Frequently Asked Questions

These Frequently Asked Questions are designed to provide students with a better understanding of the online education experience at Mason, including information related to classrooms, exams, other students, technology, and general information.

General Questions

Why take an online course?

With online courses, you have the same instructors who teach on campus but in a more flexible format. Online learning is great for commuters, working professionals, or other students who can’t make it to campus as frequently. Many students take online courses at home, while stationed abroad, while traveling, or over the summer.

Are all Mason courses available online?

No. Departments and programs choose what courses to offer online, so offerings vary each semester. Please see the course list to browse online options.

How are online courses delivered?

Course delivery depends on how much of the course is online. Hybrid courses hold 51 to 99 percent of scheduled class time online, with remaining class time face-to-face. Fully online courses hold 100 percent of scheduled class time online. Please note that orientations, tests and exams, or labs may still require a campus presence.

Interaction also varies. In synchronous courses, scheduled course meetings take place online. Asynchronous courses have no set course meetings, as all course materials are available for students to access at any time. Note: there are still set deadlines.

Are online courses self-paced?

It depends. Many online courses are asynchronous, meaning students can access course materials at their own pace. But like any other class at Mason, instructors set regular deadlines that you must follow. Most have weekly or biweekly deadlines for assignments like readings, discussion posts, and quizzes.

Will I have a textbook?

Yes. Once you register for a course, check the bookstore website to view and order textbooks. You can also purchase books from outside vendors. International students should check whether a vendor is available and be sure to receive the textbook before the course starts.

How many students are in an online class?

It varies by major and degree level. When you register for courses in Patriot Web, the Schedule of Classes will provide specific course details, including class size. If you have questions, contact your instructor before the class starts.

Can international students take online courses?

Yes, but there are restrictions. Most international students must enroll full-time in on-campus classes, and they are usually able to take one additional course fully online.

In other words, undergraduate international students may be eligible to take 12 credits on-campus and 3 credits online. Graduate international students may be eligible to take 9 credits on-campus and 3 credits online. There is no limit for hybrid online courses, which are 51 to 99 percent online.

Please note: some program exceptions or visa restrictions may apply. Contact your academic department and the Office of International Programs and Services (OIPS) before you enroll in an online class to determine your eligibility.

Who teaches online courses?

At Mason, the instructors who teach online are the same instructors who teach face-to-face.

Will my diploma say Mason Online?

No. All Mason students receive a George Mason University diploma. There is no mention of the online format.

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How much do online courses cost?

Like face-to-face courses, tuition for online courses is billed per credit hour with additional fees as appropriate. Late registration, late payment, and return check fees apply to all students. New Student Fees are mandatory, nonrefundable, and one-time. Some online courses may require a Distance Education Fee, which helps the Office of Digital Learning (ODL) provide the software, support, and technical assistance needed for a quality online learning experience.

Please see the Student Accounts website for in-state rates, out-of-state rates, and fees.

Is Financial Aid available for online students?

It depends on your program. See our Financial Aid page for steps in the federal student aid process. For more information on loans, scholarships, fellowships, and other types of financial aid, contact the Office of Student Financial Aid.

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Where can I find course details?

Mason’s University Catalog is available online at It provides in-depth program requirements and course information. Visit your academic program’s website for additional information.

How do I register for an online course?

First, you must apply for admissions. Once accepted into Mason, you register for courses in Patriot Web.

Patriot Web is a self-service site where students can:

  • Check registration status
  • Register for, change, or drop classes
  • Display class schedule
  • View grades or unofficial transcripts
  • Order official transcripts
  • View account summaries or financial aid information

See our Register for Classes page for more information.

Can I use online courses for 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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Course Access

What technology is required?

To take an online course, you must have a Mason username and password, have an official Mason email account, and meet minimum technical requirements. See our What Technologies Do I Need page. Also, check your course syllabus or contact your instructor before your class starts.


MASONLIVE is the official email system for Mason students, powered by Microsoft Office 365. You should receive information about your Mason email account in your admissions packet or with orientation materials. Tutorials are available to assist with account set up.

How do I access my online course?

First, log-in to Blackboard with myMason Portal. Blackboard is a web-based Learning Management System (LMS) used to deliver online or web-enhanced courses. Click on the “Courses” tab (top right) for a list of your courses, helpful links, and technical support updates.

This Orientation video provides an example of how to navigate an online Blackboard course.

What if my course is not listed in Blackboard?

Instructors who use Blackboard must make the link active or available to students. Once this is done, the course will appear in your Blackboard Course List. If you do not see the link within one week before class starts, contact your instructor.

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Course Expectations

How can I ensure a successful online experience?

See our Strategies for Online Learning Success page for a list of tips. Some of the minimum skills or preparations include:

  • Adequate time to prepare and participate in the course
  • Technical competency
  • Dependable computer with reliable internet connection
  • An open mind to gain knowledge from the experience
  • Frequent collaboration with instructors and peers
  • Willingness to work in a self-directed manner

What time commitment should I expect?

To stay current with course announcements and discussions, plan to log-in at least 4 days per week. Students generally spend 8 to 12 hours per week for each online class. This includes reading, participating in course discussions, completing assignments or group projects, and taking tests. If the course is synchronous, then you must also plan around class times. Give yourself extra time during the first few weeks to adjust to the online environment.

Do I have to log-in at a specific time?

Courses that are synchronous will require specific log-in times, so check the syllabus or with your instructor before the class starts.

How do I contact my instructor?

Instructors usually provide their contact information through email, on the syllabus, or in Blackboard. Your instructor may also have online and/or on-campus office hours.

How do students participate in an online class?

The format of each course varies, but most have a discussion board, chat rooms, or blogs. Check the syllabus or contact your instructor for specific details.

Is there group work?

Yes. For most online courses, discussion boards are required and organized so students can have a dialogue. Many courses require group assignments, which are often completed using online technologies.

How do I take tests or exams for an online course?

Online tests are usually taken from your computer. Some exams may require coming to campus or another proctored site. You may have a timed exam or a final essay or project, so review the course syllabus for requirements. Contact your instructor with questions.

All assignments and exams are subject to the Mason Honor Code. By logging-in and taking an exam or submitting an assignment, you verify your understanding of the Honor Code.

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Resources & Support

What happens if I have a technical problem?

The Technical Support provides technical support for online students. Alerts and outages are also posted online.

Do online students have access to library resources?

Yes. University Libraries provide online remote access to electronic journals and e-books. The librarians can also assist you over instant message, phone, or mail. See our Library page for distance learning resources.

Do online students have academic advisors?

Yes. Whether you are declared or undeclared (or looking to make a change), the Center for Academic Advising, Retention, and Transitions can assist all Mason students. See our Advising Services page for more information.

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Need to learn more?

Have questions about online learning, enrollment, or degree programs?

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