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Instructional Systems Development


FAQ's for Prospective Online Students


Why Online?

Why might someone take a course online?

Online learning offers students high-quality instruction even if they can't attend courses face-to-face due to their busy work, family, or travel schedules. Most online courses take place without a physical classroom and without fixed class hours. Free of those limitations, students have the means to overcome geographic distance and can balance busy work and family schedules with their coursework. Online classes involve a lot of reading, writing, and practical application of what you are learning.

There is no back of the room in an online classroom. Students have time to process their thoughts and ideas before they share them with their instructor or classmates. Many social barriers are eliminated online, and many students you might not hear from in class will become active participants in an online course.

Do I just do everything by myself?

UMBC’s courses are instructor-led, but much of what is required for courses is accomplished independently, e.g. readings, Internet research, discussion board postings. However, you are encouraged to interact with your classmates and instructor through online discussions and e-mail You may also be assigned group projects or activities that require regular communication with fellow classmates.


Online vs. Classroom

Are online classes easier than face-to-face?

No. Online classes take as much or more time as a class you might take on campus. Online courses are never out of session. Students are expected to log on and contribute to discussion several times a week. That also means reading messages every week from the instructor and other students.

There are no conclusive studies comparing the two methods, but initial studies indicate that online students perform as well or better than their in-class counterparts.

Early single-institution studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that online learning at least holds its own with the face-to-face classroom. For some, in fact, online learning may result in better comprehension.

For any course (including in-person), learning ultimately depends on the quality of the instructor, course material and participation of the students. The method, too, is important. Courses that encourage online discussion and interaction between students, their peers and the instructor typically demonstrate higher levels of participation than traditional courses.

What are the major components of an online course?

UMBC’s online courses are administered through a campus management system called Blackboard. It is accessed through the student e-mail account you receive when you first become a student at UMBC. The course is structured around a detailed syllabus that provides students with an assignment schedule and other information they will need to complete the course. Most communication within the course takes place on the Discussion Board, an area on your course website where you participate in class discussions and submit assignments. Tutorials for posting to the Discussion board are available on Blackboard that can be found here.

What is the difference between an asynchronous and synchronous online course?

An asynchronous online course is an eLearning class that does not require students and instructors to be online at the same time. A synchronous online course is an eLearning class that requires students and instructors to be online at the same time. Students can log-in from a PC at any location, as long as it has an internet connection. Please consult the schedule of classes for which method of online delivery and times.



Can I complete the entire ISD Master’s program online?

Yes. Students can complete the entire Master’s Degree online with carefully selected electives. (Some courses are only available online and some only on-campus).

I’m not sure online education is for me. Can I complete the Master’s program on-campus?

No. There are, however, a few courses that can be taken on-campus. (See Course Descriptions)

Is the Master’s Degree completed online accredited?

Yes, UMBC is accredited by the Middle States Association. A Master’s Degree completed online has the same level of accreditation as our traditional on-campus degree.

Can I complete the graduate certificate programs online?

Yes. The Instructional Systems Development, Instructional Technology, and the Distance Education certificates can all be completed online.

Will it show on my transcript that I took classes online?

No. There will be no indication on your transcript that you took your course online or in a classroom.



Do I ever have to come to campus?

Most of our online courses do not require that you come to campus. Some instructors may choose to have an on-campus orientation at the beginning of the course so that students can meet or they may schedule occasional meetings during the semester, depending on student interest.

Can I take both online and on-campus courses?

Yes, however there are a few courses that can only be taken online or only on-campus. (See Schedule of Classes)


Required Skills

Do I need to be proficient in using a computer?

If you've managed to find this web page and you can send e-mails, you've already demonstrated enough knowledge to take a course online. Many online courses require students to use little more than a web browser and e-mail software. Students should have a basic understanding of uploading, downloading, and attaching files in e-mail.


Computer Requirements

What kind of computer/technology will I need?

You will need a computer that can access the Internet, can send and receive e-mail, and include some sort of word processing software (e.g. MS Word).



How many hours do online courses require each week?

Online courses generally require 8-12 hours per week including readings, Internet research, weekly discussions, sending/receiving e-mail, and completing assignments.

Are online courses self-paced?

Our courses are instructor-led, with term start and end dates and due dates for assignments. That being said, most course material is available from the beginning of the semester, and students are free to read ahead or prepare for future assignments as they choose.



Do online courses cost more?

Tuition is the same whether you are an online student or an on-campus student. However, online program students are not required to pay certain fees (e.g. parking) that apply only to campus activities.

Can I use Financial Aid?

Financial assistance or Veterans Benefits may be awarded to full and part-time students who qualify.


Going to Online Class

How do I proceed through a UMBC online course?

Once you are accepted to the program, you will receive a UMBC e-mail account. Near the beginning of the semester, most instructors send their students a “Welcome” e-mail message, notifying them that the course has been activated on Blackboard. You can then go to Blackboard, select your course and read the syllabus thoroughly. From that point, you log on regularly (several times a week) to check announcements from the instructor, post to the Discussion Board, respond to feedback from your classmates and the instructor, and submit assignments.

How do I communicate with the instructor?

You can communicate with your instructor through the discussion board, e-mail or by phone. Some instructors also have online office hours.

How do I turn in assignments?

Most assignments are turned in by posting them to the “Discussion Board” or by emailing them to the instructor. In many classes, assignments are always due the same day and time every week (example: Wednesday by 11:59 p.m.).



Are there tests involved?

The courses for the Master’s degree and certificate programs are primarily project-based. You are evaluated on your ability to produce projects that demonstrate mastery of the course content. For those pursuing the Master’s degree, there is a comprehensive exam after completion of all coursework.



Who do I contact for advising?

Dr. Chuck Hodell, ISD Assistant Program Director,