Online Courses FAQs
What are the benefits of online learning?
Online courses also allow you to work independently and absorb material at your own pace, but offer a great deal of personal contact with your classmates and instructor. Students report a high level of thought-provoking interaction with instructors and a diverse group of students that would not be possible in a classroom.
How does an online course work?
In an online course, the instructor and students are connected to each other through the Internet. Using the Internet, you can receive instruction, compose and submit assignments, ask questions of the instructor and other students, discuss issues and actively participate in the class from your home, your office, or the nearest campus computer lab. Courses may also incorporate other Web-based materials, textbooks, application software, and simulations. Some instructors may even include traditional classroom activities such as laboratory experiments, observations, or other projects.
What do the terms “real-time” and “asynchronous” mean?
Real-time activities are “live” and immediate. In the context of an online course, a real-time session is one in which all participants are logged on at the same time and interacting at more or less the same pace as one would in a face-to-face setting. A familiar example of real-time communication on the Internet is live chat.
Asynchronous activities are those in which participation is not concurrent or live. One member of the class, for example, might post a message in the morning, and another might not read or respond to it until later that day or even several days later. Electronic mail is the most common form of asynchronous communication, but there are many others as well.
The course instructor usually determines the proportion of real-time and asynchronous communication in an online course. Some instructors may require a certain number of pre-scheduled real-time sessions, while others may organize their classes completely around asynchronous learning to give their students more freedom.
How much time should I expect my online course to take?
On average, you can expect to spend 10-15 hours a week on coursework, including accessing text-based lectures, completing and submitting assignments electronically, and reading supplementary materials.
Who are the instructors?
Our online instructors are academics, industry experts, community leaders, and working professionals with extensive hands-on experience. They are educators who find this medium a dynamic and interactive environment, and are especially trained to be effective online. You get the benefit of instruction at three levels: lecture materials created by your instructor, feedback from and networking with your fellow students, and tutorial-quality interaction with your instructor.
Do I ever have to come to campus?
In a purely Web-based format, you will not need to come to main campus. All work in an online class is done using a computer, including all written assignments, discussions, and interactions between the professor and your fellow students. The three modes of online courses though the College of General Studies are:
(1) Web courses featuring Web-based instruction and interaction. Students interact with their instructor and other students through the class Web site. Students generally complete the course requirements within one term and move through the course materials as a cohort.
(2) Hybrid courses combining face-to-face instruction with online Web-based interaction. Students attend scheduled workshops and participate in online discussions. Students generally complete the course requirements within one term and move through the course materials as a cohort.
(3) Self-Paced courses featuring a flexible format where students move through assigned course materials at their own pace. Workshops and Web-based activities are features of some courses. Check the course syllabus for more information about workshops and Web-based activities for your course.
How do I know if distance learning is right for me?
Learning through distance education requires a significant amount of self-motivation and commitment. Having the flexibility to study at the time that is most convenient for you means you won’t have a firm schedule as you would in many on-campus courses. You will need to establish and hold to a fixed study schedule in order to successfully complete your course work. Because most of our students are juggling numerous life commitments at the same time they’re taking courses, it’s essential that you find a balance between your life responsibilities and course work to remain motivated. Please visit Are You Ready for Online Courses?
Are College of General Studies online courses part of the real University of Pittsburgh?
Yes! The online courses are administered by the College of General Studies, a college located on the University of Pittsburgh’s main campus. Our students are Pitt students, and are held to the same rigorous standards as Pitt students attending courses on campus. Your transcript will look the same as any other Pitt student’s transcript, and your diploma will look the same as any other Pitt student’s diploma. There will be no differentiation that you studied through distance education.
I don’t live in Pennsylvania. Will I be charged out-of-state tuition?
Tuition and Fees
Yes, if you are not living in the state of Pennsylvania, you will be charged out-of-state tuition fees.
Is a printable catalog available?
Yes. A PDF version of current online courses is available at www.cgspitt.org/course-information.cfm.
How do I apply to the program?
To begin, you must submit:
1. A College of General Studies application that you may submit online, by mail, by fax, or in person.
2. An official college transcripts sent directly to the College of General Studies from each college or university you have attended.
3. Your high school transcripts (or GED scores) are needed for applicants without prior college or university experience.
4. A $45 application fee (paid online, by mail, or in person). Checks or money orders should be made payable to the University of Pittsburgh and mailed to College of General Studies, Fourth Floor, Cathedral of Learning, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, Attn: APP.
When should I speak with an advisor?
Once you have been accepted to the program, you may make an appointment with your assigned advisor at any time. It is recommended that you see your advisor at least once a year to monitor your progress and it is critical to speak with them if you plan to graduate in the upcoming year so the required paperwork may be processed. You will also work closely with your advisor to register for classes each semester.
Am I still eligible for financial aid?
Office of Admissions and Financial Aid
You are eligible for financial aid. Financial aid at the University of Pittsburgh may include loans, grants, and scholarships, funded in large measure by the federal and state governments. The University of Pittsburgh Office of Admissions and Financial Aid reviews all University students’ applications for financial aid.
How can I find out what classes are offered each term, when registration begins, and when terms start?
You may visit the University Registrar’s site for details about registration policies and procedures.
What is Blackboard and how is it used in the University and distance learning?
The term CourseWeb refers to the University of Pittsburgh’s implementation of the Blackboard Course Management System. The University uses Blackboard to support its on-campus and distance education course offerings. Pitt faculty members have developed more than 2,400 different courses, serving nearly two thirds of the University’s 36,000 students. The best way to access Blackboard/CourseWeb is through your my.pitt.edu portal.
How do I get my textbooks and other course materials?
The best place to find all your required books and course materials is the University of Pittsburgh’s Book Center. Course materials may be requested by mail, phone, or fax and you must pay with a credit card.
How are course assignments and term papers submitted?
The submission of course materials will depend on the faculty teaching the course and the mode in which it is taught. You may find that you submit material electronically, via e-mail or through an “assignments feature”, or face-to-face if the course has workshops. Specific instructions related to your course will be available on the syllabus posted in Blackboard.
How can I access my grades?
Grades are available through the University Portal at approximately 10 a.m. the morning after the day grades are due in the Registrar’s Office. Grade information, including grade changes, will continue to be available online using the Student Services Community in my.pitt.edu. You may also be able to monitor grades through Blackboard.
How can I get a copy of my transcripts?
Transcripts and Certification
For information regarding transcripts and certification, please visit the University’s Transcripts & Certification Web page.
What happens if I cannot complete my course in the time allotted?
A “G” grade is an incomplete grade that may be assigned if a student cannot complete the course. An instructor assigns a “G” grade because extenuating circumstances prevent completion of course requirements during the term enrolled. For the grade policy for a specific instructor, students should read their course syllabus.
How can I take exams?
Center for Instructional Development and Distance Education (CIDDE)
Testing is available at the CIDDE Testing Center located in Alumni Hall at 4227 Fifth Avenue, Room 824, at one of ten off-campus sites, or by special proctor arrangements. Complete a “test site selection” form online at CIDDE’s Web site; test information can be found under Academic Testing. More information may be obtained by calling 412-624-7215.
What do I do if I think my grade for a course(s) is incorrect?
In case a grade dispute occurs between you and an instructor, you should keep all graded work from each of your courses so that you have a record of your achievement. If you ever have a grade dispute, the first step is for you to meet with your instructor in an attempt to resolve the issue. It could be easily corrected at this stage. However, if no resolution can be reached, you may seek an appointment with the Assistant Dean of Student Services who is responsible for grade disputes and who will investigate and make a final decision on behalf of the College of General Studies. For more information on grade dispute procedures, please contact the College of General Studies Assistant Student Services at 412-624-6600.
What technology do I need?
An overview of system configurations recommended by CSSD to maximize access and support to the University network is available at the link above.
What if I have technical questions about how to use Blackboard?
Questions pertaining to Blackboard may be answered by going to your my.pitt.edu portal to view tutorials and instructions that are available or by contacting the CSSD technology help desk (24 hours a day, seven days a week). The help desk is also available by phone at 412-624-HELP.
How do I contact the College of General Studies about online courses?
Contact the College of General Studies:
What types of library resources does the University have for online students?
University Library System (and on-campus database access)
Off-Campus Database Access
Pitt’s collection of electronic resources is growing rapidly and now includes thousands of databases, more than 5,500 electronic journals, and more than 147,000 electronic books. In addition, ULS now offers Zoom!, which allows users to search many different databases at the same time, including the library’s online catalog, PittCat. The Digital Library of the University Library System converts articles, photographs, maps, databases and other material to electronic files to make them more accessible.
What services are available for learning and physically disabled students?
Disability Resources and Services
Please visit the above link for further information about the University of Pittsburgh’s resources for disabled students.