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Personal Preparation

Are you ready to learn online? Distance learning is very different from learning in a traditional classroom setting, often requiring special learning skills. Learning online means that you must be independent and self-motivated because there are no structured meeting times. Procrastination is the distance learner's worst enemy! Additionally, technology plays a major role in distance learning. If you are not comfortable with your technical skills, you may find online learning even more challenging.

What is an Online Course Like?

You should expect to spend as much time for study, or perhaps more, as a classroom course since you are managing your own learning using the online information and materials. This requires that you be self-disciplined, motivated, and have some skills using a networked computer and a web browser. The content and rigor of the online courses offered by the University of West Florida are generally equivalent to the on-campus version of the same course. You need to check your official UWF email ( regularly, as it is the official communication tool used by faculty and the University.

Online courses can vary in their approach to the teaching and learning process, but often have certain characteristics in common.  Standard classroom textbooks and printed materials are typically used in combination with online lectures, assignments, and supplementary course materials. Some courses have formal lectures, similar in length and content to lectures given in face-to-face classes. Online lectures may be entirely text-based or consist of some combination of text, graphics, sound, and video. Other courses break the content up into smaller units or abandon the lecture entirely, instead of relying on group discussion and other types of learning activities.

You will communicate with your instructor and other students through the LMS (Canvas) primarily via e-mail and electronic file submissions. The online course is designed so that you receive course assignments, complete them on your own time, and then return them as electronic documents. Your instructor will evaluate them and provide feedback. Many courses will also use a threaded discussion forum in which you can share information, collaborate, and interact with other members of your class.

Depending on the course design, you may take your tests or exams online or go to a testing room on campus or at a local community college. You may also write papers, complete projects, take part in simulations and solve problems as alternate forms of assessment. Additionally, some courses and programs may require predetermined trips to campus, which you should plan for before registering.  Check the course syllabus for testing or synchronous meeting details or requirements.

eLearning at UWF

We recommend that you familiarize yourself with our "eLearning" online course management system. To assist you in this, we have developed eLearning Help for Students. The Canvas videos "walk-through" of the eLearning interface and shows the location of common course features. eLearning Help is an on-demand database of instructions on how to effectively use the eLearning online course management system at UWF. You may want to bookmark "eLearning Help" for future use.

Technical Skills for Online Learning

These online tutorials will help strengthen your technical skills.

  1. Internet 101
    Created for those who want to know just the basics. This guide will provide you with enough knowledge to have fun on the Internet, yet it will not bore you with too many details.
  2. Online Dictionary for Computer and Internet Terms
  3. Core Rules of Netiquette
    Guidelines for proper behavior online
  4. Mindflash
    Technical skills for online learning