Online Learning at U of G

Online courses are delivered asynchronously, which means there are no scheduled classes or lectures. You, your classmates, and instructor work through the coursework and activities at different times based on your individual schedules. 

In an online environment, you are empowered to learn from others in your course(s) who come from a wide range of backgrounds and locations. Most of your course interactions are written to allow you to make intelligent and thoughtful contributions on your own time. No matter where you are located, you can discuss your work, discover different perspectives, make connections with other students, and get to know each other better.

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Advantages of Online Learning
  • Flexibility and Convenience
    Online courses are designed with flexibility in mind. Since there are no scheduled classes to attend, you can take advantage of studying at a time and place that is convenient for you, from anywhere in the world. All you need is a computer and a reliable Internet connection.
  • Teaching Expertise
    Instructors with significant disciplinary expertise teach online courses. They will guide you through the course content, while supporting an active and engaging learning environment.
  • High-Quality Interactive Courses
    A team of instructional design and technical specialists work closely with disciplinary experts to develop online courses. Course designs meet rigorous quality standards to create interactive and engaging learning experiences.
  • Access to Materials
    Online courses allow you to access the course material at any time. This means you can refer to material as needed and have more time to review course information and concepts.
  • Supportive Community
    Courses are designed to encourage you to be part of a community of learners and build relationships with your coursemates through technologies that support online discussions and group work.
  • Diverse Learning Experiences
    Gain valuable insight and experiences from studying with learners, instructors and guests from different disciplines and backgrounds, from all over the world.
  • Develop Real World Skills
    Being an expert in online communication, technology use and online research are valuable skills to have in today's workplace. Studying online can build these important skills as you work towards your degree.
Online Course Readiness

As you prepare to step into the online learning environment, it's important to know what's expected of you to ensure that you make the most of your learning experience. Read about some of the following skills, abilities and tips that are critical for success in an online course.

  • Access to a Computer and the Internet
    In order to be successful in an online course, it's important to have a high-speed Internet connection along with the proper computer system and software. We recommend that you review our computer system & software requirements to verify that you have met the minimum specifications. If you do not have these technical requirements, you may want to consider upgrading your personal computer or using another computer—on campus or at your local library. As well, follow this quick system check to determine if your computer is set up correctly to participate.
  • Persistence and Self-Motivation
    The freedom and flexibility offered by online courses puts you in control of your learning; however, it requires a greater degree of responsibility and self-motivation to keep up with the flow of the learning process.
  • Good Time Management
    Online courses require the same amount of work as your typical face-to-face course. Remember, when you take a face-to-face course on campus, you usually spend three hours a week in class and an additional six to nine hours a week on coursework. In an online course, you will need to spend all of these hours online—reading, completing activities and assignments, participating in discussions, and interacting with your peers and instructor.
  • Active Participation in Course Activities
    Online learning does not mean studying alone. Our online courses often use discussions to provide you with ample opportunities to interact with your peers and connect with the instructor. In online discussions, you can share insight with your peers and learn from each other. One of the most important things in online learning is to establish trust among the course participants, many of whom you might not meet face-to-face.
  • Effective Written Communication
    In online courses, nearly all communication is written and expressed in discussions, emails and written assignments. You may be asked to defend your viewpoint or to challenge another's ideas as part of your online discussions. It's important to feel comfortable enough to share your thoughts and opinions with your peers in an open, friendly and respectful manner. The benefit of online discussions is that you are given time to reflect on the information before posting your message or responding to others.
  • Ask Questions
    Your instructors want you to succeed in the course; however, they cannot see you, so you need to speak up when you need help. Don't be shy about asking questions or asking for help from your instructor, TA or peers. CourseLink Support is also available to assist you with any technical issues.
  • Essential Computer Skills
    While you do not need to be a computer expert, having basic skills will make your online experience easier. It's important to have an understanding of basic computer usage (e.g., creating folders, switching between programs, formatting and backing up media, using a word processing program and web browser, searching the Internet, etc.). We don't expect you to know how to do everything before you start your first online course. You'll have the opportunity to learn and practice these skills as you participate. The expectation is that you are willing to learn. Remember, these are only guidelines to help you think about the skills and strategies you may find helpful to succeed in your online course. Each student has different learning styles and preferences. Apply those that fit your learning situation.
Online Learning & Technology


Online courses are delivered using CourseLink, the University of Guelph's online learning management system (LMS). Within CourseLink, you will find a website for each of the online courses in which you are enrolled. The system organizes and displays course materials, manages grades, and tracks and reports student interactions. As long as you have a reliable Internet connection, your course will be accessible from anywhere in the world.

System Requirements

In order to be successful in an online course, it's important to have a high-speed Internet connection along with the proper computer system and software. We recommend that you review our computer system & software requirements to verify that you have met the minimum specifications. If you do not have these technical requirements, you may want to consider upgrading your personal computer or using another computer—on campus or at your local library. As well, follow this quick system check to determine if your computer is set up correctly to participate.

Some online courses may have additional technology, software or equipment requirements that are not included in your tuition fee. For more information, check the details of your course on the course description page.

Third Party Learning Technologies

Some online courses make use of learning technologies that are developed and supported by third party companies or organizations (i.e., Flickr, Blogger, Wikispaces, etc.). OpenEd works with course instructors to select the best tools to help you meet the outcomes in your course. Third party tools are often used to enable collaboration, communication or creation amongst students or between students and the instructor.

To help ensure that you have the best learning experience possible, oftentimes OpenEd will create student accounts and obtain licensing for these tools at no extra cost to you. At times, however, you may be asked to create a free account in order to use a particular tool, such as a wiki or blog. Each site has its own privacy policy that tells you what personal information is collected about you and why, and how it used, stored and shared. As well, each site has Terms of Use or Terms of Service, which is a contract between you and the company. These contracts apply to free accounts and paid subscriptions so it is important that you read them carefully. If you have concerns about any of the tools used in your course, please contact your course instructor.

Rights and Responsibilities

For online courses, course websites are considered to be your classroom. The protections, expectations, guidelines, and regulations used in face-to-face settings apply, plus other policies and considerations that may come into play, specifically because these courses are online. These policies help ensure that everyone can learn in a safe and open environment.

As an online student, it is important that you comply with these policies and expectations. Before you start your course, take a few moments to get familiar with your rights and responsibilities when learning online.

Getting Help

If you encounter any technical problems while taking a DE course, please email CourseLink Support, phone us at 519-824-4120 ext. 56939 or call us toll free at 1-866-275-1478 (Canada and USA).

Tips for Success

Online courses at the University of Guelph provide flexibility in accessing course content as well as managing your learning and communication with your instructor and classmates. You may do your work at a time and place that is convenient for you; however, there are deadlines for assignments that must be met. It's important to keep pace with your coursework—submitting assignments or participating in online discussions—and follow the schedule set by your instructor.

To be successful in your online course, you might consider the following tips to help you stay focused and organize a study routine.

Get Started

Your course website acts as your classroom. Start by navigating through all the course components to become comfortable with the organization of the course and familiar with the course expectations. If you are new to online learning or to CourseLink—the University of Guelph's online learning management system—review the Start Here tutorial within your course to get familiar with various content areas and tools of the learning environment. It is highly recommended that you review the course Outline and assignment instructions as well as the Schedule page where you will find a weekly timeline and due dates.

Get Organized

To get the most out of your learning experience and succeed in an online course, you will be expected to do the following:

  • Log in to the course site every day: This will help you to access all the necessary information and check for new course developments. If you feel lost in the online course environment, don't panic. Look for News postings (i.e., instructor's announcements) on your course home page that might give you information about how to proceed.
  • Keep up with the course readings and activities on a weekly basis: Spend approximately 9 to 12 hours per week to complete your coursework. Remember, when you take a face-to-face course on campus, you usually spend three hours a week in class and an additional six to nine hours a week on coursework. In an online course, you will need to spend all of these hours online.

  • Pay close attention to the instructions and criteria for your assignments: Review all instructions before you submit your original work for marking. Unfortunately, marks can be lost, even on high-quality work, simply because instructions are not followed. Submit all required assignments on time as specified on the Schedule page.

  • Be Sure to Check the Technical Requirements: Make sure you have the proper computer, a supported browser and reliable Internet access. Remember that technical difficulty is not an excuse to miss your assignment deadlines. To avoid getting behind, don't wait until the last minute.

  • Determine and implement effective time management skills: Carefully read the course schedule to help you create a structure for participation and manage your workload in the course. Plan to set aside time each week to complete course readings and assignments. Visit the Schedule page to chart out your workload and timelines for completion. Online courses are just as academically demanding as face-to-face courses. Assess and make modifications to your learning style in order to become an independent learner, with guidance from your instructor. Be prepared for self-study and for monitoring and pacing your learning.

Stay Active and Engaged

  • Take responsibility for your learning and success in your course: Be active and establish supportive relationships with your peers and instructor. Your participation impacts not only your learning but the achievement of your fellow students. Demonstrate your engagement by applying what you are learning to activities and assignments. Your instructor is looking for what you can do, not what you can remember. Be prepared to reflect upon your progress.

  • Participate actively in discussions: Post messages and reply to the discussions on a weekly basis. Since you are part of a community of learners in this course, a lot depends on your participation in course activities. Make meaningful contributions to the discussions and avoid last minute participation. If you are required to provide comments to your classmates' discussion contributions, you will be letting them down if you don't post your replies in a timely manner.

  • Make friends and have fun: Since your entire course community participates in online discussions, you will have the chance to get to know your instructor, TA and classmates, sometimes better than in a face-to-face course. Keep in mind that the more you contribute to your online course, the more you will get out of it.

Ask Questions

Ask for help when you need it. In an online course, you are expected to ask your instructor questions and find solutions to content or course-related issues with which you are unfamiliar. Your instructor can't act until the issue is brought forward. Additionally, make use of discussions to post questions and look for answers; for example, you can post your questions in a designated discussion (e.g., Main Class or Ask Your Professor discussion). Be proactive when you have problems. If you have a question concerning a personal matter, please send your instructor a private message. Refer to the Outline for instructor contact information.

Develop a Weekly Routine

As mentioned earlier, flexibility and self-regulation are inherent in online learning. They can also be major challenges if you tend to procrastinate or lack good time management skills; therefore, you need to set aside uninterrupted time for when you are at your best for studying and take responsibility for what you learn and accomplish throughout the course.

Try to make up a weekly time plan and learn to follow it. Schedule your study throughout the week so that you don't have to finish all assignments in one day (e.g., try to complete Task A by Thursday and Task B by Monday). An ideal combination would be one to two learning tasks per day.

You might consider the following as a weekly routine for your study:

  • Check for course updates from your instructor in the News section located on the course home page
  • Review the Schedule for assignment due dates and other information
  • Consult the Assignments page for requirements
  • Work though the Unit section assigned for the week
  • Bookmark where you are in the course when you leave so that you can return to that place from the Bookmarks widget located on the course home page
  • Visit the Discussions area and participate by asking questions, making comments, or offering support to your classmates

These are just a few tips that you might find helpful to succeed in your online course. Everyone has different learning styles and preferences, so it's important to apply those that best fit your situation.

Accessing Your Online Course

Online courses are accessed from CourseLink, the University of Guelph's learning management system. Any courses in which you are actively enrolled will be accessible in CourseLink on the start date of the semester.

For your first time logging into CourseLink, you will need to set up multi-factor authentication (MFA). Please review the step-by-step MFA set-up instructions. Once MFA is set up, you will log in using your central login ID with added to the end. If you are taking a course through OpenEd for the first time, this information would have been emailed to you upon registration. If you are a returning student, use your existing login and password. Contact the CCS IT Help Centre if you have technical difficulties with MFA.

Consult the Schedule of Dates in the Undergraduate Calendar for exam period dates.

If you have any questions regarding technical requirements or logging into your course, please contact:

CourseLink Technical Support
Open Learning and Educational Support
University of Guelph
Day Hall, Room 211
Guelph, ON N1G 2W1

Phone: 519-824-4120 ext. 56939
Toll Free: 1-866-275-1478 (Canada and USA)

Please note that you will be required to provide your student number when contacting CourseLink Support regarding your login and password.

Communicating Online

In an online course, the course website is your classroom and being able to communicate effectively is essential to having a positive learning experience. As a student, you may need to communicate one-on-one with your instructor or teaching assistant, be required to participate in online discussions with your classmates, or engage in group work to complete course assignments.

In most online courses at the University of Guelph, course communication takes place in discussion forums, through the News section, or via email (i.e., asynchronous communication); as such, you are expected to frequently monitor discussion activities, news postings from your instructor, and your university email account throughout the duration of the course.

Communication through Discussions

Discussions take the form of posts and responses through an online discussion board. In this type of textual communication, you can't use facial expressions, gestures or tone of voice to support your message, so choose your words carefully to express the meaning of your message. Remember that text has permanence; therefore, what you say in a discussion forum is difficult to take back later.

In online discussions, it is vital to maintain a sense of trust among the participants, many of whom you might not meet face-to-face.

Adhering to the following guidelines will help to create a respectful online learning environment for you and your classmates:

  • Demonstrate courtesy online and address participants by name when communicating
  • Think about how others will interpret the messages that you compose
  • Address the ideas, not the person, when responding to a participant's post
  • Avoid using jokes and sarcasm in written communication, which often don't translate well into the online environment
  • Double-check your posts for meaning and read them out loud before clicking the submit button
  • Treat other students with respect to ensure you are contributing to an online environment free from harassment and discrimination
  • Respect other people's opinions and don't use offensive personal comments
  • Provide constructive and well-articulated feedback

For more advice and guidelines on communicating online, see Core Rules of Netiquette by Virginia Shea.

Communication through the News Section

Instructors utilize the News section of the course website to provide information related to course content and assignments. You are advised to check this section frequently to ensure that you do not miss any key updates.

Communication via Email

In an online course, you may communicate with the instructor and/or teaching assistant via email. The contact details of the instructor and teaching assistants are typically listed within the Outline on the course website. It is recommended that you send the instructor a private email if you have a personal matter to discuss.

You are expected to observe the following guidelines when sending an email to the instructor or teaching assistant:

  • Use your University email account to send and receive messages, as other accounts may be filtered for spam
  • Use subject headings that appropriately reflect the content of your email
  • Keep emails brief and to the point
  • Be sure to include all relevant details or information necessary to understand your request or point of view
  • Include your name and a closing
  • Refrain from using the 'Reply to All' feature when responding

If you notice disrespectful or hostile behaviour in the online environment, let the instructor know right away so that they can follow up and address the issue.


Many online courses have required textbooks. Some courses may also require you to purchase an access code to a publisher's electronic resources and assessments. Textbooks and access codes can be purchased in person, by phone or online from the University bookstores.

To find out which textbooks you need for your courses, search our course offerings and find the course textbook information under Section Materials.

Library Access

As a student, you have access to the University of Guelph’s library collection, including both electronic and physical materials.

University of Guelph Degree Students

If you are a University of Guelph degree student, you will use your Single Sign On credentials to access electronic materials and your University of Guelph student ID card to access physical library materials. For information on checking out or couriering physical library items, accessing electronic journals, and returning items to the library, visit the Distance Education page on the library's website.

Open Learning Program Students

If you are an Open Learning program student, you will use your Single Sign On credentials to access electronic materials.

A library card is required to borrow books in person from the University of Guelph Library. If you are planning to come to campus to borrow resources, contact our main office to obtain a library card. New library cards need to be activated at the Ask Us desk on the first floor of the library. Please keep your library card, as it will be activated each time you register for a course. This card can also be used to borrow books from another university library, as long as they have a reciprocal borrowing privilege agreement with the University of Guelph. Note that there is a $20 replacement fee for library cards.

For questions regarding library cards, please email our main office.

Course Reserves

Many online courses make use of the Ares Course Reserve system. If your course includes reserve materials, generally you will access these via a link located within your course website. Reserve lists include materials such as journal articles, eBooks and web resources that your instructor has selected as required or recommended for your course. You can also access reserve materials directly from the library website.

Learn how to access course reserve materials.

Obtaining Grades and Feedback

The following information outlines how current online students obtain assignment and final grades and how feedback in online courses is provided.

Assignment Grades

Online course instructors generally use the Grades section or grade book in CourseLink—the University of Guelph's online learning management system (LMS)—to input marks for each of your course assignments. To ensure equity amongst students, marks in the grade book are often only released after the instructor has marked all class assignments.

You are advised to connect with each of your instructors to find out how and when assignment grades will be posted, as practices may vary between instructors and courses.

Final Grades

  • University of Guelph Degree Students
    If you are a University of Guelph degree student, you can find your official final grades on WebAdvisor.
  • Open Learning Program and Continuing Education Students
    If you are an Open Learning program (OLp) student, log into the OpenEd Student Portal to find your official final grades.


Instructors can provide feedback to students in many different ways. You may receive grades and/or feedback in the following places:

  • In the Grades section of your course website, along with a numerical mark
  • In the online Dropbox, where your assignments are submitted
  • On written assignments, using track changes or comments within your assignment
  • In the Discussions area or in the Peer, Evaluation, Assessment and Review (PEAR) tool, if applicable

It is recommended that you check with each of your instructors on how and when feedback will be provided for assignments.

Tax Receipts

In Canada, the tuition portion of your course fee is income tax-deductible. Tax receipts (T2202) are available directly from the OpenEd Student Portal in February for studies completed in the previous year:

  • Login selecting the I already have an account option and enter your U of G account credentials (login and password)
  • Go to the Tax Receipt option under Student Home 

Please note that not all course tuition fees are tax-deductible. If you have any questions, please email our main office or phone us at 519-767-5000.