College of General Studies

Ready for Online Courses

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Our online courses meet the needs of students who are looking for a learning experience that combines high quality faculty, outstanding materials, and convenient course formats. As a part of the College of General Studies, you will have access to a wide array of resources and assistance open to all members of the University community.  

Are online courses right for you?

Taking an online course is different than taking face-to-face classes.  Ask yourself some of the following questions, and if you answer yes to most, online courses may be right for you.

Do you have reliable access to a computer and the Internet?

You must have unrestricted access to a computer and the Internet at a minimum and preferably high speed Internet if possible.  For your computer, the University of Pittsburgh’s Computing Services and Systems Development (CSSD) office has their recommended requirements for those buying a new computer.  You can measure the capacities of your computer to these recommendations. 

An alternative means of Internet access through a computer lab, local library, or a friend is a good idea in case your computer or your usual connection method fails during the course.

Do you feel comfortable interacting with your instructor and fellow classmates in an online environment? 

Although not the same as a face-to-face course, a Web-based course will still involve interacting frequently with your class in an online environment through chat rooms, discussion forums, and group activities. It is important for students to be able to work independently.

Do you enjoy writing and participating in a discussion forum?

Most communication in a Web-based class consists of written messages between you and the instructor and discussions among class participants. If you have difficulty with an assignment or have questions, you must be willing to speak up to inform the instructor. Good typing skills are a plus.

Do you frequently use e-mail and browse the Web?

You must check-in to your Web-based classroom and interact as required by your professor. This can include working on assignments, participating in discussions or group projects, and responding to e-mail. If you are not accustomed to routinely accessing the Internet, it may be difficult to motivate yourself to do the work. You must be disciplined enough to keep your coursework current.

Do you read course material carefully?

Much of the material you are required to read for a Web-based course is online, and you must read it carefully. Some students just print out the syllabus and key information to read offline. It is important to realize you can’t just skim over the content and be able to have a clear understanding of when assignments are due and what is expected of you.

Does your schedule make it difficult to attend classes on campus?

One of the major reasons students register for Web-based courses is that it is more convenient to take courses without having to come to campus at a specific time. This allows you to avoid parking problems, too. Keep in mind that you must still spend about the same amount of time on coursework, about 10 to 15 hours per week, as for a face-to-face course.

Do you like to plan ahead and finish assignments a few days ahead of schedule? 

It is often tempting to wait until the last minute. If you are a procrastinator, you may have already learned that sometimes things don’t work quite as well as you had hoped. With Web-based courses, it is better to get your work done a little ahead of time so if problems do occur, they can be resolved prior to the deadline. Good time management is a key to success in an online course.

Do you enjoy solving problems and learning new programs on the computer?

Sometimes learning new programs or applications on the computer can be frustrating if they do not work exactly as you expect. Taking a Web-based course may require you to learn new techniques beyond just e-mail for interacting with other students in the class.  

Are you familiar with basic computer functions, such as copying and pasting text as well as backup procedures? 

It is necessary for you to be familiar with basic computer functions, such as copying and pasting text from one location to another. As with any computer application, saving your work by backing up important files is a necessity in case of a hardware problem. If such applications are unfamiliar to you, consider taking a basic computer class before registering for online courses.  

Ready to register?  Find a course that's right for you.