-These Frequently Asked Questions are designed to provide a better understanding of Mason Online Education with information relating to classrooms, exams, other students, technology, and general information about the online education experience at Mason.
Are all courses available online?
No. Courses offered via online education can be searched either by program or individual course at the Programs
tab on the Mason Online website. Mason offers a variety of online education methods that may require real time participation, coming to a campus for part of the course, and/or testing in a proctored setting. Our goal is to offer fully online courses that are asynchronous for select graduate programs and to offer sections of general education courses that will meet the needs of students who cannot attend a Mason campus.
How much do online courses cost?
The cost for the online education classes is the same as for ground based undergraduate and graduate courses. The Student Accounts Office
link will help you find tuition and other costs. Some online courses may require a fee to help provide the necessary software, support, and technical assistance needed to manage and assure quality in the online education experience.
How do I see the GMU catalog for course details?
You may go to the Mason online catalog at http://catalog.gmu.edu
. This website is specially designed for online education students. More detailed information is available on individual course websites.
How do I register for an online course?
Can I use online courses toward programs at other schools?
Acceptance of transfer credit is determined by the receiving school, so you should check with the receiving school.
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The Mason Online Experience
What do I need to do to be successful in a Mason online course?
In order for students to be successful in a online course they will need to have: (a) adequate time to prepare and participate in the course, (b) technical competency, (c) a dependable computer and internet connection, (d) an open mind to gain knowledge and meaning from their experiences, (e) the ability to participate in high levels of collaboration with the instructor and other students, and (f) a willingness to work in a self-directed manner through times of uncertainty as knowledge and skills are acquired. The skills needed to be successful in an online course are similar to those needed in a face-to-face course and in life.
Can I take an online education course at my own pace?
As in any other class at Mason, professors set regular deadlines for assignments in each course that you will need to meet. Most courses have weekly or biweekly deadlines for preparation and response assignments such as readings, discussion posts, and quizzes. Because student interaction and sequential learning are important for learning, your timely participation in discussion boards, written assignments, group projects, testing, and other standard evaluation methods is crucial to your success. See the syllabus or consult with the professor for details.Online education courses require a great deal of SELF-DISCIPLINE and SELF-DIRECTION for your success. You will want to create, in writing, a brief study plan that helps you schedule enough time each week to log on and to work independently to meet the course objectives. Time on task, quality of all assignments, and quiz and other testing grades are monitored in a number of ways to help assure your success.
How long do I need to work on each class?
You should plan on logging in online a minimum of 4 different days per week to stay current with course announcements and discussions. Students generally spend 8 to 12 hours per week for each online class. This includes reading the textbook, participating in course discussions, completing homework assignments, and taking tests. This is similar to the recommendations for a face-to-face class.You will want to plan this time on a calendar and make sure that you have a work space where you may complete all of the requirements for the course prior to signing up for any distance education course. You will want to schedule more time in the first few weeks of class to get oriented to the distance environment, adjust your “living” schedules to be successful, and get assistance from the Mason community through e-mail, calls, and onsite visits if needed and possible.If the course is synchronous, you will arrange your schedule to be online during the entire class time as posted in the syllabus, as well as scheduling time for completing assignments.
Do I have to log into class at a specific time?
Many courses have a “synchronous” component that requires specific log-in times; others may also require some onsite classroom or group work. Some courses are offered completely synchronously and will require that the student be online at the same time that the class meets. Check the syllabus prior to the start of the class term. If you have to log in for office hours, group presentations, or other assignments, you will be able to plan your schedule by checking the syllabus and building in that time into your workday at the beginning of the semester.
Are online students able to participate in a class?
Much of the communication between teaching staff and students takes place via e-mail and the course website for local as well as distance students. The format of each course varies but most courses have a discussion board, chat rooms, blogs, and other electronic communication tools to foster dialogue among students and teaching staff. You can look at the course website to get a sense of how the course is run or contact the instructor via e-mail with more specific questions.
How do students interact online?
Courses at Mason are delivered in a number of formats. Some courses are offered via teleconferencing. Other courses are offered in a hybrid model, requiring some classroom attendance, and some courses are offered fully online. Students usually interact using email or discussion boards. Each discussion board is organized into “discussion threads” so that you can see the questions asked, student responses, and faculty comments. The instructor may post or request students to post questions or comments to be considered, monitor the thoughtfulness and depth of the responses, and help to summarize and clarify as needed. The discussion board is key to student success in any online course. You will want to use your best thinking, writing, and evidence when participating in discussion board assignments.
Do students have to work in groups?
Many courses do have some required group work, although most homework assignments are completed individually. Working in groups in an online environment will require each student to demonstrate in writing how they have met the objectives of that assignment. To that end, it is important to carefully consider your time commitment, accessibility to classmates, and ability to participate fully in group assignments. Generally, student groups collaborate using online technologies. Some groups use telephone conferencing or face-to-face meetings when needed and possible.
How many students are in each class?
Class size varies by discipline and level (i.e., undergraduate/graduate). You may check with your faculty member before class starts if you are concerned. Most graduate classes have between 15 and 25 students enrolled in a section. Sections may be larger depending on the type of course offered, the number of faculty and other staff assigned to the course, and, the interest and needs of students.
How do I take online tests?
Online tests are taken at the student’s computer. Exams might be timed, or they may be in the form of an essay or project and due within a longer time period (such as several days to a week). You will be authenticated by logging into the system and, in doing so, are verifying your understanding of the Mason Honor Code and requirements for original work. Additional verification, campus or proctored testing, or other procedures may be required by the faculty member. Please review the syllabus and check with your faculty member prior to the start of the class should you have questions about testing.
Are exams proctored?
Some tests may require proctoring. Refer to the syllabus prior to checking with your faculty regarding testing. Testing may be fully online, require coming to a Mason campus, or may require a proctored test site. Please note that all exams are subject to the Mason Honor Code. In logging into a course and taking an exam you are verifying that you are the person taking the exam, and that you have not used any materials to assist you with the test unless prior approval is obtained in writing, or, as stated in the syllabus.
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Technology and Support for Distance Education
What technology is required?
Please check the course syllabus for specific software requirements. All students will need regular, reliable, secure access to a computer with these minimum specifications:You will need a GMU email account
(specifically one ending in @gmu.edu or @masonlive.gmu.edu) in order to participate in any courses at GMU. Please review the GMU orientation presentation for more information about how to activate a GMU e-mail account
.Many courses use Courses/Blackboard. Beginning in the Fall 2011 all Courses/Blackboard sites must be accessed at https://mymasonportal.gmu.edu/
. To use this, you will need to enable pop-up windows in your browser. Some courses use content requiring a Flash Player, a media player, and Adobe Acrobat Reader. Other hardware or software may be required of your course or program and is available for purchase at Patriot Computers (the University’s computer store). Check the syllabus for your course or contact the instructor prior to the start of the course to find out about specific technical requirements for your class.
What happens if I have a technical problem?
Technical support is available through the ITU Support Center. You will want to check with the support center prior to asking your faculty how to fix a computing problem. Our experts can be found at https://itservices.gmu.edu/
or reached by phone at 703-993-8870 during business hours. After hours outages will be posted on the Mason website, and faculty members may send other updates via e-mail should unexpected technology problems occur.
How do I receive my books?
In order to enroll in a Mason online course, students are required to have the assigned textbook(s). Books may be ordered after a student registers for a course online via the Mason bookstore
. You may also purchase text books from online book vendors. You will need to be registered for a course in order to use the GMU bookstore link listed.International students will need to be certain that a vendor is available and that they can have the textbook at hand prior to the beginning of the course.
How do I use the library?
There is a library section in the online classroom which links you to the online library resources. Online tutorials can be found at http://library.gmu.edu/education/students/tutorials.html
. Mason subscribes to a number of online databases so students can search and access articles and reference books at no charge. Students are also provided the telephone and emails of librarians in the Mason University system so they can ask for reference and research assistance http://library.gmu.edu/contact-us/
Who teaches distance education courses?
The same faculty who teach ground-based courses teach online courses at Mason.
How do I contact my faculty member?
You will be able to contact your faculty member via email and telephone. Each instructor has posted office hours. However, students may email the instructor at any time. Faculty may have regular online office hours as well. Read the syllabus and use the course website to communicate. Most courses request that you post a bit about yourself on a discussion board during the first few days of a class. Remember that some information is public and some is private.
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How do I access my Blackboard courses?
All Blackboard courses are now available in the myMason Portal. After logging in, you will see a Courses Tab at the top right. From there you will currently see a Bb 9.1 Course List and a CE Course List. Depending on specific enrollment, you will either see courses in both lists or just in the CE Course List. However, as of Fall 2011 we will no longer be using CE8 (Courses.gmu.edu) and all courses will be available through the Courses Tab in the myMason Portal.
What is the myMason Portal?
The myMason portal puts the resources that Mason staff, faculty and students use in one convenient and easy-to-find location. The myMason Portal consists of several tabs that are located in the upper right hand corner, some tabs also have sub tabs for each area. Depending on your role(s) at the university you will have access to multiple tabs such as Courses, Organizations, HR, and Help to name a few. On each tab, information is organized through customizable content modules.
How do I customize the portal?
The portal can be customized several ways to make it the most effective and efficient learning tool for YOU the user. Each tab within the portal contains information based on your role at the University. You can customize the information by adding modules, rearranging the placement of the content modules and/or personalizing the color scheme of the tab.
Where are my Blackboard courses?
By default courses are made unavailable to students, if your instructor is using Blackboard for a course you will see the link appear in your Blackboard course list. To find out if a course is using Blackboard, contact your instructor.
When trying to access my course, why am I seeing a message that says ‘This section is not yet available’?
In the CE 8 version of Blackboard, if your course says, “This section is not yet available”,then either your instructor has not made it available or they are using the new version of Courses 9.1. If you do not see your course list in the new version, Courses/Blackboard 9.1, your instructor may not have made the course available to students yet. To access this new version please go to https://mymason.gmu.edu
. Login using your Mason NetID and Strong Password, click on the Courses Tab and look for the course in the 9.1 Course List. If you have any questions or concerns please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
In courses.gmu.edu it was easy to tell when a new assignment, discussion, assessment, etc was posted. Does the same feature exist in the myMason Portal?
Yes, in Blackboard 9.1 there is a new feature called the Notifications Dashboard that lets you know about new announcements, assignments, content, discussions, assessments, etc., that are posted or updated. This feature has been temporarily disabled while content is being transferred from CE 8 at Mason. It will be restored in the fall 2011 semester.
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