Online Learning 

Maria College has always provided convenient scheduling formats, such as evening and weekend courses, to ensure students with family and work obligations have the opportunity to take courses.  The College has enhanced its scheduling options to include online courses.

Online learning lets you complete coursework at locations and times that are convenient for you.  While most work is done remotely, some courses may require on-campus meetings for labs or exams.  Most online courses are completed within the timeline of a regular semester.

Maria uses the Blackboard course management system to deliver courses over the Internet.  Blackboard allows you to access online course materials, submit homework assignments, and communicate with the instructor and other students. For a complete list of current online courses offered click here.

Is online learning for me?

Online courses are not for everyone.  This method of instruction is geared toward students who are self-motivated and enjoy using technology.  To help you determine whether online learning will work for you, and to give you a better understanding of the expectations for online students, we have provided two assessments in a pdf format:  the Personal Readiness Assessment and theTechnical Skills Assessment.  Click on these links to download the pdf files, then fill out the answers on each assessment, print, and bring/email them to your professor or advisor if required.  Keep track of your answers, because an evaluation of those answers follows the assessments.  (If you are a matriculated student at the College, you should complete the assessments and go over them with your advisor before registering for an online course.)

To be a successful online learner you must be self-directed and have good time management skills.  You must be a self-starter, have a desire to learn, take a personal initiative, and must be resourceful and persistent.  Online learners work well alone, are not procrastinators, have good reading and comprehension skills, resist distractions, and are comfortable without the social elements of face-to-face courses in the classroom.

An online course is right for you if you can honestly answer yes to most of the following questions:

    • Are you a student who has family and work obligations that sometimes affect your ability to attend face-to-face classes on campus?
    • Are you a self-motivated student who can budget time well and work independently?
    • Do you enjoy using technology to learn and are you comfortable using a computer?
    • Did you take the Personal Readiness and Technical Skills assessments and are you confident about your readiness and abilities?
    • If you are a matriculated student, did you talk to your advisor about whether an online course is right for you?

MORE ON BLACKBOARD

In order to use Blackboard, you will need a computer with Internet capabilities, enabling you to access Blackboard from Maria’s homepage.  You are expected to log on to Blackboard regularly.  Think of Blackboard as a place to locate essential information that you may need to complete a course.  You will find the following types of information on Blackboard:
    • Announcements
    • Course documents/materials
    • Course syllabus
    • Assignments/homework
    • Tests/quizzes
    • Discussion boards
    • Student rosters/email addresses
    • Grades
    • Link to Maria College library

To log on to Blackboard follow the steps below:

    • Connect to the Internet
    • Access the Maria College webpage mariacollege.edu.
    • Find the“Blackboard” link found at the top of the homepage.
    • Enter username* and password*

*If you are a matriculated student, you already have a username and password for Web Services.  You will use the same ones for logging on to Blackboard.  If you are a new student, you will receive a username and password after you register for your course(s).  Access “Personal Information” to change your password and verify student information, especially your email address.  Without a valid email address, you will be unable to receive or send email through Blackboard.

Online versus face-to-face learning

An online course is comparable to the same course taught face-to-face.  The same number of credits is earned and the credits are transferrable.  However, before you register for an online course, you should be aware of some basic differences between online and face-to-face courses.

An online course is set up in units (a.k.a. modules) to be completed week by week.  The assignments (whether homework or assessments, such as tests or quizzes) are generally due by the end of the week, and the instructor will usually deactivate each week’s materials on the due date, making them no longer accessible.  Therefore, it is important to work at an appropriate pace so you don’t fall behind.

Some students think online courses are as much work as face-to-face courses, and some say it actually takes additional time to do the work.  You must be sure that you have allocated at least as much time to complete the online coursework as you would have spent in the classroom, plus time for homework.

Most assignments/homework, tests and quizzes are done online.  Some of these are automatically graded, with the grade posted immediately.  In other cases, you type your answers/responses into a word processing program, and they are graded by the instructor.  The instructor then posts your grades online.  In either case, the time and date of submission are automatically recorded.

Discussion is an important part of both face-to-face courses and online courses; however, online discussions are carried out through the “Discussion Board” feature of Blackboard, which is similar to a bulletin board.  It is a record of all the postings from everyone in the course.  You are expected to share your own thoughts and ideas and also to respond to other students’ postings.  Also, to communicate with your instructor, make comments and ask questions as you would in a face-to-face class, you post to the Discussion Board and use the email feature that is built into Blackboard.

Maria Online Learning FAQs

How can I access the online Course Schedule? 

Online courses are designated with a section number including the letter “Z”.  Access our entire course schedule by clicking this Course Schedule link.  Choose the semester you are interested in, and click “Continue.”  In the “Site” box, select “Day,” “Evening,” “Online,” “Weekend” or “All.”  Next, click the “Go/Refresh” button to view the courses available for that semester.  To view the online courses for a different semester, click on the “Pick a new semester” link, and repeat the process.

How do I register for an online course?

If you are a matriculated student, contact your advisor for approval.  If you are a nonmatriculated student, (not enrolled in a degree program), contact the Office of Student Records at (518)438-3111, ext. 224.

How much does it cost to take an online course?

The tuition and fees for an online course are the same as the tuition and fees for a regular or traditional face-to-face course.  Click here for information on the current tuition.

Can I receive financial aid for online courses?

The method in which a course is taught does not affect financial aid.  A student wishing to take an online course must meet all of the regular federal and state financial aid eligibility requirements.  Please contact the Financial Aid Office if you have any questions about eligibility or the financial aid process:  on campus, go to room 100, or you may call (518) 438-3111, ext. 229, or email finaid@mariacollege.edu.  You can also view information about financial aid by clicking here.

Where do I get help using Blackboard for an online course?

You should begin by asking your instructor.  You can also emailregistrar@mariacollege.edu for general questions, contact Sharon Hope, Director of Online Learning, at (518) 438-3111, ext. 285; or call the Office of Student Records at (518)438-3111, ext. 224.

Are academic and student resources available to me as an online student?

As an online student, you have access to the same support services as students who attend face-to-face courses on campus.  Services such as counseling, Campus Ministry, the Learning Resource Center, the Bookstore, etc., have dedicated pages within the Maria College website that provide the location, phone numbers, and email addresses of the faculty and staff to contact with any questions or needs.  Click here to visit the Student Serviceshomepage.

You can connect to Web Services to view your semester grades, schedule, degree audit and billing statements.  (For specific grades on assignments, tests, and quizzes, log on to Blackboard).  In addition, all of the off-campus library resources can be accessed through the Maria College website or by clicking on a tab within Blackboard.

What type of computer hardware and software are needed to take an online course?

Following are the minimum hardware and software specifications to work with Blackboard:

Platform: Windows XP, or Vista; MacOS 9 or MacOS X or higher
Hardware: 256 MB of RAM, 1 G of free disk space
Software: Microsoft™ Word 2003 (XP) or higher, PowerPoint, and Adobe™ Reader™
Browser: Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher, or Netscape 7.2 or higher
Audio and Video Player: Apple™ Quicktime™ 6.0 or higher and FlashPlayer
Modem: 56 K or other Internet connection
NOTE: JavaScript & Cookies must be enabled

You are responsible for ensuring that you have the required hardware and software to provide easy access to the online elements of the course.

What academic skills are essential for an online course?

You must be able to type in order to be able to complete assignments, to write, send, and receive email, and to participate in online discussions.  If you cannot type, we recommend that you do not take an online course.  In addition, you must have very good reading and writing skills, since most of the work is done by reading course materials and writing to complete assignments.

What computer skills are essential for taking an online course?

Basic computer skills are necessary to successfully navigate an online course.  You need to be skilled in using:
  • Basic Blackboard
  • Windows: to manage files
  • Microsoft™ Word: to create, open, print, and save documents
  • PowerPoint: for viewing presentations
  • Email: for reading and writing emails, and sending attachments (zip files)
  • World Wide Web access techniques

How can I brush up on my computer skills before I take an online course?

You can brush up on your computer skills by signing up for CSC100 (Introduction to Computers) in the semester before you plan to take an online course.  This is a three-credit course that covers such topics as the Internet and email, Microsoft™ Word, Windows™, computer components, including hardware and software, and the use of Blackboard as a course management tool and to take online courses.

How is an online course the same as a face-to-face course?

The content of an online course is comparable to the same course taught face-to-face, and both are taught by Maria College faculty.  The same number of credits is earned from both types of courses, and those credits are transferrable in both cases.

Do I need a textbook for an online course?

Much of the reading required for the course is still based on the textbook.  Textbooks are purchased at the college bookstore. 

Do I need to come to campus to complete any requirements for an online course?

Some online courses will not have you in a classroom at all, and others may require you to attend only an orientation class at the start of the semester.  Still others may require you to come to campus for assessments, such as the midterm and final exams.  Each online instructor sets his or her own calendar for required attendance.  Remember that for an online course, “attendance” includes regular participation in the online course areas of Blackboard, i.e., completion of required learning activities, assignments, tests and quizzes, and participation in discussion board forums.

Can I complete some of my work for an online course on campus?

You can access your course and complete some of your assignments on campus by using computers in the Learning Resource Center, as well as in Room 103 of the Main Building.

Is there wireless access on campus that will allow me to access online courses?

Maria College has a number of wireless hotspots on campus where you can use your laptop if it is wireless-enabled.  Wireless hotspots include the library, the student lounge in the Main Building, and Fitzgerald Court in Marian Hall.  For the best connection to the wireless network, an operating system of Windows XP or higher is recommended. 

Once your laptop detects MariaNet, you will be prompted to enter a password to gain access to the network.  The password is merciful, all in lowercase letters.  Maria provides these wireless access points as a service to its faculty and students, and in so doing, provides a wireless connection to the Internet.  You should always take the necessary steps to protect your own computer with your own virus protection software, spam filtering, and anti-phishing software.  Please be cautious and use good computer judgment when connected to any network.