Online Student Experience

You’re curious about how online courses work. You want to know more.

Graduates William Douglass (Digital Photography – Associate of Science 2017), Enver Ismali (Interior Design – Bachelor of Science 2017) and Monica Lair (Web Design & Interactive Media – Bachelor of Science 2017) all weigh in on common questions prospective students ask. Check out their answers below!

Why did you decide to take online classes?

“Online classes affords you the ability to earn your degree while you work. For me, it was the ideal method in learning because I had financial responsibilities that needed to be met each month.

If I chose to sit in a classroom on campus there would be no way to earn that living while earning a degree.” Enver Ismali, Interior Design – BS Graduate 2017

How do online classes work?

“Online classes work the same way your conventional classes would. There are assignments that are due each week and you need to participate in the threads the same way you would in a live class setting. The best part is you can work on your assignments to fit around your schedule; just be mindful of due dates and organize your time accordingly.” Enver Ismali, Interior Design – BS Graduate 2017

“[Online classes work] quite well, it’s mostly a matter of self-discipline and looking ahead on upcoming assignments for the week and getting them down around your busy schedule.” William Douglass, Digital Photography – BS Graduate 2017

"Online classes work very similar to traditional classes students may be taking in a physical building, where as with online education, it’s done over the computer. There are instructors, classmates, reading material, assignments, due dates, and grades. Instead of meeting in a classroom, we meet in an online virtual classroom. And instead of handing in physical paper assignments, we submit folders to the online classroom containing our virtual documents. Most other aspects are the same; expect online education gave me the freedom to schedule my own hours each week to complete coursework, which also allowed me to work while obtaining my degree." Monica Lair, Web Design & Interactive Media – BS Graduate 2017

How do students design online?

“There are so many creative programs that allow you to design online. Your instructors will have preferences as to which programs they would like to see your assignments posted int. So, you can use programs from the Adobe Creative Suite to generate creative projects, PowerPoint or Word to set up templates, as well as using your computer's hardware such as printer and scanner to send and submit hand drawn projects. ” Enver Ismali, Interior Design – BS Graduate 2017

“There are so many ways an online student can design. In my personal experience, I focused on using the Adobe Creative Suite, which includes software programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator. These software programs give online students an intuitive way to design and share their creations with their instructors and classmates. Also, sometimes using an old-fashioned paper and pencil is important when it comes to designing online. It allows a student to be creative hands-on before taking their ideas and designs to the computer.” Monica Lair, Web Design & Interactive Media – BS Graduate 2017

How do I submit coursework?

“Submitting assignments is not that much different than posting on social media. You get to share your file and type in a comment for your peers and instructor to see.” Enver Ismali, Interior Design – BS Graduate 2017

“I upload my course work to the digital classroom. If it’s a written assignment like an essay I type it up in a Word Processor first and then upload the Word file or paste it into the discussion area.” William Douglass, Digital Photography – BS Graduate 2017

Will I still have communication with my instructor/classmates?

“YES! In fact, it is mandatory for all of your course work. Communication is key in any field you are applying for. For the most part, you are communicating through written correspondence and it teaches you the etiquette in writing professionally. There are some classes where you will need to communicate via camera or present your projects live. ” Enver Ismali, Interior Design – BS Graduate 2017

 “Yes you can email your instructor or classmates from the digital classroom, [some instructors] also list their phone number with Office Hours and most have Skype as well.” William Douglass, Digital Photography – BS Graduate 2017

 “Yes! Communication is an important part of online education, even if the communication is not in person. Instructors will communicate with each student on a regular basis through the online classroom, responding to questions and assignments, and leading discussions. Each week, students are required to communicate with their classmates through the online classroom as well, participating in discussions, asking questions, and generally discussing the class and topics at hand. This participation allows an online student to communicate with their classmates and instructors virtually.” Monica Lair, Web Design & Interactive Media – BS Graduate 2017

How do I get feedback from my instructor?

“Instructors will give students feedback directly through the online classroom regarding their assignments and participating in the class. Mainly, an instructor will respond directly to student’s assignment in the online classroom, providing feedback and asking any questions they may have regarding the student’s work. Instructors will also update each student’s grade book within the online classroom after assignments have been graded. Along with your grade will be feedback from your instructor. Instructors can also contact a student directly through email, if necessary.” Monica Lair, Web Design & Interactive Media – BS Graduate 2017

“Typically, your instructor will provide written feedback under your initial post for each assignment. There are times the instructor will also provide video feedback to discuss your project in detail and review your assignment so you can see areas of the project visually. ” Enver Ismali, Interior Design – BS Graduate 2017

“The instructor posts their feedback right into your discussion area as a reply as do your classmates. Instructors can also leave private feedback in your digital gradebook.” William Douglass, Digital Photography – BS Graduate 2017

How often should I be in class?*

“How often a student should be in class would depend on how many classes a student is taking at one time (one or two), and the due dates of their assignments. A student should be in class prior to any assignment due date to submit the completed assignment to the online classroom. However, when it comes to studying purposes or completing assignments, this is something students will discover for themselves when creating a routine for completing their assignments. Each student’s time management schedule for class may look different, but it’s important to find what type of routine or schedule works for the specific student’s lifestyle and study habits.” Monica Lair, Web Design & Interactive Media – BS Graduate 2017

*Students taking online classes (including students taking PLUS courses) must submit at least one academically-related posting in the learning management system each full attendance week. Students are also responsible for timely submission of all assignments, which will vary by program and course. Please see the Academic Catalog for more information regarding the Online Attendance Policy.

When I need support- who do I contact?

“Typically, tech support would be able to assist you on any issues you may have computer wise with programs, data, or general technical issues like maintenance.  If you need additional support for assignments or further instructions in regards to your assignments, you can always reach out to the Questions for the Professor tab and post any issues or questions there.

"Don't hesitate to reach out towards your classmates either. Sometimes the question you have, may be the same ones your peers have. So, it's always a good idea to see if any of your peers may have the answers you are looking for. ” Enver Ismali, Interior Design – BS Graduate 2017  

“It depends, if you need tech support, you can call them. If you need assignment help, post in the Questions for Professor section of your digital classroom.” William Douglass, Digital Photography – BS Graduate 2017

“I was never at a loss for someone to contact for support during my time as an online student. There are many faculty and staff a student can contact for help, or to be pointed in the right direction. Most of these faculty and staff can be reached via phone or email. Each student has an academic advisor and a financial advisor for general and financial questions. Each class instructor provides their email address and sometimes Skype contact information to contact them regarding class work. Advisors and instructors know it is important to get back to a student in a timely manner. Technical support is available if a student runs into a technical problem. Students can also use the online tutoring services for support in learning, such as with software programs or essays.” Monica Lair, Web Design & Interactive Media – BS Graduate 2017

Are there tutoring services available?

“Yes! There are tutoring services for all types of classes from Math and English to citing a source. Take advantage of all these services.” Enver Ismali, Interior Design – BS Graduate 2017

“Yes, tutoring is offered. You do not have to pay extra for a tutor. A tutoring center is available for students online, which students can access easily. If a student is looking for one-on-one help, which is something I recommend, on demand and appointment based live tutoring is available. I personally used the live tutoring during a class and found it extremely helpful, as you are chatting with your tutor in real time. There are also other resources available to students, such as video tutorials and help forums on topics like essays or software programs.” Monica Lair, Web Design & Interactive Media – BS Graduate 2017

Is prior software knowledge required for your programs?

“It's great to have but, no you are not required to have any knowledge on any of the programs you are learning here. From experience I can tell you I had none and most of what I have learned I learned here.” Enver Ismali, Interior Design – BS Graduate 2017 

“Not really, you will learn what you need to know to use the software in class, but I always recommend playing around with it more in your spare time. There are tons of free instructional videos on-line as well.” William Douglass, Digital Photography – BS Graduate 2017

“Fortunately, I feel little to no prior software knowledge is required for the programs, which I found very comforting when it came to software programs I had little knowledge about. During a class where a software program is required, the lecture material and textbooks are a great source for learning the software programs as you go. Online one-on-one tutoring in software programs is also a service available to any online student [at no additional cost]. I would recommend taking a little extra time to introduce yourself to the software program if you are unfamiliar using these resources. Every student will know which software programs you will be using for a class on the first day, which leaves a student plenty of time to learn.” Monica Lair, Web Design & Interactive Media – BS Graduate 2017

Are students typically able to fit in school with working full time?

“I would say this certainly depends on the student. Many students do not struggle with managing their time between work and school because online education is very flexible compared to traditional education. However, I feel it’s important to be realistic about your time, your schedule, and your commitment to your degree. In my opinion, if a student feels they may struggle with working a full time job, along with their every day schedule, they can take advantage of being a part time student, which means they could continue to work full time while still working toward their degree as a part time student.” Monica Lair, Web Design & Interactive Media – BS Graduate 2017

 “It is a challenge but yes, you can do it. There were times I struggled with it, but the important thing to remember is you are seeking a change within yourself. So, it really becomes all about prioritizing your time and learning how to work around your schedule.” Enver Ismali, Interior Design – BS Graduate 2017

Are there scheduled times that I need to log in to class?

“There were no predetermined scheduled times I was required to log in class in a given day. This was a major benefit of online learning for me, as I could set my own hours to complete my work. If I couldn’t sleep one night, I would log in to study at 3 AM. The only instance I had a scheduled time to log in to class was to virtually meet with an instructor, to ask questions or receive extra help, but this was per my own request. You should, however, schedule your own hours based on the due dates of the assignments. It is important to also take into consideration if the time zone of your class differs than your own. If you need to submit an assignment by a certain time, remember to convert this into your time zone, if necessary.” Monica Lair, Web Design & Interactive Media – BS Graduate 2017

“No. You can log into class at any time to post feedback towards your peers, read the comments, or submit an assignment. However, you do need to post your assignments on time. So, if your assignment is due on the day you log in, make sure you are posting the assignment before the deadline.” Enver Ismali, Interior Design – BS Graduate 2017

What kind of computer will I need?

“It is important to have a computer or laptop that is dependable. It must be able to receive an Internet connection and have enough memory to download new software programs and store assignments. It must run sufficiently when running programs that may require a lot of the computer’s energy, such as designing software. It does not have to be brand new, but it does have to function with little issues to best aid the student. It’s also important to have a backup plan if your computer or laptop would break, such as a second computer or laptop, or access to a friend’s computer temporarily.” Monica Lair, Web Design & Interactive Media – BS Graduate 2017

“Either a desktop or laptop works. I recommend using Windows over a MAC since many programs may not be compatible with Apple products.” Enver Ismali, Interior Design – BS Graduate 2017

 Either a Mac or a PC that is no older than 3 years old I recommend as an I.T. Professional, you don’t want your hardware slowing you down when doing assignments.” William Douglass, Digital Photography – BS Graduate 2017

What do I need to get done in order to start school?

“If this is your first step,  request information through the website. This is what I did personally, and someone contacted me the next day! Thankfully, each student is assigned an admissions advisor once they request information. The admissions advisor is there for students to help them through the process of beginning their online education journey. This advisor personally helped me through the application process, through completing FAFSA information for student aid, and answered any questions I had along the way. However, it’s also important to mentally prepare yourself, too. It’s not easy, and sometimes it will be quite challenging, but keeping your goal in mind of obtaining a degree to keep you motivated is very necessary to having success with online education.” Monica Lair, Web Design & Interactive Media – BS Graduate 2017

“When I enrolled, I had to submit a short essay towards the admissions office. It was nothing major but, if you are transferring schools or going straight into college from high school. You may need to show transcripts of the classes you took so that your classes are planned around your field of study.” Enver Ismali, Interior Design – BS Graduate 2017 

“Talk to an admissions rep and they will help you with the entire admin and acceptance into school as well as assist you with your class schedule once you are enrolled and taking classes.” William Douglass, Digital Photography – BS Graduate 2017


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The information and opinions expressed herein represent the independent opinions and ideas of the alumni and do not represent the opinions and ideas of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh—Online Division.