Frequently Asked Questions


Can anyone take an online course?

Our online courses are open to anyone. Some courses have prerequisites, like an introductory course that you might need to take first. Not all of our courses are offered in every semester, so be sure to check out the course listings.

If you'd like to take a course for personal interest, professional development, or to gain a credit that can eventually be applied to a degree program, then you should apply for entry to the Open Learning program. If you'd like some help in choosing a course, contact Mickey Smart ( Give her some details on your academic background - like whether or not you've been to university before, what you've already taken, and what you're hoping to do - and she'll be able to help you that much quicker.

Can I start and finish my online course at any time?

Our online courses are offered on a semester system. The fall semester begins in early September, the winter semester in early January, and the summer semester in early May. You'll start and end your course with the same group of coursemates - so you'll get to know and work with other learners. And we provide you with a clear framework designed to help you to work through the course - with weekly schedules and clearly defined due dates. While online learning allows you lots of flexibility in your day-to-day scheduling, we've learned that suggesting a weekly schedule can be just the help students need to keep progressing and finish what they've started.

Do I need to be online at the same time as everyone else in my course?

You can choose the time - day or night - to log onto your course's web site. Your course timeline, materials, and instructions are waiting online for you to read whenever you need to. And our asynchronous computer conference system means that you can read messages from coursemates - and post messages for everyone else to read - without having to be online at the same time as anyone else. All the messages are there waiting for you when you click on a conference. You will want to log on at least once each day to keep up.

How much time will I need to devote to my distance course each week?

Online learning courses aren't easier than on-campus courses - they just offer you more convenience and flexibility. Your online course will require a significant amount of reading, writing, completing assignments, and participation online. You should expect to spend about 10 hours per week for each course taken. The weekly schedule is there to help you plan your time.

What kind of computer will I need? Do I need to buy any software?

You'll need a computer (PC or Mac), a modem, and a connection to the Internet. (You can check out the specific requirements here.)

How many assignments will I need to complete and how will I submit them?

The exact number of assignments will depend upon the course you're taking, but most of our courses have this in common - they'll require you to complete some individual assignments and participate in some group work. We'll try to give you a small assignment early in your course, with others paced throughout the semester.

Usually, you'll have several ways to submit your assignments - by fax, as a posting in a computer conference, by using our Assignment Submission form, or even by Canada Post. (Your course will give you the specific instructions.) If you do submit your assignments by mail, include your name and ID number on each page, staple the pages together, and be sure to keep an electronic copy of your assignment - just in case.

What happens if I can't get my assignment in on time?

You'll need to be aware of due dates so that you can complete and submit your assignments on time. Instructors may use their discretion to deduct marks for late assignments. Contact your instructor or teaching assistant in advance of the due date, if possible, if you are unable to complete your assignment on time. Medical documentation may be requested if illness has prevented you from keeping up with your course.

How can I contact my instructor?

You can post your general questions to one of the computer conferences in your course - the course outline will give you the details. If you'd like to talk to your instructor about a private matter, you can use email (there's a direct link from your course web site) or you can phone. You'll find these details in the course outline.

What if I decide that a course isn't for me?

If you change your mind about taking a course that you've registered for, you'll need to let us know as soon as possible. Currently registered Univeristyof Guelph undergraduate students can drop their course on webadvisor. Open Learning program students can drop their course by completing the drop form. Please note this form needs to be printed, completed and faxed to 519-767-1114.

You will also need to send back any course materials you might have received. If you do this before the end of the first week of class, you'll get a full refund - including the materials fee. Too much later than that, and your refund quickly drops down to zero. And one more thing you should be aware of - the 40th day of class is your last day to drop a course without academic penalty.

If you have any questions or concerns, contact Mickey Smart at 519 824-4120 x56050 or

How can I get help?

Studying online away from campus can seem a bit intimidating, especially if you're not sure where to go for help when you need it. If you have general questions about online learning at the University of Guelph, please contact our Open Learning and Educational Support at 519 767-5000, or email If you have a technical question or problem, please contact our support team at 519 824-4120 x56939 or by email at

How do I get to my course website?

You can type this address or URL into the location or address box of your browser.

I am trying to log in to my course website but it keeps saying "Access Denied". Help!

This could mean you've just signed up for the course during the add/drop week of the beginning of the semester and your account has not been processed yet. These accounts usually take one full business day to be created but sometimes - due to all the processing it takes to get an updated class list during the add/drop week - this process may take 2 to 3 days. If after this amount of time you still cannot log in, you should contact Open Learning's technical help line: 519 824-4120 x 56939 or email:

How do I let you know that I've changed my email address?

If your email address changes over the course of the semester please notify us by filling out the "Change My Email" form, accessible from your "My Home" page.

How do I send an email message to my Professor and/or T.A.?

From your course website, you can email your instructor directly by from the Class List, or from the Help pages.


What format should I use for an assignment I'll be submitting electronically?

You can compose your assignment in any word processor, such as WordPerfect or Word. But before you send in your assignment, you must save your file as either a .doc, .docx, an .rtf (Rich Text File) or a PDF.

Can I submit my assignments by fax?

You course web site will give you the details on your submission options. If you do fax an assignment (or any other information) to our office, it is your responsibility to confirm that we've received your fax.

I can get into the submit page, but when I get to the page where I am supposed to select a file from my computer to 'upload' using a 'browse' button, this 'browse' button does not appear anywhere on the screen. It says it is supposed to be there but it is not.

The reason for this is that your browser may not be up to date. Some older versions of Netscape and Internet Explorer do not support this 'upload' feature on their browser. To solve this you should download the latest version of your particular browser.

Where and when will my assignments be returned to me?

If you are only taking courses by distance, then your assignments will be sent to your home address. (Make sure we have your correct address.) If you are taking on-campus courses as well as distance, then your assignments will be returned to your on-campus mailbox. Assignments are sent out to you within 24 hours of being marked and returned to our office by your instructors.

Please note: If you have not closed your campus mailbox with the registrar, your assignments may go to your on-campus mailbox! Make sure you close your on-campus mailbox prior to the start of any semester in which you won't be on-campus.

When will I receive my grade report?

Grades will be available online at the end of the exam period.

Computer Conferencing

I am not assigned to a conference group/I can't access my conference group.

Contact the technical support team at, or call 519 824-4120, extension 56939.

Do I have to be online to write a message to my conference?

No. You can use any word processor (such as Wordperfect or Word), to type out your message. Then, log into your conference and "copy and paste" the text from your word processor into the text message window of your conference.

Why would you want to work off-line? Well, crafting your responses takes time and if you are dialing in using a modem, time is money. If you use another word processing program to create your answers first (i.e., before you are connected), then you will be saving yourself some money.

How do I "copy and paste" files into conferencing?

First create your message in word processing program, such as WordPerfect, WordPad, or even NotePad. Once you are satisfied with your answer, highlight all the text you want to move (using the mouse) and use the "copy" option within that program (usually found under "file" or "edit"). This will make a copy that is held in the computer's memory. Then go to the conference in which you want to insert the text. Select Add New Message. Add your own subject header to the message. Then, place your cursor within the empty textbox by clicking once. And finally, use the "paste" command within Netscape (found under the "edit" menu). Presto - your message should appear!

Be advised though that when you cut and paste text and data into the your conference messages you will usually lose text formatting. Don't format your text in your word processor, but rather cut and paste the data into the conference message, then format your text right in the message box before adding your message to the conference.

Can I attach a file to a message?

Yes. Click on the "Browse" Button at the bottom of the screen and find the file on your harddrive. You'll want to save your attachment in Rich Text Format (.rtf) so that others will be able to open it. Also, the bigger the file size, the longer it will take for you to upload and for others to download.

How can I tell which conference messages are not read yet?

The messages which you have not read will show up in bold text.

I noticed that when I post a message, my name is displayed as lastname, firstname. Can that be changed?

Yes, please contact Technical Support at

"It's a pain scrolling through all these messages every time I log on, what can I do? Is there a way to delete them?"

Once a conference really gets going there can be an enormous number of messages that need to be dealt with. Since messages cannot be deleted you need to be able to manage them without pulling out your hair waiting for them all to load. Luckily there is an alternative. If you look under the left most drop-down menu there is an option called Unread Messages.

How do I change my password?

At the bottom of your "My Home" page, you'll find a link.