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Online Courses - Frequently Asked Questions 

Are online courses self-paced?

No. Depending on the instructor, you will have assignments that require you to communicate with other students just as you would in a face-to-face course. Most online courses require you to adhere to due dates for assignments, quizzes, tests, etc. If you register for an online course, expect to have to adhere to deadlines set by the instructor.

Do all online courses look and work the same?

No. Instructors have complete control over the design and organization of their courses. Just as instructors individualize face-to-face courses, they tend to do the same for online courses. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the course early in the semester in order to become comfortable with navigating to important materials. Also keep in mind that most instructors are not online all day and might not reply to your questions right away. Check the syllabus to see if your instructor details his or her response policy.

Does my computer meet the minimum specifications for online learning? 

Complete the System Check at this link.

How computer literate do I need to be?

You need to have a basic knowledge of computer and Internet skills in order to be successful in an online course. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Knowledge of terminology, such as browserIMHOapplication, etc.
  • Understanding of basic computer hardware and software; ability to perform computer operations, such as:
    • Using keyboard and mouse
    • Managing files and folders: save, name, copy, move, backup, rename, delete, check properties
    • Software installation, security and virus protection
    • Using software applications, such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel, email clients
    • Copying and pasting, spell-checking, and saving files in different formats
    • Sending and downloading attachments
  • Internet skills (connecting, accessing, and using browsers) and ability to perform online research using various search engines and library databases.
  • Ability to use online communication tools, such as email (create, send, receive, reply, print, send/receive attachments), discussion boards (read, search, post, reply, and follow threads), chats, and messengers.

Even the most basic online course requires the development of new computer skills, as students learn to navigate different learning management systems (LMS) and programs. The skills students learn to participate in their online courses translate to many professions, including creating and sharing documents, incorporating audio/video materials into your assignments, completing online training sessions, etc.

Will I need to come to campus?

Some courses do require on-campus meetings for activities such as an orientation, student presentations, and exams. Please carefully read the detailed course descriptions when you register and check with your faculty member to determine whether any face-to-face meetings will be required.

How are tests administered?

Most online courses have projects and exams that are conducted online. Some courses do require on-campus exams. Please carefully read the detailed course description for any specific testing requirements. In some cases, an instructor may require you to have your exam proctored.  Students who are unable to take the exam at Shippensburg University on the designated day and time due to their geographic location or other extenuating circumstances may request to take the exam at an alternate location with an individual proctor.  In such cases, it is the students’ responsibility to 1) identify an alternate testing location and proctor, both of which meet particular criteria established by Shippensburg University, 2) initiate the request for an alternate testing location and proctor with Shippensburg University no later than two weeks prior to the exam date, 3) work with the alternate testing location and proctor to identify a mutually agreeable testing date and time, which is approved by the course faculty member, and 4) pay for any costs set by the alternate testing location and proctor the student has identified, and pay those costs directly to the alternate testing location and proctor (Shippensburg University does not charge a fee for students’ use of an alternate testing location and proctor).  To obtain the criteria for an acceptable alternate testing location and proctor, and to request and receive approval for an alternate testing location and proctor for their exam, students should send an email to

Are credits for online courses transferable to other colleges?

Generally speaking, Shippensburg University credits are transferable to most colleges and universities.  If you attend another college or university, you should first check with that college or university about transferring credits from Shippensburg University. There is no difference in how online and on-campus course credit and grades are recorded on an official Shippensburg University transcript.

How do I start an online course?  Will the instructor contact me?

IMPORTANT: All students must use their Shippensburg University ( email address for online courses. The instructor will email you approximately one (1) week before the start of the course at your email account and provide you with directions for getting started.  Students can access their online class on the Desire2Learn (D2L) learning management system.

How do I obtain the required textbooks?

Textbooks may be obtained from the Shippensburg University Bookstore by ordering them online and having them shipped to you, as well as purchasing them in person at the bookstore.  PA residents should allow one (1) week, and all others should allow two (2) weeks for delivery of any bookstore purchases.  For more information about ordering class materials, visit the Shippensburg University Bookstore's website.

Can I access the Library resources from home?

Yes, all students taking online courses can access the library resources. To learn more about Shippensburg University’s library services, go to Library.

How do I obtain my transcript when the course is over? 

For information about obtaining an official transcript, visit the Registrar's Requesting Transcripts page.  

Where can I get more information about online courses and registration? 

Please contact the Office of Workforce Development at 717-477-1502,, or in Horton Hall 108 on the Shippensburg University campus.