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Why Choose Online Learning?

student at computer
  • Our commitment to a collaborative, immersive, and personalized learning experience is no different with our online programs.
  • We offer the same rigorous, high-quality learning experiences you would gain from a traditional classroom, plus added flexibility and access for those pursuing an online degree.
  • Our online programs are intentionally designed based on research of what makes online learning successful, including virtual classrooms, alternative class participation methods, hands-on learning experiences, and instructional technology.
  • We provide full access to the American University communities, because here you’re not an online student, you’re an AU student.

Students are often surprised to discover that an online course is as enriching as a traditional classroom setting. Yet students also find an increased time commitment and greater need for self-direction in online courses. This increased dedication is counterbalanced by greater adaptability to your needs and a more personalized learning experience. Here’s what you should know about taking online courses.

Consider the Time Commitment and Schedule Flexibility

  • Time management, self-discipline, and organization are essential to succeed in an online course. You know yourself and your goals best. Pair that self-knowledge with your goals and you can create a personal, flexible, and realistic schedule that works for you.
  • Plan to spend a substantial amount of time studying, between 10 to 15 hours per week.
  • You get out of it what you put into it. Participate fully for the best experience. You will need to log in, view course information, post comments, and complete required assignments. 
  • Participating in online discussions often takes longer than classroom discussions. Typing a thought can take longer than saying it. However, since everyone can comment on any issue, you can gain greater perspective because you hear from more diverse people, including students who don’t normally participate in a traditional classroom.
  • Unlike traditional classes with a regularly scheduled place and time, the asynchronous environment of some online classes means students must take greater responsibility for keeping pace with the course schedule. 

Some Technical Skills are Needed for a Successful Online Learning Experience

male student at computer

Students who enroll in our online courses should have a solid understanding of basic computer skills. Some of the essential skills required include:  

  • Knowledge of computer terminology, such as browser, operating system, application, software, files, documents, icon, etc.
  • Understanding of basic computer hardware and software with the ability to perform computer operations.
    • Managing files and folders
    • Software installation, security, and virus protection
    • Using software applications such as Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, Excel, and Outlook
    • Uploading and downloading attachments
    • Creating online accounts
  • Ability to use online communication tools, such as Outlook for email, discussion boards, learning management systems, and video conferencing.
  • Perform online research using various search engines and library databases.

In addition to the technical skills to be successful in an online course, students must also have access to the necessary technology requirements to complete their online coursework.

Technology Requirements for Online Courses

  • Computer less than five (5) years old running a compatible operating system
  • Working microphone and webcam (can be plugged in or built into the computer)
  • Speakers or headphones
  • High-speed Internet connection

For best performance, use the latest version of Chrome, Firefox, or Safari.

Technology requirements for individual courses may vary, and your course may require additional hardware and/or software.  See the course syllabus or contact the instructor for additional technology requirements.

Students may borrow technology equipment from The University Library’s Media and Technology Center. For more information visit their website.

For technical assistance, the Help Desk staff are available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Eastern Time), by calling 202-885-2550. You may also email the Help Desk at at any time.

In addition, AU offers several self-help technical support resources on our learning support services website.

Mutual Expectations Build Strong Relationships

student at computer

Without the opportunity to meet in person, we must intentionally and deliberately create a sense of connection between all online class participants. We can bridge the physical distances that separate us in virtual classes by building community through shared interests, committed engagement, and interpersonal communication. Don’t be afraid to reach out and connect one-on-one or in small groups with fellow students. 

Integrity in academic performance is a cornerstone of an AU education. Our instructors expect that you have reviewed and will abide by the AU Academic Integrity Code. In short, you must be able to attest that the work you submit is your own.  

Your instructors expect all class members to keep pace with the schedule of learning activities every week the course is in session. You can plan to devote between 5 to 10 hours per week to common course activities and discussions. We are confident that in time, the commitment you make to regularly participating in class activities will pay off richly for you. 

Disability Accommodations Are for Online Students Too

AU is committed to ensuring accessibility for all qualified students with disabilities to university programs and activities, including our online programs.

You are not alone; thousands of students seek support at AU.  

6,000 student contacts, on average, accessing Academic Support and Access services each year

All disability-related information is treated as confidential. Providing disability-related information is on a need-to-know basis solely to individuals who require such information as part of the accommodation process, or where permitted or required by law or university policy. 

Requesting Disability Accommodations

Requesting disability accommodations for the first time at AU, involves a 3-step process to get registered with the Academic Support and Access Center. The review and verification process takes 2 or more weeks, so early submissions before the deadlines are recommended.   

  • Fill out a questionnaire
  • Send in documentation
  • Work with a Disability Access Advisor for eligibility verification

See the detailed, step-by-step accommodations registration instructions to get started. 

Register for Accommodations 

Eligibility for disability-related accommodations is determined by registering with the Academic Support and Access Center as described above. You can find Documentation Guidelines for health-related diagnoses on the accommodations registration page.

Any qualified student with a disability enrolled in a course or participating in an AU program or activity may request reasonable accommodations once documentation of a disability is verified by the Academic Support and Access Center. Timely notification assists in reviewing documentation and determining appropriate accommodations, which are made on a case-by-case basis. 

For more information visit our Academic Support and Access Center.

Time Management Tips for Online Learners

male student at computer

Adding to the time management strategies you already use; we’ve created these tips to help you pursue your academic and professional goals as an AU online student: 

  • Evaluate your current use of time for one week. Track how long you spend on daily activities. Use this information to budget your time realistically.
  • Create daily, weekly, and monthly objectives. Break down bigger projects into smaller tasks. Prioritize these tasks to achieve your objectives.
  • Use a calendar or planner and update it weekly and monthly. Plan each day by making a to-do list and prioritizing the items based on available time.
  • Learn to say no to nonessential tasks and activities to avoid becoming overcommitted and overwhelmed.
  • Establish a daily or weekly study routine and block out the time on your schedule. 
  • Create your own “classroom.” Set up a quiet and well-equipped place to study and complete your assignments.
  • Log in to your online course early and often to familiarize yourself with the course and syllabus. Stay up-to-date on discussion posts, add your own comments, and interact with your peer’s posts.
  • Know the deadlines and create your own reminders for project and assignment due dates.
  • Support yourself and fellow students by pairing up as accountability buddies. You can check in with each other about your progress, especially on big projects. 
  • Budget enough time to complete assignments. Include extra time in case you run into problems, technical or otherwise.
  • Schedule time for yourself. Adequate sleep, exercise, nourishing food, time with family and friends, and fun hobbies will help you keep going long term.