School of Professional Studies

What is it like to take an online course at Brown?

Whatever your reason for taking a course online may be, we’d like to shed some light on what the experience of learning online will be like.

What is it like to take an online course at Brown?

Brown professors work in close partnership with an experienced online instructional designer to develop rigorous and meaningful learning experience for their students. Just like an in-person course, online courses are designed to provide instructors plenty of opportunity to engage with and provide thoughtful feedback to you and your student colleagues throughout the semester.

Unlike a classroom-based course, however, one of the benefits to learning online is that students are not bound to a specific time and place to engage with the course: the course is always open, and designed for continuous engagement. Students may work from wherever they like, provided they have consistent access to reliable high-speed internet.

Brown University undergraduate online courses are not self-paced. There are weekly and sometimes daily due dates. This means that you, the student, must take ownership for your own class schedule, and determine when you will log-in to participate in the course to keep up with the pace of assignments and rich class discussions.

In addition to your online coursework, you also will engage in active learning experiences such as researching, exploring, creating, and collecting materials and resources. You will return to the course to share your learning with your professor or the class. You, your professor, and your classmates are all in this together.

How much time must I commit to the course?

Whether your online course is offered during a 15-week semester, 7-week Summer Session, or a 4-week Wintersession, expect to spend the same number of hours engaged in course-related work as you would in any full-credit undergraduate course at Brown.

Students must ensure they have sufficient time to devote to the course in the timeframe in which it is offered. (The course syllabus will outline how much time you should anticipate spending on different components of the course each week.)

What is the structure of the course like?

Online courses start on the first day of the term. Log in and get started on course activities right away to familiarize yourself with the course structure, review assignment due dates, and establish a pattern of engagement with the course from the start.

The types of activities you’ll engage with will vary course by course, but expect to connect with peers, contribute to online discussions, conduct research, participate in group projects, and complete individual assignments.

How will I get to know my professor?

Online courses at Brown are designed to ensure that faculty and students interact frequently during the course.

Throughout the course, your professor will provide constructive, personalized feedback on your assignments. In addition to connecting with the entire class through guided group discussions, your professor will be available for individual conferences and communication. You can schedule time with your professor to connect during your professor’s office hours, either virtually or in-person.

Reach out to your professors – they want to hear from you!

What are the technical requirements?

How do I shop an online course?

Shop the course just like you would any Brown face-to-face course. From cab.brown.edu, add the course to your primary cart. (View detailed instructions on shopping from the IT Service Center.) Once the professor has published the course, you will be able to view the course site in Canvas.

Next steps

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Thanks for your interest in Brown University’s undergraduate online courses. We look forward to learning with you!