comments back. If you have a short, specific question, email it to your mentor.
Emotional or controversial topics. If we were sitting in a classroom and an emotionally difficult subject came up, the instructor could gauge the class’s reaction by body language. If someone is looking mad but doesn’t seem to want to speak, the teacher can help the person express his or her thoughts. But if someone in an online forum is angry, no one else will know until they say so. This can result in a very unsatisfactory discussion. Swearing, insults, and other nastiness is highly inappropriate and in extreme cases could result in someone being removed from a course. We urge people who are feeling upset to send a private message to their mentor before posting to everyone. Even a mildly angry posting to the forum can cause some sensitive students to refrain from posting, and since they won’t say anything, no one will even know why they are silent.
Loss of the distinction between private and public speech. In a classroom you can turn and whisper to the person next to you. The equivalent in an online course is private messaging. It is best to reply to personal comments off the forums.
Best practice in posting. Your first discussion posts within each unit should address the discussion topic. Additional postings should provide comments that are thoughtful, relevant, and help to extend the discussion.
If “flaming” or other major violations of the above etiquette policy occur, the Director or Associate Director should be informed immediately. Responses to violations include:
The response chosen will be determined by the Director or Associate Director in consultation with the faculty.
Students are expected to conduct themselves with the highest ethical and academic standards and to commit no acts of cheating, plagiarism, or falsification of records.
Definitions: Cheating is an act of obtaining or attempting to obtain credit for work by the use of dishonest, deceptive or fraudulent means; plagiarism is the act of taking ideas, words, or specific substance of another and offering them as one’s own; falsification of records is a misrepresentation of statements in submitted records.
As members of an academic community, students and faculty assume certain responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to engage in honest communication. Academic dishonesty is a serious violation of the trust upon which an academic community depends. Students must not submit work that reproduces ideas, words, or statements of another person without appropriate acknowledgment. A student must give credit to the originality of others and acknowledge an indebtedness whenever he or she does any of the following:
If a faculty member suspects plagiarism, after doing research s/he should present the evidence to the Associate Director. Together they will consult with the student to determine whether a simple error was made, whether the plagiarism policy was not understood, or whether the plagiarism was deliberate. Penalties for the first violation can range from an F on that assignment to an F for the entire course. The penalty for a second violation can range from an F for the entire course to expulsion. The penalty for the third violation is expulsion.
Sometimes, students inform a faculty member of their desire to withdraw from a course. Sometimes students are willing to continue in the course as an auditor and retake it the next time it comes around. The faculty member should inform the Registrar of the student’s desires, who can discuss the matter further with the student. If the student withdraws, the Registrar will inform the faculty.
The Wilmette Institute typically retains a $10 to $25 administrative fee, depending on the length of the course. See Tuition Fees (Tables) for details.
A student may be removed from a course, or in some cases from the Moodle learning platform, for repeated infractions of Academic Honesty, for repeatedly violating the Privacy Rights of other students, or for other breaches of Student Conduct. The final decisions on expulsion cases is made by the Director.
The Wilmette Institute’s semester hours shall be equivalent to the commonly accepted and traditionally defined units of academic measurement in accredited institutions. Academic degree or academic credit-bearing distance learning courses are measured by the learning outcomes normally achieved through 45 hours of student work for one semester credit, that is, 15 hours of academic engagement and 30 hours of preparation. This formula is typically referred to as a Carnegie unit and is used by the American Council on Education in its Credit Recommendation Evaluative Criteria.
Student work includes direct or indirect faculty instruction. Academic engagement may include, but is not limited to, submitting an academic assignment, listening to class lectures or webinars (synchronous or asynchronous), taking an exam, completing an interactive tutorial or computer-assisted instruction, attending a study group that is assigned by the institution, contributing to an academic online discussion, initiating contact with a faculty member to ask a question about the academic subject studied in the course, conducting laboratory work, and completing an externship or internship. Preparation is typically homework, such as reading and study time, and completing assignments and projects.
Therefore, a 3 credit hour course would require 135 semester hours (45 hours of academic engagement and 90 hours of preparation).
Students may be awarded a grade of “Incomplete” at the end of a course, but the work needs to be completed within 6 months of the end of the course or the grade converts to F.
Faculty may, at their discretion, change a final grade, but they need to include a justification for the change in the grade change report.
Every student who completes a Wilmette Institute course and submits a Learning Self- Assessment will receive a Certificate of Completion by email. There are no required papers or projects for non-credit students, and no grades are awarded.
Students who wish to take a course for possible college credit will be asked to fill out an application for credit form indicating whether they are currently in an academic program or have applied to be in one, and what level of study is appropriate for them. Courses can be taken at the 100 level (simple undergraduate, suitable for junior college), the 300 level (advanced undergraduate, suitable for someone majoring in a related subject or attending a university with higher expectations), or the 500 level (graduate level, which can be tailored to the student’s needs based on the research paper they write).
Transcripts indicating the student’s course, course dates, level of study, and grade, will be sealed by the Registrar with the Institute’s official seal. One copy will be mailed to the student, and another to the student’s educational institution, to the contact person named in the application for credit form.
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The Institute will deal with complaints that concern these Codes of Practice/Policies in accordance with its complaints and grievances procedure as set out below. Students who make complaints through the procedure will not be disadvantaged for having done so in good faith. However, the Institute expects that students will not engage in frivolous or malicious complaints. If it is found that a complaint has been brought with mischievous or malicious intent, this may prove grounds for disciplinary action against the complainant.
If, for any reasons, a student has a complaint, grievance, or dispute with the Wilmette Institute, the student has the right to seek a satisfactory resolution through the following process:
1) Notification – The student must submit a written letter or email postmarked no later than 30 days after the occurrence to: Associate Director, Wilmette Institute, Bahá'í National Center, 1233 Central St., Evanston, IL 60201; firstname.lastname@example.org. The letter must state the basis for the complaint, grievance, or dispute, provide details of the matter, and describe the requested remedy. The Associate Director shall respond with a decision in writing within 15 days of receipt of the written letter or email.
2) Appeal – If the requested remedy is denied, the student may appeal in writing via mail within an additional 30 day period to: National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States, Kenneth Bowers, secretary, Bahá'í National Center, 1233 Central St., Evanston, IL 60201; email@example.com. Failure to submit an appeal letter within the additional period will indicate that the student has accepted the initial decision as final and the matter shall be closed. Upon submission of the appeal letter, the secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly shall review the grievance and render a decision. The decision of the secretary shall be final.
Students who are still dissatisfied with any action or decision of the Wilmette Institute may also elect to contact the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Their Institutional Complaint System may be found here: http://complaints.ibhe.org/.
Students may also contact the Distance Education Accrediting Commission if a complaint cannot be resolved using the school’s grievance procedure including the appeals process.
Distance Education Accreditation Council
1101 17th Street NW, Suite 808
Washington, DC 20036
Students may seek advice on any of the above issues from their Department Head, the Registrar/Student Services Specialist, or the Associate Director. For details of the main responsibilities of each staff and faculty member, use the table below.
Registrar & Student Services
Nicola (Niki) Daniels
*Registration & Payments
*Tuition Support (scholarships)
schedules/dates & syllabi
teaching methods (general)
*Refunds & Withdrawals
password reset, tutorials
Log in to your course and check the Classroom page (near the top, before the course summary) for email addresses
*Advise students on course content
*Report broken links/other errors to Instructional Designer
Self-Assessments, and Projects
*Bahá'í Campus Associations
*Social Transformation Webinars
*University Credit Courses, *Applications for Credit
*Webinars & Newsletter
*Grades & Grading Schemes
*Accreditation & Faculty:
Wilmette Institute students have access to various important libraries for their study and research.
Bahá'í Reference Library, https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/. This free online library maintained by the Bahá'í World Centre has electronic copies of all authoritative texts that have been published by the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh, `Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi, and the Universal House of Justice. Topical compilations are also available. Texts are provided in pdf, Word, or HTML formats. In addition to English, one can obtain the texts in the original Arabic (http://reference.bahai.org/ar/) or Persian (http://reference.bahai.org/fa/) languages. A few additional non-authoritative texts are available at http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/others.html .
The Bahá'í Library Online, https://bahai-library.com/. This is a free online library maintained by a private individual with thousands of authoritative texts, books, articles, and newspaper materials. The table of contents is copied below. A selection of Persian materials is also available at https://bahai-library.com/Persian .
National Bahá’í Library. The National Bahá'í Library is primarily located in the Archives Office, located in the basement of the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois. A basic library containing duplicates and less valuable works is available at the Bahá'í National Center at 1233 Central St., Evanston, Ill. Its physical size is approx. 1,000 linear feet.
Holdings: approximately 15,000 Books, 5,000 Pamphlets, 60,000 Periodical individual items, 2,500 Study Materials, and 15,000 other items (Annual Reports, Cards, Directories, Sheet Music, Ephemera).
The coverage is strongest for materials dating in the 1900-1979 time range. More recent published items are no longer sent to the library by default and Bahá’í communities have quit issuing paper newsletters. Relatively few digital copies of local newsletters are available.
The materials are cataloged in the Follett/Destiny library system. The catalog is available online. Materials can be viewed by guests by appointment.
Bosch Bahá'í Center of Learning Library, Santa Cruz, CA. The library at Bosch Bahá’í Center of Learning has about 2,500 books in circulation that serves staff, volunteers, and guests throughout the year. The books organized around the 12x36’ room are categorized into sections including: Bahá'í Faith and Other Religions, Children’s Literature, Music, Biographies, History, and separated shelves for the Writings of the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh, `Abdu’l-Bahá, and Shoghi Effendi. A conference table with chairs is located at the center of the library where people can study, work on projects, or have meetings on the big screen.
The Archives Library contains the Eshraghieh and Mahmoud Rabbani Collections.
Green Acre Bahá'í Center of Learning Library, Eliot, ME. Green Acre has a large and well developed library that is available to guests and visitors, but the library currently has no librarian, so information about its collection is not available. It is comparable in size to the Louhelen library.
Louhelen Bahá'í Center of Learning Library, Davison, MI. Louhelen’s library dates back to its founding in 1931. The current library is located in a room with beautifully designed custom built wooden stacks, with an adjoining room for rare and or extra books. The library had a complete overhaul in 2011 when the work began to record all books in the Follett/Destiny library system using the Library of Congress data and is in line with the library at the National office. There are currently almost 6,000 books recorded. The books are available to visitors and guests.
This document updates automatically every 5 minutes. We do not recommend that you print the whole Handbook, as it is in development and will be updated frequently. The first page of the Handbook is a Table of Contents, which shows at a glance all the policies and information it contains. Clicking on any of the entries in the Table of Contents will take you to the page you need. Note that you will not see page numbers or page breaks in the document. This will make printing a section of the document easier. Simply highlight the text you want to print, and ask your printer to print “Selection,” or “Selection only.” See screenshot below.