Online Learning Frequently Asked Questions

You'll find a list of FAQs related to online learning below.  

General Questions About Madison College Online Courses:

Enrolling in an Online Course at Madison College:

Technical Requirements for Online Courses:

How do online courses work?

For a thorough review of how online learning works at Madison College, please complete the Orientation to Online and Accelerated Learning.  Most questions will be answered there.

Do online courses meet at a set time?

Generally, no.  There isn't a designated time for students to be online, as long as they meet the participation and due date guidelines for the specific course.  The following is an example of what a syllabus may say regarding student presence: "For participation credit, students must present in the discussion forum four days each week and respond to four peers for each discussion question.  Quizzes are due on Fridays at 11:59p.m. and written assignments are due on Sundays at 11:59p.m." Under these guidelines, students can go into the classroom and discussion forum, anytime they choose, as long as they are in the forum four days each week.  The days and times are up to the student.

Are online courses self-paced?

No, most are not.  Madison College online courses generally have set schedules, weekly or bi-weekly deadlines, and beginning and ending dates, with activities scheduled on a weekly basis.  Courses are led by Madison College instructors.  If a student has special needs and must follow a slower or faster pace, instructors are happy to discuss the situation.  Our trained online instructors are dedicated to student success and will help students make realistic progress towards goals.

Do all Madison College online courses look and work the same way?

No.  Just as in face-to-face college classrooms, individual instructors set their own deadlines, course policies, grading, learning materials, media, and instructional approaches based on the content of the course and their experience guiding students to success.  Therefore, it is important to read the syllabus carefully and ask questions.  Instructors are encouraged to meet Quality Matters standards of excellence for course design, so students will have a robust, effective virtual classroom.

Do online courses take less time than face-to-face versions?

No.  Although students can save time commuting to campus, online courses replace face-to-face class time with online learning activities and discussion.  Most online courses are 16-weeks in length; students report they need at least 9-12 hours each week to complete all the reading, view the learning objects, participate in discussion, and create work for assessment.  Some weeks require less time, others more, just as in a face-to-face course.  Keep in mind that some subjects may require more of your time than this estimate, based on your individual academic strengths and needs.

Aren't online classes easier than face-to-face versions?

No.  This is a common myth about online learning.  At Madison College, online and face-to-face versions must teach exactly the same skills to students.  Nothing is omitted online, and online students have more individual responsibility to participate.  If an online student dislikes reading, has poor time management skills, or does not like using technology, an online delivery format will actually be harder.  Some students report that they find online courses in subjects they like easier to complete.  But online courses in subjects they dislike seem harder, and they prefer to take those subjects in a traditional face-to-face format.

Will I ever be required to come to a Madison College campus for my online course?

Some online courses require on-campus proctored testing, on-campus labs, or on-campus presentations.  Students will be given any campus-based requirements at registration and on the syllabus.  If you have questions before you receive your syllabus, please contact your instructor.  Proctored testing and labs may be conducted at approved locations other than the Madison College campus.

How do textbooks and supplies work in an online course?

Prior to the start of class, students are expected to obtain textbook and supplies.  Textbook and supply information can be found in the Madison College Bookstore, your myMadisonCollege Student Center or inside your Blackboard virtual classroom in the week prior to the class start.  Students can choose to purchase or rent books in print, web-based or ebook formats.

What if I start an online course and decide it's not right for me?

Madison College online courses will be open to you one week before the official start date, so you can explore and decide.  You are supposed to enter the virtual classroom during this preview week and examine the syllabus policies, course schedule, and required books carefully.  If the course is not what you were expecting, you can drop the course prior to the start date with no financial penalty.  You may also drop an online class later with a financial penalty if you feel it is not appropriate for you using the myMadisonCollege Student Center.  For more information, please refer to How to Drop a Course.

How do I register for an online course?

Online registration is available for all courses.  To find online sections of a course you need, look for the "Room" as "online".  Alternatively, when selecting courses in the myMadison College Student Center, use the "Advanced Search Options" area to select the "Mode of Instruction" as "online course".  Also, a list of all online courses offered at Madison College can be found here.  If you have not taken an online class at Madison College, you will be required to complete the Orientation to Online and Accelerated Learning prior to registering for an online class.

How and when can I get into my online course classroom?

Once you are registered or on the waitlist, you can enter your online course by going to  You must log in on or before the first day of class, to confirm your seat in the course, which is a college policy based on federal guidelines.

The online course I want is full or closed.  How can I get in?

When registering for classes from the myMadisonCollege Student Center, an orange triangle icon next to a class section will indicate that the class is full. Prior to the published start date, when you first select the class, be sure to check the box labeled "Wait list if class is full." Proceed as normal in adding the online class to your shopping cart. You can check your position on the wait list by looking at your class schedule in your myMadisonCollege account. Students will be automatically enrolled as space becomes available up to 1 days prior to the class start date. Alternatively, you can place yourself on the wait list for a full online course by  phone at (608) 246-6210, or by mail using the Registration & Add/Drop Request Form (pdf, 841KB). Prior to the first day of class, students are Auto Enrolled from the wait list and notified as spaces become available. If the course is on "reserve" status, you will need to phone the School of Online and Accelerated Learning at  (608) 245-5850 directly to be added to the wait list.

Can I enroll in an online course AFTER the course has started?

Maybe. You have until the day before the class starts to register; however, after that point, you must obtain permission from the instructor to register for the course. Late enrollment online is at the instructor's discretion, generally based on the duration and nature of the course. Before contacting the instructor by email for permission, make sure your name is on the official course wait list and you meet all pre-reqs for the course.

How many courses should I take at one time online?

Since there is no difference in rigor between online and face-to-face classes, take the same number you'd take face-to-face. Full-time students who work no more than 15-20 hours per week generally take 4 to 5 courses, which is between 12 and 17 credits per 15-week semester. However, online students who are working full-time (35-40 hours per week) are successful when taking no more than two 3-credit courses per semester, setting aside roughly 24 hours of study time each week. Working adults considering their first online course may want to register for just one course at first, to determine how well online learning suits their schedule and needs. 

Can I start an online course earlier or complete it later than the scheduled dates?

Generally, no. Our online courses are not self-paced. Due dates for coursework and assignments are set by each instructor. Some instructors may allow students to complete and submit work earlier. Please contact your instructor for more information on schedule variations.  

Can I sign up for an online course at any time?

Online courses follow Madison College Academic Calendars, but there are late-start options that may suit your needs.

What kind of Internet access do I need for an online course?

You must have regular, reliable high-speed Internet access if you are to succeed in an online course. Make sure you have a back-up plan (use of a campus, library, work, or a friend's system) in case you experience problems with your own computer or your Internet Service Provider.

What kind of Internet access do I need for an online course?

Madison College online courses require an up-to-date PC or Mac-based computer that meets our technical recommendations for online courses. Many online courses also require a webcam and microphone for group work and oral presentations. Many instructors post materials online in various file formats (typically PowerPoint, Word, Excel or PDF files). To open these files, you will need the appropriate software or software viewer plug-in. You may purchase the Microsoft Office Suite at a student discount using WISC or download the OpenOffice bundle of products (version 3.0 or better), which is free. A free, web-based alternative is  GoogleDrive, which includes presentation, word-processing, and spreadsheet tools.

What email do I need to use for my online course? Where can I activate my account?

Online courses require students to use their official Madison College email account.  If you have never used your student email, you can find instructions here.  The Madison College Library has extensive resources on using your college email.

Do I need a web cam and microphone for my online course?

Yes.  Many online courses require you to create video responses to assignments.  A webcam and microphone are required for some classes, in others, you may just find them helpful.

Can I complete my Madison College online course using only a mobile device, like a smart phone?

No, not at this time.  Many aspects of your course are accessible using a mobile device, but not all.  Computer access is required.

What if I need adaptive software or equipment to access the Internet?

Students with disabilities often require adaptive software and hardware to access the Internet or to use with word processing programs. Getting access to adaptive tools OUTSIDE a Madison College campus  is the responsibility of each student. For accommodations due to a disability, online students are required to work with the Disability Resource Center, which can direct you to free tools and software programs.

Can I get technical help with my online course if I need it?

Yes, you can. If you run into technical problems or error messages using our Blackboard classroom, word processing software, student email, passwords, or your personal computer, call the library computer help desk at (608)243-4444, or toll-free at (866)277-4445. You may also contact the help desk using their web form. If you have problems with your personal computer, like malware, you can contact the Wolfpack Techies, which can fix many computer problems free or at very low cost.