Tips for Navigating an Online Course

Getting Started

  • Passwords and Orientation:
    • Before you register for courses, you must participate in the Center for Distance Learning (CDL) online orientation for new students. Access to the online orientation is provided within Angel, our course management system.
    • Be sure you have activated and tried your Empire State College login. If you have not activated your login, you can do so at MyESC (
    • Your Empire State College login will give you access to the required CDL online orientation. You will use this same password to access all your online courses after you have registered.
  • Register for courses
    • Your course access will be revoked on the course start date if you have not completed the Empire State College registration.
    • If you need to withdraw from a course, please see the Center for Distance Learning Withdrawal Policy.
  • Order books and materials.
  • Preview your courses
    • Course links become active one week prior to the start of the term so that you can get online and review the course materials and requirements.
    • Check to make sure you have all of the course materials.
    • Review the required readings and discussions.
    • Read the descriptions for written assignments.
    • Record important due dates for each assignment on your course calendar.
    • Plan your study schedule to meet coursework deadlines.
    • Post a personal introduction in the Meet Your Classmates area. This will create a Private Folder where you and your instructor can communicate privately throughout the term.
    • If you have difficulty accessing the course, contact the college service desk at 518-587-2100 or 800-847-3000, ext. 2420, or online at


Most courses group course work in weeks. Give dates to those weeks, counting from the official starting date of the term. The term calendars are available online.

Plan study time. If your life schedule is full, you may need to prioritize study time over other activities.

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Learning from a Distance

  • Review course criteria for evaluation of assignments and participation
  • Identify learning goals for each assignment and for the whole course
  • Read critically
  • Take notes
  • Do sample problems and self-tests
  • Ask questions
  • Contribute to the online discussion
  • Reflect on assignments
  • Keep a learning journal
  • Stay organized.


Learn the course's "language" and basic concepts. Be able to apply those concepts to real-life situations, case studies and problem solving. Analyze and judge the quality of those concepts. Compare and contrast theories. Develop your own informed thoughts, ideas and perspectives from course readings.

Evaluation criteria will guide your learning. You often can identify the learning that is expected by reviewing the course criteria for evaluating assignments.

Schedule time to reflect upon what you have learned, how you have learned it, how you can apply the learning and how this new learning relates to other things that you know.

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Submitting Assignments

  • Draft and "spell-check" written assignments in a word processing document. Then, copy and paste (or attach) the document in the course template assignment area. Keep a copy of your work.
  • Be sure to put your name on the assignment. For example, if you name your document "SmithMODULE1essay," your instructor will recognize your submission as the essay assigned in Module 1, submitted by "Smith."
  • Submit assignments according to the course schedule — assignments cannot be "bunched." Use feedback from the instructor to improve your subsequent work.
  • If your assignment is going to be late for any reason, communicate with your instructor by posting a note in your Private Folder. Indicate when you expect to submit the assignment and then follow through with that schedule.
  • If you have questions about the course material or instructor comments on your work, post a note in your Private Folder to ask the instructor for clarification.


For research paper assignments, ask your instructor about the preferred style of documentation (ESC Online Writing Center).

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Online Discussion and Collaborative Work with Peers

Most courses engage students with the course material through discussion and group projects. These learning activities center learning in context through dialogue.

Course instructors vary in their expectations of student and instructor participation in discussions. Some instructors "sit in the back of the class" and listen while students dialog about topics. Other instructors participate frequently to direct student dialog. Regardless of your instructor's style, you will be expected to substantively participate in required discussions.


Participate fully in the discussion by posting a comment that adds new information or insight to the dialogue. Draw on the reading or make a connection between two comments posted by others--relating them to the course material./p>

Draft your discussion posting first, then type the "subject" line to provide some information about your post rather than just "I agree" or "response to Tim." This helps your fellow students follow the discussion, and helps you make sure your comment is substantive.

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Communication with Your Instructor

Course-related questions should be posted in the public question area at the end of each module where all students can benefit from the instructor's response. Often, students engage with each other's questions.

Personal questions should be posted in your private folder, where only your instructor can read your communication.

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Instructors evaluate your learning and respond to each written assignment (usually within seven days). Instructor comments, based on the course evaluation criteria, explain what you did well and how you can improve on future assignments.

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Final Grades

You can expect to receive a grade or outcome after the end of the term -- if you successfully complete all course work on time.  Grades/outcomes are due according to the schedule below:

  • no later than 14 calendar days after the end of the Fall 1 term
  • no later than 10 calendar days after the end of the term for the Fall 2, Spring 1, Spring 2, and Summer 1 terms
  • no later than 7 calendar days after the end of the Summer 2 term.

Additional information about final grades can be found in the college's Grading Policy for Distance Learners.

If you require a final grade or outcome sooner than the days shown above, for issues such as employer reimbursement, please request assistance from your instructor prior to the end of the term.


Instructors exercise academic discretion in allowing students to complete coursework after the term deadline. For information, please see the Incomplete Policy for Distance Learners.

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