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Frequently Asked Questions for Online Classes

What are the advantages of taking classes online?

Convenience and flexibility are the most common reasons for taking online classes. Taking classes online is ideal for someone who wants to continue working while earning a master’s degree. Online classes allow you to fit school into your schedule when it works best for you.

How much time should I spend on one class every week?

The time you spend on a class can vary. No two instructors will format their classes exactly the same. Plan to spend 6-12 hours a week on one class. The number of credits per class varies by course.

How is the material available online?

Online classes are delivered using a learning management system, called Desire2Learn. Students log into Desire2Learn and can select their course sites. Once a student is in their course site, they can access lectures, PowerPoint, emails, assignments, readings, documents, videos, links, discussion boards, their advisor and the assignment dropbox.

How do I interact with the professor?

Students interact with their professor in a number of different ways. First, the online class is created and explained through the instructor’s lecture information. Then, students discuss topics in the discussion board, where their professor and peers provides insight, guidance and feedback. Students and the instructor also communicate through private assignment correspondence within the course site, or via e-mail. Sometimes instructors arrange for a class chat, either using Adobe Connect, a conference call or an instant message system. In addition, instructors are available for students to make appointments to meet or to call.

Is there interaction with other online students?

There is quite a bit of interaction between other students during the online coursework, including group assignments, online discussion forums, online posting boards, reading reflections and class discussions.

Are there group projects with online classes?

Yes, group projects are often a part of online courses. Students are grouped together and given a topic to investigate. The intent is for the students to work together electronically to accomplish their goals. Often, groups prepare and give PowerPoint presentations electronically by emailing each other draft versions, and then posting the final product to the student discussion board. Students are often divided into groups or learning communities to discuss questions or cases developed by the faculty. By dividing students into small groups (versus entire class) the faculty can facilitate students getting to know each other better and achieve a higher level of inter-connectivity.

What are assignments like?

Assignments are critical in nature. Online assignments are similar to on-campus assignments and require reading the book, completing questions, writing papers, posting to discussion boards, reviewing other materials and research.

What is a typical schedule for an online class?

Three semester hour courses typically last 12 weeks. The syllabus outlines the requirements for the course. Students typically have several due dates a week where they post a response to a question or assignment and then later respond to other students posts. Quizzes and tests are also completed on line.

What are some of the challenges when taking online classes?

One of the keys to being a successful online student is self discipline. Because you are not required to be in class at a specific time you have to be motivated to get the work done on your own. If you have a family and/or a full-time job while you are taking online classes it is important that you establish schedule of when and how you will get your work done.

If you don’t understand an assignment it is important to ask questions for clarification so you don’t fall behind. Instructors make themselves available to students via e-mail, discussions boards and conference calls.

How are online classes graded? What are instructor’s expectations?

Online courses are graded just like classroom courses. High-level critical thinking is required, and students leave the course with an understanding of the subject and an ability to apply their knowledge in a real-world setting. Standard assignments include reading the course text and additional materials, active participation in online discussions, quizzes or tests, writing papers etc.

Are tests available online?

Yes. Many instructors assign tests in their online classes. Students may sign an ethical agreement saying they will not copy or share their exam, and that the person taking the test is the person registered for the course. Tests may be timed, and do not typically allow for open-book responses. Learn more about DMU’s Professional Integrity Code.

Do I need a proctor for my exams?

Typically exams are given through the Desire2Learn System and don’t require a proctor.  However, exams may need to be proctored as determined by your instructor.

Can my spouse upload/post/help with assignments?

No. Assignments, exams and all course material must be completed by the enrolled student. If for some reason you lose access to the required technology to complete your work, we ask that you find alternate resources and contact your advisor immediately. Learn more about DMU’s Professional Integrity Code.

How are online classes different than on-campus classes?

Online classes are different from on-campus classes primarily in the way that students and the instructor interact. In an online class, students communicate using the weekly discussion board, course mail or instant messaging. Online classes require students to post their thoughts and ideas or research in written format, versus a verbal discussion in the physical on-campus classroom.

Do online classes require extra work?

Online classes require students to engage in a course in a different way than on-campus courses. In an on-campus course, students know they will read, write papers, take tests and meet once a week in a classroom for four hours. In an online class, students will read, write papers, take tests and engage using a written medium. Students in an online class need to budget the same amount of time as students in a classroom, or 4 hours per week of learning/classroom time plus 4-8 hours per week of outside classroom time. Sometimes students find it difficult to self-manage this amount of time without a weekly classroom discussion.

Are online classes self-paced or scheduled?

Online classes at Des Moines University have a specific start and stop date along with due dates for assignments. The programs are not self-paced or independent study.

When can I start taking online classes?

The academic year is comprised of three 12-week terms, fall, spring and summer term. Students must plan to apply by the deadline and secure acceptance into the program before attempting to register for courses. New students are admitted each term. See course calendars here.

What are the application deadlines for online classes?

Term Application Period Begins Priority Deadline Deadline
Summer 2015 November 1, 2014 February 1, 2015 March 1, 2015
Fall 2015 March 1, 2015 June 1, 2015 July 1, 2015

What technology do I need to be successful?

Students are expected to be confident with their skills regarding standard computer applications for completion of their coursework. You should plan to review our posted technical requirements for a list of the minimum standards of technical equipment and competencies required of students.

What if I have technical difficulties?

The Help Desk (515-271-1522, is available most days from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CST to address technical problems students may encounter with online classes.

How do the internship and capstone work?

The internship is intended to be the student’s last learning opportunity in the M.P.H. program. Students discuss internship opportunities with their advisor and identify the most appropriate learning activity together. The student undertakes the internship at a location convenient for him/her, and submits monthly progress reports to their advisor. At the end of the internship, students complete and submit an Internship Portfolio which consists of a comprehensive self-assessment using the program’s competencies.

The capstone is intended to be the student’s culminating project where the student undertakes a project for an agency. The project must utilize skills that the student gained in the M.P.H. program. Again, this is completed at a location convenient for the student. The capstone ends in a formal write-up of the project, and the student’s experience is presented publicly to the agency. Since the location of the capstone agency is not often in the greater Des Moines area, the capstone coordinator calls in to the agency and listens to the presentation over a speaker phone.

The capstone is very well outlined by the syllabus. Students must find their own internship and capstone. It is recommended that you identify these early in the program. The internship is essentially a work experience and the capstone is a research project. Both are very time consuming and students must plan accordingly for them.

Can I take a course on-campus if I want to?

The M.P.H. program offers select courses on-campus in an evening and weekend format. Evening courses meet one night per week for 4 hours, while weekend courses meet 2-3 weekends per semester (Friday night, all-day Saturday).

Am I ever required to come to campus?

All coursework required to complete the M.P.H. program is offered online. Students are not required to take any courses on campus.

Can I access DMU’s library facilities if I’m taking online classes?

As a medical school and graduate health sciences university, DMU has an extensive system of online library resources available to its students including multiple databases and full text articles. The inter-library loan service allows you to reserve books, order journal articles and receive materials from other libraries.

Can I go on vacation while taking an online class?

Online courses require weekly logins and weekly assignment submissions. Students must ensure they are able to meet the course requirements throughout the duration of the semester.

Are there specific login or online participation times?

Most online classes allow for asynchronous participation (not specific times). However, in order to facilitate student learning, online classes may include conference calls, online chat rooms or Skype options which do require a specific time commitment. This information will be identified in the course syllabus. Students should expect weekly due dates for assignments (maybe more than one due each week) that require them to participate in the online course throughout the week.

Are the acceptance rates different for online vs on-campus?

No. The admission process is exactly the same whether you are planning to take courses on-campus, online or both. There is no distinction between on-campus or online student.

How many students are in online courses?

To ensure quality course delivery, course enrollments are capped at 25-50, depending on the course material.