Taking an Online Course

Information and Tips for Students

We have gathered some useful resources and information for students interested in taking an online course. Please e-mail us at WesternOnline@wwu.edu if you have any questions.

Registering for an Online Course

To register for an online course you should submit your registration materials prior to the beginning of the quarter, unless you have communicated with the instructor. All online courses follow WWU's general dates and deadlines, for more information refer to the Registrar's Office Important Dates and Deadlines web page.

For information on registration procedures for both current and non-Western students, please visit the Cost and Registration page.  A complete listing of available offerings can be found on the Courses page.

For Current WWU Students

Current WWU students register through MyWestern -> Web4U. This is the same method of registration that is used for all other WWU courses. Details regarding tuition will be presented during the registration process.

For Non-WWU Students

For non-WWU students interested in taking an online course:

  1. Select your course, a complete listing of online courses is available here: Current Online Course Listing
  2. Be sure that your course still has space available (in Classfinder) and that you have the necessary prerequisites (if applicable). If you have questions related to a prerequisite, send the instructor an e-mail for additional information. For some online programs (CCE, HSP, and TESOL) permission of the instructor and/or department head is required).
  3. Complete the Online Course Registration Form, then send it to:
    • In Person: Student Business Office [Old Main 110]
    • By Fax: Confidential Fax (360) 788-0854
    • By Mail:
      WWU Cashier - Extended Ed
      Western Washington University
      516 High Street, MS 9004
      Bellingham, WA 98225
  4. Once Western has received your registration form, it will be processed and you will be registered, pending available space in the course and any holds on your account.

Preparing to Take an Online Course

Here are some helpful resources that will assist you in preparing to take an online course:


Be sure to stay in contact with your instructor and your peers. Make sure you are participating in any synchronous and asynchronous discussion or conference sessions. If you do have any questions related to your course, be sure to ask your instructor.

Check your course for new updates, discussion threads, and other information at least a few times a week, if not daily. It is critical that students also check the WWU e-mail periodically.

If you have group projects or just want to create a study group, feel free to contact the other students in your course by using the Communications feature in Canvas.

Study Skills

For some ideas and help on study skills, check out Metropolitan Community College's Study Manual for Online Courses. Also, be sure to take advantage of all of the tools that are available through Western, including the Learning Commons and Academic Advising, a more comprehensive list of university services can be found on the Student Resources page.

Remember - If you are having difficulties, be sure to contact your instructor!

Time Management

For some helpful tips for time management, check out U.S. News "4 Time Management Tips for Online Students" article.

One of the first things you should do is create a schedule for yourself. Plan out when you have required synchronous sessions (discussions, live conferencing/lectures, etc.); be sure to give yourself extra time before for set-up and after for ensuring that if the session goes over the allocated time or to make sure you have time to reflect on the session. Be sure that the due dates for all of your assignments is very clear to you and that you allocate yourself plenty of time to complete the assignment, then review and edit prior to submitting. You may want to also check with your instructor or refer to your course to see if there are any special requirements for the assignment (e.g. the use of a specific style guide when writing a research paper).

Technology Requirements

All online courses will have different technology requirements. Some may require that you purchase access to a vender-produced learning/content system (MyLab, McGraw-Hill Connect, etc.), others will require that you set-up external services for completing tasks and assignments (Google Docs, Wordpress, etc.). If you have any questions on course specific details, feel free to contact your instructor for additional information.

For general Canvas questions, please refer to the Canvas Help Center.

Time Commitment

Students should expect to spend three to four hours per credit per week for a course. Although this will vary from course to course, online courses follow the same general rule for face-to-face courses, for each credit hour you should expect to spend around three hours engaged in the course, working on readings, communicating with your instructor or peers, research, etc. (ACC Handbook, Section 1.2).

Communicating with your Instructor and your Peers

Here are some helpful resources for communicating in your online course:

Communicating with your Instructor

It is always important to maintain constant communication with your instructor, be sure to attend all synchronous lectures, meetings, and demonstrations; stop by in-person or virtual office hours to introduce yourself and ask questions; and be sure to let your instructor know if you are having difficulty with concepts or assignments. When communicating with your instructor, make sure your messages are professional and that you follow the rules of netiquette.

Communicating with your Peers

During your course you may be required to communicate with your peers in a variety of capacities, including discussion, blogging, reflection, group projects, editing, etc. It is important to follow the rules of netiquette and to ensure that you communicate effectively and efficiently, be sure that with any group work you outline, assign, and understand responsibilities, and that you collaborate in the review/editing process, where applicable.

If you would like to, or are required to, create a study group be sure to use the e-mail feature within the learning management system (Canvas) to see who would be willing to participate in the discussion or, for instructor assigned groups, to find out who is in your discussion group


The principals of netiquette (net etiquette) are defined and demonstrated on Study Guides and Strategies "Netiquette" site. It is important to follow these general guidelines when communicating on discussion boards and other interactive communication tools and through e-mail.

Page Updated 05.03.2016