Now what? The CUOL guide to online courses

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You’ve registered for an online course and as the term is fast approaching, you may be thinking: Now what? Online courses are a little different from their in-class counterparts, and you’ll want to make sure you know the ins and outs of them before the term gets too much underway.

Figure out the basics

  • Look at your options for taking your lectures. Is the course web-based? These are offered entirely through cuLearn. Is your course composed of recorded lectures? There are several options for viewing your lectures. Give yourself time to try out the different methods. If there is a problem, contact us at
  • Check out the cuLearn website for your online courses as soon as possible. These will be published by the course instructor. Be sure to peruse the course outline, figure out how the course is organized and note down the required textbooks.
  • As soon as you know what textbooks you need, buy them — especially if you live outside Ottawa and may have to wait for delivery. Textbook listings for your courses are available in your course outline, departmental websites and the Carleton bookstore’s website.
  • Determine if you need a distance exam. If you live more than 100 km from campus, you are eligible to write your exam with an approved local proctor as long as you apply by the deadline, which is at the end of the registration period (Sept. 17 for Fall 2019). Local students simply write on campus at Carleton and no application is needed.

Plan out your course work and studying

  • Make a schedule. It’s good practice to assign times to work on your online course, especially for lecture viewing. Otherwise it becomes all too easy to let them slide until end-of-term crunch time comes and it’s a lot harder to catch up. This will also help you ensure you don’t miss time sensitive updates and announcements.
  • Go through your course outline carefully and make sure you understand what is expected. Note assignment due dates, discussion groups, online quizzes and other deadlines. The flow may be different from other courses, so be careful not to make assumptions.

Add value to your online learning

  • Check in to your cuLearn site frequently. Contact is very important for online students, so contribute to class discussions and connect with your instructor and TAs. Frequent engagement is directly linked to better marks.
  • See if you can set up an online study group with others in your course. It’s a great way to widen the discussion, get new viewpoints and make a community.