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How to Succeed in Distance Learning Courses | FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions | Glossary | Self-Assessments | Learning Styles | Contact Us
Distance Learning @ College of the Canyons
FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

The following is a list of the questions that the distance learning department answers most often regarding online learning and college-by-television courses.  Questions regarding distance learning, in general, are written in black font, questions regarding online learning are written in green font, and questions regarding instructional television (CTV) courses are written in purple font.

Most terms and phrases mentioned in this series of Web pages are explained in the Glossary. See link at the top of this page.

Is distance learning for me?
      If you are the type of person who likes to work at your own pace and in your own time frame, and you have good organizational and time-management skills, then distance learning may be right for you.  People with busy work schedules and/or family responsibilities will enjoy the flexibility that distance learning gives them. But distance learning is not for everybody. You must have a high level of self-discipline and self-motivation to be successful in distance learning. In most cases, distance learning courses require more time each week for class assignments and reading.  A way to determine if distance learning is for you is to see the Self-Assessments link at the top of this page.

What is distance learning?
At College of the Canyons, distance learning is not like a correspondence course, nor is it self-paced. Online and instructional television courses follow the same semester system, as does the rest of the College. Some online courses may be short-term. Please check the dates in the current schedule of classes.  Most courses will have deadline dates for assignments throughout the semester. You will not be able to complete all of the work in the beginning, nor at the end of the semester.
      In online courses, you may be expected to participate in class discussions online.  Some of these may be in real time (synchronous), as in a live, chat-room situation.  Some discussions may be online in written discussion threads (asynchronous), meaning that you may post comments at any time during that assignment. 

What is a 'blended' or 'hybrid' course?
At College of the Canyons, nearly all of the online and CTV (Instructional television) courses are considered blended or hybrid.  This means that there is still an on-campus requirement.  At this time, all CTV and online courses have a mandatory on-campus orientation. Attendance at these orientations is important and required for all students, even those who have taken a CTV or online course at the College before.  Some courses may require you to take your tests on-campus, either in the classroom or in the TLC Lab.  CTV courses require five on-campus meetings, including the orientation meeting.

How do I register for online or instructional television (CTV)courses?

     Registration for all distance learning courses is the same as it is for traditional courses. Enter the five-digit course section code on the STAR (telephone registration system), or the online registration system.

Do distance learning courses cost more than traditional courses?

     No. All courses at College of the Canyons are only $11 per unit.  There may be a licensing fee charged at the bookstore for some online courses.  You may be asked to purchase special CD-ROMs for some classes, such as music and chemistry.  This information will be located within the course description in the online and printed versions of the schedule of classes.    

How long do online or instructional television courses last?
Most online courses are in session for the semester.  A few online courses are offered short-term, which means they may last for only four or eight weeks. Start dates and end dates are listed in the schedule of classes. All CTV courses are in session for the semester, except for the accelerated summer session, which is usually about six weeks in length.

During a standard week, how much time does an online or a CTV (instructional television) course take?
Every course is different, so a definite time element cannot be defined.  Most distance learning courses take 10-12 hours per week to accomplish assignments.
     Traditionally, each hour spent in the classroom is supposed to require two hours of work outside of class. Therefore, you should spend about 12 hours per week for a 3-unit course.

How many students are in each distance learning course?
     Enrollments differ, depending on individual courses. Most online courses have an enrollment cap of 20 students, but some courses allow a greater number of students. College by Television courses may allow from 35 to 80 students, depending on the course and the instructor.

Is a distance learning course (online or instructional television) easier than a traditional course?
No. Distance learning courses, typically, are more difficult and take more time than traditional courses.  The learning modality is more flexible than a traditional course and students are expected to spend more time reading and researching than they normally would in other courses.

Do I still need a textbook in my online or instructional television course?
Yes, most courses require a textbook. CTV courses also require a study guide, which accompanies the televised programs and the textbook.  Most online courses require a textbook that may or may not include the licensing for the course.  More information will be available from your instructor.

What is a mandatory on-campus orientation?
      It is important for instructors and students to meet and acquaint themselves with each other and the technology used for the course.  This includes the online platform used in online courses and the broadcast information for CTV courses.  Many online instructors will want to guide the students in their initial log-on onto the computer program.  This is an excellent time for students to ask questions pertaining to the course and the technologies employed.

Will the required meetings be at the same place, day and time of week as the orientation?
Yes, with a few minor exceptions.  All CTV courses will meet at the same time and place as the orientation.  Most online courses do not meet on campus, except for the orientation.  Each instructor will advise you of required on-campus meetings at the orientation.  All online lab science courses have required weekly labs which will meet on campus.  The times of these meetings will be in the schedule of classes and available from your instructor. 

Are the online courses totally online or do they meet on-campus sometimes?
      Currently, all online courses have a mandatory on-campus orientation. Understanding that not all students will be able to attend the orientation, allowances may be made on a case-by-case basis for students to meet with the instructor at another time, convenient to the instructor. Students must remember that it is important to have this face-to-face meeting.  Many courses require students to come to the campus for testing.

Do I have to be online at certain times, or can I go online at anytime I want to?
Most of the courses are asynchronous, meaning that you can go online at any time you want to.  Instructors will issue a syllabus, however, that will specify due dates for assignments.  Many courses are mediated, so that students cannot complete all of the assignments at the beginning, or at the end of the semester.

 I have taken online courses before.  Do I still need to attend the mandatory on-campus orientation?
      Yes.  All courses are different; and, as explained above, this is an excellent time for students to ask questions and to meet your instructor face-to-face.    

Do I have to be a computer whiz to take distance learning or computer-enhanced courses?
      No, not at all! If you are reading this on a computer screen or have any previous experience using the Internet, you will probably be able to quickly master the skills needed for online learning.  Additionally, online courses at College of the Canyons provide orientations to help students learn how to successfully use the computer in the learning environment. 

What technical skills will I need to know for online courses?
For most courses, all you need are some basic skills for ordinary computer operation and Web browsing.  First of all, you should know how to turn the system on and off. Secondly, you should know how to use your operating system.

      You should understand the fundamentals of file management.  This includes creating directories (folders) on your hard drive, storing files (documents) in those directories, as well as creating, finding, and moving files and directories.  When using a word processing program, you should know how to use its spell-check utility.

      You should be knowledgeable in the use of a few peripherals that you will use on a daily basis.  The mouse: You should know how to point, left-click, right-click, double
click, and drag with your mouse or trackball.  The printer: You should know how to print documents that you create or that you download from the Internet.  You should know how to locate and use the black, or grayscale print feature.  This will save you he expense of purchasing color ink cartridges. Some courses may require you to know how to use a scanner, as well.

      Copy and Paste:  You should be familiar with copying text from one document or application and pasting it to another document or application, such as moving information from a word document to an email. Instructions for performing this operation are available in a tutorial located at

      Passwords: Most online courses require passwords for all enrolled students. In some cases, you will be given a shell password. Many times this will be something simple, as 1234. You will be given simple instructions that explain how to change the password to something that is known only by you. It is important that you change your password before starting coursework!  You will also need to understand the distinction between uppercase and lowercase letters, and how the "caps lock" key can interfere with password entry.  For ultimate security, do not write your password anywhere.  If you do not think
you will remember it, write it somewhere inconspicuous.

      Don't panic: If something should go wrong, you should feel comfortable enough to calmly assess what has happened, what might have caused it, and how it might be remedied. Many of our online programs have online support features, and instructors will often give you means by email or voice mail to ask support questions or to help you through technological emergencies.

What hardware do I need for online courses?
      Basically, all you need is a computer (or access to one) with a modem and Internet connection. You will need an email account.  There are many free accounts, such as Yahoo and Hotmail.  You will need a connection to the Internet. If using a modem, it can be internal or external. There are many makes and models, but you'll want at least a 28.8 kbps modem for taking an online course, and 56 kbps is better.  You may have a high-speed connection, through either telephone lines or the cable line. Information on these services may be obtained from your local telephone and cable companies.  A faster modem will allow a speedier download and upload of material. This is especially important for courses that may use multimedia in course material. 
      In all likelihood, you will need a printer.  You may find it easier to download and print some of your course materials, rather than read them on the computer screen.  Please click here for some useful printer tips: In some courses, the instructor might provide material in the form of audio files.  If your machine does not have built-in sound output, then you will want to install a soundcard and connect a pair of speakers. 

For more complete requirements,  please click here to a Web page that cites the basic hardware requirements:


What software do I need for online courses?
You will need an operating system.  The most common operating systems are Microsoft Windows and Macintosh OS, but others are available.  Some online courses may use software particular to that course.  This will come with installation instructions and a technical support number to call if you have a problem.

Does the speed of my connection to the Internet matter?
     The minimum speed required for online courses is 28.8 kbps. It is true, that the faster the connection speed, the faster you will be able to download and receive the material.  Some courses may use multimedia to deliver course content. This means, that streaming audio or video, photographs, tables, etc. may be part of the coursework. A slow modem speed may make class difficult for you.

Where are the on-campus computers?
Student computers are located at several locations on campus. Single computers are located in the library, on the second floor. Here, too, is an open computer lab (room R-210) with 18 additional computers.  S-115 in the Student Center has 20 PCs for student use, and there are 36 PCs in the TLC Lab, room I-209.  The Canyon Country ACCESS Site (located within the Canyon Country Library at the corner of Soledad and Shangri-La) has an additional 20 PCs in the computer lab there.  Please note that the hours of operation may vary during summer and holiday periods.

Is it possible to get an A. A. Degree online?
Not at this time. Most general education requirements may be completed by a combination of online and television-enhanced courses.  The distance learning department is working with faculty members to create additional distance learning course offerings to enable students to obtain an A. A. degree online.

What is a CTV course?  (also referred to as a telecourse, or instructional television)
A CTV course, or telecourse, is a completely integrated instructional system that typically includes television programs, a textbook, a study guide, an instructors syllabus, and examinations.  A telecourse might also include a reader or anthology, audiocassettes, computer software, and other instructional materials. Some instructional television courses may have an online component. Your instructor will provide this information at your orientation.

What technical skills will I need to know for instructional television (CTV) courses?
      CTV courses are technologically much easier for students. Simply, you require only a television set to view the course materials. We request that you also have a VCR with a programmable timer, to tape the broadcasts, as many programs are aired in the middle of the night. 

What happens if I miss one of my televised lessons?
Copies of every course episode are located on the second floor of the College library.  Students may check out an individual episode for one night.  Additional copies are available for viewing in one of the viewing rooms on the second floor of the College
library. For additional information, please call 661-362-3334.

I don't have local cable. How may I participate in the College's CTV program?

     You have several ways to participate in a CTV course without having local (Santa Clarita) cable. Courses broadcast on KCET will be available to all with a standard cable service in the Los Angeles County area. Some courses are broadcast on Santa Clarita public access channel 20. Only residents of the City of Santa Clarita may view these programs on television.

Alternate methods of viewing the programs include:

            Renting the tapes from the RMI Media Company at a modest cost. You may contact them at or by telephone at 1-800-745-5480.

            Tapes are available for viewing in the College's open media lab, located on the second floor of the Library. A student ID card is required to view the tapes.
            Tapes may be checked out overnight for off-campus viewing on a limited basis. For more information, please contact the open media lab at 661-362-3334.

Are the video programs available to rent or purchase?
Tapes cannot be purchased or rented from College of the Canyons.  Tapes may be rented, however, from RMI Media by contacting them at 1-800-745-5480, or visiting the Web site:

If I have more questions, who can I talk to?
For most distance learning questions, you may contact Renee Drake by email at:, or by telephone at 661-362-3600.  For additional contacts, please click on the "Contact Us" link at the top of this page.

Got questions? Please call Renee at 661-362-3600.