What to expect

Course features

With Waterloo's online courses, you can interact with a variety of rich learning materials including video, infographics, interactive simulations, podcasts, multimedia, and a variety of online resources. Discussion boards, email, and other social networking options let you connect and work with your peers and instructors in ways that used to be limited to the live classroom.

The descriptions in our online course database provide details of required course materials and computer needs for each course.

Our online courses are cohort-based. Instructors are actively engaged with students throughout the term providing feedback, guidance, and encouragement. Interaction can take place by email, online discussions, phone or in-person.

Most of our online courses are accessed via LEARN, our learning management system. The LEARNHelp website has good resources to help you use LEARN effectively.

If you'd like to get a real feel for Waterloo online courses, check out our Demo Reel.

Time frames

While when and where you study is up to you, Waterloo's structured academic schedule is one reason our online education program is so highly respected. Just as in on-campus studies, there are three complete terms: fall, winter, and spring.

Online courses can be accessed by students on the first day of term. When you enter your class you can see the complete schedule and a current syllabus so you can see at a glance everything that is required. This date and other relevant deadlines are listed on the Registrar's Important Dates page.

Online courses are flexible, convenient, and allow you to work around other commitments. However, you should be prepared to dedicate approximately 10-12 hours per course, per week to your academic work. This includes time for reading course materials, listening to and watching lectures, completing assignments, and participating in online discussions, if required.

Assignments, assessments and exams

Assignments and various activities are due at set times throughout the term, and vary by course. The details are published in the course syllabus.

Your course may have scheduled online activities. In most cases, at least 24-hours are given to access an online quiz. However, in many cases, once you start a quiz, you must complete it in the allotted time. 

There may also be ungraded activities which are intended to help you learn the course material

Final examinations are written on designated dates, which are posted well in advance on the Registrar's Important Dates page. Where you write your exam depends on where you live.  We have exam centres on-campus, and in various locations in Canada, but if you are not within 100 km of an exam centre you will need to find a proctor. You will need to confirm that your exam arrangements are correct each term.

Computer requirements

All of our online courses require access to the internet. You should have experience navigating the internet, downloading files, attaching files to email, and using word processing software. If any additional experience is required it will be addressed in the course outline.

Before taking one of our courses, you should check your system to make sure it meets our minimum requirements. Not all mobile devices are compatible with LEARN.

Expectations of Online Learning

Watch this short video about the reality of learning online.