Online Education – General Questions
- Does a degree earned online differ from a degree earned on-ground?
- Are online programs held to the same quality standards as on-ground programs?
- Can credits earned through another institution be applied to my degree program?
- Can I get credit for past work experience(s) and training?
- Are the same courses offered online every semester?
- How does financial aid work for online courses?
- Will financial aid pay for textbooks?
- Is accommodation provided for students with disabilities?
- Where do I begin?
- What are the technical requirements and knowledge/skills needed to take an online course?
- What are some common applications that might be needed to complete my assignments?
The Online Course Experience
- How do online courses work?
- When can I log into my course(s)?
- How will I be graded?
- Do I have to come to campus for my exams?
- How do online labs work?
- What support services can I access as an online student?
- What qualifications must an online professor possess?
- What can I expect from my online professor?
Communication in an Online Course
There is no difference between a degree earned online and a degree earned on-ground. The diploma or certificate you receive upon completion is equivalent regardless of delivery format.
Online programs have the same content, rigor and outcomes as on-ground programs. They are subjected to the same scrutiny as on-ground programs to ensure quality and continuous program improvements. All online courses are reviewed by a peer review team (content reviewer, instructional designer and mentors) using an established Quality Review process.
The acceptance of transfer credit is a decision that’s made by the institution where you plan to make application. In general, transfer credit evaluations are conducted after you have enrolled, been accepted for admission, and official transcripts are received. Factors that may affect the acceptance of transfer credit include: grades received, relevancy of courses to your degree program, your eligibility to re-enter the transfer institution, degree residency requirements, faculty credentialing requirements, etc.
Tennessee Board of Regents institutions offer credit for experiential learning through prior learning assessment (PLA). Generally, students demonstrate PLA in one of three forms: credit by examination, credit recommendations for past training, and portfolio assessments. You can learn more about PLA from an academic advisor at the college you plan to attend.
A large number of general education (English, Math, History, Humanities, Sciences, etc.) courses are offered online each semester while others may be offered in selected semesters only. Check the “Search Courses” feature for an up-to-date list of courses being offered each semester.
There is no difference in how financial aid works for courses taken online or on campus. Questions about financial aid should be directed to your institution’s Financial Aid department.
Financial aid will pay for textbooks. Notify your institution for information on financial aid procedures in place for coverage of textbooks.
Qualified students with disabilities will be provided reasonable and necessary academic accommodations if determined eligible by the appropriate disability services staff at their campus. Prior to granting disability accommodations in a course, the instructor must receive written verification of a student's eligibility for specific accommodations from the disability services staff at the home institution. It is the student's responsibility to initiate contact with their institution's disability services staff and follow the established procedures for having the accommodation notice sent to the professor.
- Make sure you have reliable internet access.
- Perform a System Check to make sure your computer and web browser are compatible with the Learning Management System (LMS). If there is a problem, you will see instructions on how to make your computer or browser compatible.
- Check the course syllabus to determine if there are any specific software releases or equipment needs (microphone, headphones, etc.) for courses you are planning to take.
- Login in to your course(s) on the specified date and time.
- Verify that you have access to the course(s) you enrolled in through your campus.
As a student, you should possess the following knowledge/skill sets:
- Good computer skills
- Familiarity with e-mail since this is the most common means of communication with your instructor and other classmates
- Familiarity with web browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer or Safari
- Familiarity with word processing software
Common applications you might need include:
- To read a PDF file download the latest version of Adobe Reader here
- Don't have Microsoft Word? Explore an alternative OpenOffice here
- Accessing a PowerPoint file? Download the PowerPoint Viewer
- Course content (lectures, discussions, assignments, etc.) is presented using an online learning management system called Desire2Learn (D2L).
- Course material is presented on a weekly basis and is normally completed through assigned readings, projects, essays, participation, etc.
- You do not need to log in to the course at any specific time during the week, but you do need to complete all your course work within the timeframe given by the professor.
- You interact with other students and your professor via the discussion board and email. You may also collaborate on group projects through the web interface.
- Mid-terms and finals are usually taken online and, once started, must be completed in a set amount of time. Some courses may require proctored exams.
- You may be required to upload assignment files.
- Plan on the workload being the same as a traditional on-ground course.
Courses follow the institution’s academic calendars. This means they have specific start and end dates. Check the Academic Calendar for details.
The criteria for grading is established by your professor and outlined on the class syllabus. Online learning is very similar to an on-campus class experience; in this case the classroom is virtual.
Some courses (typically Math and Science) require the use of a proctor for your exams. Proctored exams can be taken at a TBR testing site or an approved alternative testing site.
Labs are simulated and incorporated within your online course content. The labs typically combine animations, illustrations and videos to convey key information. They can provide a high level of detail not available through traditional labs and give you the chance to learn and practice in a realistic and risk-free environment.
Online students have access to a wide array of support services including 24/7 technical support assistance, tutoring, a virtual library, a virtual bookstore, and online advisement.
All faculty must be certified by the regional accreditation commission and verified before they will be considered for online teaching assignments. Additionally, all instructors are required to attend training on the online delivery platform, have an understanding of online teaching principles and learning methods, and adhere to high-quality teaching standards.
You can expect your professor to do the same things he/she would do in an on-ground classroom setting. This includes:
- Provide a syllabus and course schedule.
- Provide clear instructions for completing assignments.
- Respond within 24-48 hours of your email unless notified of extenuating circumstances that prevents timely communication.
- Enforce “netiquette” and course protocols.
- Communicate any changes made to the syllabus both by individual email communication and posting both notification and nature of change(s) on the course bulletin board.
You will be able to communicate with your professor through email feature within the Learning Management System (LMS). Your professor will answer email questions, participate in online discussions, and personally evaluate your assignments. You can expect a response from your professor within 24-48 hours of your initial email unless notified of extenuating circumstances.
You will communicate with other students through the email feature within the Learning Management System (LMS). You will also be able to post questions and comments to threaded discussions. This forum allows you to hold virtual conversations with other classmates and your instructor without having to be online at the same time.