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Frequently Asked Questions

Is online learning right for me?

There are both benefits and challenges to online learning. One benefit of online learning is that you have the convenience of working on the course from home and on your own schedule which can be helpful for students with a busy schedule.

Online courses are challenging. They require you to work independently and use time management skills to complete coursework. If you have difficulty working independently and/or managing your time you find yourself falling behind on coursework.

There are several assessments that help you determine if online learning is the right mode for you. You can find one offered by Penn State here:

How is online learning different from face-to-face (classroom) learning?

Please review the table below to see how online learning differs from face-to-face or classroom learning. Please note that this is a general comparison and that some online and face-to-face classes my be different from the information provided below.

Online Learning

Face-to-Face (Classroom) Learning

Flexible (asynchronous), not meeting on a specific day or time.

Scheduled (synchronous) most learning activities occur in the classroom on a specific schedule.

Requires more self-direction and discipline to complete coursework and meet due dates while minimizing distractions and managing busy schedules.

Requires attending classes or labs with additional work assigned outside of class meetings.

Online feedback may be slower as each person participates at a different time (i.e. online discussions).

Feedback from peers tends to occur much quicker (i.e. class discussions) in the classroom environment.

Writing skills are critical as writing is usually the main mode of communication. Having the ability to articulate concise questions or responses saves time and prevents miscommunication.

There are generally more options for communication in classroom environments. Writing is important but so are class discussions and oral presentations.

Online learning requires a higher level of digital literacy or the ability to navigate and create information using a variety of technology.

Instructors take on more of a leader or director role in the classroom.

Instructors take on more of a facilitator role in online learning.

Learning in the classroom is traditionally a group activity.

Online learning is traditionally more of an independent activity.


Is attendance mandatory? Will I be required to attend class at a specific time?

There may be scheduled office hours or synchronous presentations but in general students have the flexibility to complete activities on their own schedule as long as deadlines are met.

Do I have to visit campus?

Visiting campus is encouraged but not required unless there are special requirements for a specific degree program or course. Any required visits must be noted in the course or program information.

What is my NetID?

  • Your NetID (IT account user name) is your primary username for IT academic computing services, including SPIRE, UMail, Google Mail & Apps, Moodle, UDrive, and the campus network, Go.UMass.
  • Your NetID and associated password are also used to log into Blackboard Learn*.  
  • Account information and activation directions are sent to you separately by email to your non-UMass email address. If you do not receive this information, visit the IT Support Center webpage or contact the IT Help Center directly at (413) 545-9400, Monday - Friday 8:30 AM–5:00 PM Eastern.

*You must activate and log into your SPIRE account in order to successfully log into Blackboard Learn.

How do I login?

  1. Head to UMass Amherst's Blackboard login page (
  2. To login to your course you will need an active NetID and password.
  3. To activate your account, follow the instructions on the Activate Your Account page ( If you did not receive your NetID and password or have lost this information, contact Information Technology at or (413) 545-9400. 

Can I take an online course if I live outside the United States?

Yes. We have many students who take online courses that reside outside of the United States. If you are taking your course from another country we recommend that you install the Virtual Private Network (VPN) offered by the University of Massachusetts. To learn more about VPN, how to install it and where to go for additional support please go to:

What is Preview Week?

Preview week helps students prepare for their online course by allowing them to familiarize themselves with course requirements and with the Blackboard Learning Management System. Preview week begins 7 days before the official start date of any online course. 

How are courses offered in Winter Term 2016/2017?

The winter term is an accelerated term. The term begins on December 27, 2016 and ends on January 21, 2017. Courses scheduled during winter term cover the same material in 4 weeks that would be covered in Fall/Spring terms (13 weeks). There is a scheduled break around the holiday (1/1/2017 – 1/2/2017) when work should not be assigned. There is no finals period during the winter term. Any final projects or exams will be due prior to or on the last day of class.

What technical support resources are available?

24/7 Help Desk Information

Due to the asynchronous nature of online learning, technical support must be flexible. Students always have access to our 24/7 Help Desk vendor specializing in technical support for their online learning experience. Please visit the website for technical assistance with Blackboard Learn and related issues.

On the page, students can receive technical support through a rich self-help knowledge base or professional assistance via phone, chat, and email. This help desk is the primary technical support service for students. 

eLearning - Continuing and Professional Education

The eLearning department is a unit within Continuing & Professional Education providing administrative and technical support for online students and instructors using Blackboard Learn.  

For issues that are not resolved by our help desk, the eLearning department can be reached at

What other resources are available for students taking online courses?

Training Resources

UMass Amherst Student Orientation & Resource Area

This site provides advice and information about taking online classes as well as an overview of Blackboard Learn. First-time students should read through all of the material on the orientation site at least once. Experienced students can use it as a reference.

Online Student Orientation Course

This free, optional course was developed to introduce students to an online course environment that is structured similar to many other online classes at the university. The course was designed with an important purpose in mind—To ease students' minds about taking online classes through UMass Amherst! To learn more about this course go to: About Student Training & Technical Support.

New Online Student Orientation Webinars

This free webinar provides new online students taking online courses an opportunity to familiarize themselves with Blackboard Learn Learning Management System (LMS). The webinar is a 45-minute long overview of the LMS and answers frequently asked questions that students have about taking an online class at UMass Amherst. The webinars will only be offered on the dates shown on the calendar below, and will be limited to 20 participants per webinar. To learn more about these webinars to to: About Student Training & Technical Support.

Atomic Learning

Atomic Learning offers short tutorials on course navigation, netiquette and skills for online success. Please note that you may be prompted to login with your NetID to view the first video in the series.

Other Student Resources

Continuing & Professional Education

For information on enrolling in online courses offered via Continuing & Professional Education visit the Continuing & Professional Education website at or email the Records & Registration office at

Academic Honesty

Students in online courses, just like all members of the academic community at University of Massachusetts Amherst, are responsible for understanding and complying with the Academic Honesty Policy. There is a formal process for the university regarding concerns of Academic Honesty. Both of these procedures are now processed through the Provost's Office (undergraduates) or the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School (graduate students). See the Academic Honesty page for more information.

Ombuds Office

The Ombuds office is a unique place where all current UMass Amherst students, faculty and staff can talk "off the record" about any campus concern, issue or conflict. The Ombuds staff works with visitors in a variety of ways to help them understand their options and resolve their concerns. To learn more visit:

Disability Services

Disability Services provides academic accommodations, resources and training in assistive technology, and information to increase the understanding of disability throughout the university community. Find out more at:

UMass Amherst Libraries

UMass Amherst libraries are your first destination for finding books, articles, journals, videos, and online materials. You can access library E-Resources here: electronic resources with your NetID. Find out more at:

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