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Unit: Get Ready

Get Ready

One way to distinguish between good online education providers and bad ones is that the good ones are not trying to recruit every student for their program. Rather, they wish to enroll only students for whom online education would be a good fit. For that reason some programs provide prospective students with “readiness assessments.”  These self-assessments allow prospective students to consider the appropriateness of online education for them in light of their own background.  Typically assessments provide students with an opportunity to take stock of their learning style, life situation, as well as computer knowledge and skills.

Since these assessments are offered to students so that they can determine whether or not online education makes sense for them, they are available to anyone free of charge.

University of Georgia

For other assessments, and assessment information, see

Penn State

University of Florida

Please note that the results of self-assessment are not an all-or-nothing affair.  That my self-assessment indicates room for improvement does not necessarily mean that online education could not be a good match for me. It may only mean that I need to get ready for online education. This is particularly the case with computer knowledge and skills.  If you are interested in online education but are unsure of your technological knowledge and ability, you can address those weaknesses. In fact, growth in such knowledge and skills is one of the benefits of online education, and can lead to increased productivity at work and enriched leisure activities outside of the office.  Here are some places to start:

Basic Computer Skills  Getting Started With Your First Computer

Basic Computer Skills Curriculum

Beginners Computer Class

Getting Online One Click at a Time BBC First Click Beginner’s Guide

Some questions to consider:

Is an educational provider pressuring me to enroll?

Have I taken a self-assessment to check my fit for online education?

Where do my strengths lie for online education?

What would be my greatest challenges in online education?

What can I learn/have I learned from an online-education assessment check that can help me become a more efficient student and employee?

Unit: Beware of "Invasive Species" Keep Your Computer Secure

Beware of “Invasive Species” Keep Your Computer Secure

Accessing the internet and using email connects us to untold educational resources. Unfortunately, it also exposes us to “invasive species,” a variety of computer threats with the potential of deleting  files, using up computer memory and stealing  personal information, thereby sabotaging our online learning experience.

The links below from The Federal Trade Commission and M.I.T., the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, provide both clear explanations of computer threats, as well as the steps we can take to protect ourselves and our computer:

Overviews of Computer Security:

Top Ten Safe Computing Tips

Computer Security

Computer Threats

Identity Theft

Viruses, Spyware, and Malware


Tech Support Scams

Laptop Security

Some questions to consider:

Are my passwords “strong”?

Have I backed up my files?

Do I ever leave my laptop unattended?

Do I think twice before clicking on an email attachment?

Are there any “patches” I need to install?

Unit: Consider Your Options

Consider Your Options

Options in online education abound. Below are some relevant distinctions to help you determine which ones might best fit your interests and needs.

Free versus Paid

If you need to receive formal recognition for your learning (certification, license and/or degree) you’ll likely need to pay for your education and/or a formal evaluation, and transcript. If you want to pursue your interests and don’t need formal documentation of your learning, you can leave your credit card in your wallet; there are plenty of cost-free educational options.


You may wish to begin with your public library and librarians. “And librarians” is worth emphasizing, as librarians are experts in locating information-and perhaps more importantly-showing us how to find it. Learning from a librarian about how to do research is always time well spent and can be as easy as making a phone call or sending an email.

Google Channels

In addition to the services of the public library, there are many free, online resources.  In her article, “197 Educational YouTube Channels You Should Know,” Jayne Clare categorizes and lists the top channels.

Here is a sampling from her list:

Khan Academy: This non-profit educational organization, created in 2006 by educator Salman Kahn, a graduate of MIT and Harvard Business School, supplies all its lessons [on Math, Science, Economics and Finance, and Arts and Humanities] online for free. An original pioneer for the open education movement.

TED-Ed: With over 400,000 subscribers, this channel offers an extensive library of original videos meant to inform and inspire. A new lesson is posted every day, Monday-Friday, and relevant TED Talks are highlighted on weekends.

Expert Village: Watch. Learn. Do. Tutorials on pretty much anything you can think of.

MinutePhysics: The most popular educational channel on YouTube, second only to the Khan Academy.

PatrickJMT Free Math Videos: With nearly 200,000 subscribers, this channel is considered to be one of the best math channels on YouTube. It has videos on different topics such as calculus, derivatives, differential equations, limits, integrals, and more.

Statistics Learning Center: With clear, short, entertaining videos, learn the basics of statistics from an expert teacher.

Beliefnet Community: The men and women of discuss spiritual matters from a comparative perspective, meaning atheists and agnostics are just as welcome to participate a individuals of faith. Videos also touch upon mental health and political topics as well.

University of California Berkeley: Arguably the most substantive YouTube collection available, featuring a large selection of free courses as well as lectures given by important figures.

Harvard University: Despite showing up late to the Web 2.0 party, Harvard has its own collection of worthwhile videos, including Michael Sandel’s famous course on Justice.

Yale University Courses: This site features nearly 40 free courses artfully recorded by Yale University. You won’t want to miss the gems on this channel.

With google channels and all other information providers on the web, the quality and reliability of the data will vary. One of the crucial steps in assessing the usefulness of a website’s information is to consider its source, that is, the author(s) and publisher. (For information on this see Write Wisely: Use Your “OWL” Online Writing Lab.”) Sometimes, however, there is no identifiable source. This is the case with “wikis.”


“A wiki is a publishing platform on which many people can contribute new content and revise existing content. The content benefits from the collective knowledge base and the dynamic nature of the contributions.”

One of the most popular wikis, indeed one of the most popular destinations on the web is “wikipedia,” “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.”  and therein lies the problem. If anyone can edit material and we have no idea who is doing the editing, then we cannot assume that the information is reliable. Does that mean that we should never take a look at wikipedia? No. For one thing, a wikipedia article may provide us with a bibliography, a list of sources we can assess for reliability. For another, a wikipedia entry can provide us with theses and lines of argument that had not previously occurred to us and are worth investigating. If we would not have otherwise considered these perspectives and we can substantiate them in verifiable sources, then we are ahead of the game. However, we must substantiate the claims elsewhere. We should no more assume that unverified publically edited articles are correct, than we would suppose that medicine from bottles with unverified publically edited labels is safe to take.

Continuing Education Units versus Credit Hours

Continuing Education Units/CEUs and credit hours are two different ways of recognizing educational accomplishments. Credit hours are awarded for the successful completion of college courses. Each credit hour represents three hours of work (typically one hour of instruction and two hours of work outside of the classroom) for a period of fifteen weeks. Credit hours recognize academic accomplishments.

Continuing Educational Units/CEUs recognize professional development accomplishments. In contrast to the credit hour, “One CEU is a unit of measurement based on time—defined as ten (10) hours of full participation in an organized continuing educational experience under responsible sponsorship, capable direction, and qualified instruction.”

When it comes to a choice between earning credit hours or continuing education units/CEUs, what matters is what meets your needs. If, for example, you are in a profession that requires ongoing education for recertification, you’ll want to check to see whether your profession gives you a choice between CEUs and college credits.  If you have choice, you may find that the CEU option would result in a cost savings.

Whether you are taking a course for professional development or college credit, before enrolling, it crucial to verify with your academic advisor or professional organization that the course meets the requirement you aim to satisfy.  It is all too easy to assume that it will and then learn otherwise when it is too late to drop the course and get a refund.

Competency Assessment versus Independent Study versus Cohort Classes

There are three main options in online education: independent study, cohort-based classes, and competency assessments. With competency assessments students demonstrate their mastery of a subject area through one or more evaluations. This option may work well for highly motivated and disciplined students and/or students with prior knowledge (e.g. a native speaker of a foreign language who needs formal documentation of her abilities.) Two competency-based programs, The Western Governors University and the University of Wisconsin Flex Option, give students the opportunity to pay a flat fee for time period, without placing any limit on the number of credit hours a student can earn in during that time.

Independent Study is like competency assessment in that students work at their own pace but in contrast to competency assessment, course grades are typically based upon both written assignments and exams. And, the time period for independent study may be significantly longer than the time periods in competency assessments.  For example, the University of Wisconsin Independent Learning Program allows students to enroll at any time and take, as long as twelve months, to complete their course work.

Cohort-based classes run on a fixed schedule and-as an essential component of the learning experience- require significant interaction among the students. In a fully online course this interaction will take place in a discussion forum on the course website.

Not all cohort-based courses are fully online. Some are blended or hybrid courses. These courses combine face-to-face meetings with online instruction and interaction. In a “flipped” hybrid course, students and instructors meet to work on “homework” and instructors utilize online resources to convey information they used to share in classroom lectures.

In keeping with Get Ready, you’ll want to choose the option that best meets your learning style and life situation. You may find that in some subjects independent study is your best option while in others a cohort-based class is the preferable choice. For example, a student who experiences math anxiety may want to take a math course via independent study, as it may allow the student more than the typical four-month semester schedule to complete the course,  and the longer time period may significantly reduce stress.  However, that same student may wish to engage in group discussion when taking a literature or philosophy course and so prefer studying those subjects in a cohort.

Regional Versus National Accreditation

The U.S. Department of Education, defines accreditation as “the recognition that an institution maintains standards requisite for its graduates to gain admission to other reputable institutions of high learning or to achieve credentials for professional practice” and identifies the aim of accreditation “ to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.”

Before thinking about enrolling in a degree program check to see that the U.S. Department of Education recognizes the institution’s accrediting agencies.

Note also, that the U.S. Department of Education’s recognition of an institution’s accrediting agency(cies) is not sufficient for determining whether or not enrollment in the institution would be a good option for you.  The following words of caution are from The U.S. Department of Education’s “FAQs about Accreditation”:

Can the institutional accreditation system be used to determine whether my credit hours will transfer or what courses will satisfy my professional license renewal?

Accreditation does not provide automatic acceptance by an institution of credit earned at another institution, nor does it give assurance of acceptance of graduates by employers. Acceptance of students or graduates is always the prerogative of the receiving institution or employer. For these reasons, besides ascertaining the accredited status of a school or program, students should take additional measures to determine, prior to enrollment, whether or not their educational goals will be met through attendance at a particular institution. These measures should include inquiries to institutions to which transfer might be desired or to prospective employers and, if possible, personal inspection of the institution at which enrollment is contemplated.

In determining whether your “educational goals will be met through attendance at a particular institution” there are two especially important matters to check on. First, find out whether the accreditation is national or regional.  And, do not be misled; though a nationally accredited degree may sound more prestigious than a regional one, a degree from a regionally accredited institution may open occupational and educational doors closed to degree-holders from nationally accredited institutions. Second, if you are interested in a particular program offered by an institution, check to see if specialized or programmatic accreditation is relevant, and-if so-if the program you interested in has been accredited. On this important matter, please see: “Check with the Human Resources Office” and “Choosing a Program to Prepare for a Career/Career Path” under “Consider Your Career Goals.”

Some questions to consider:

Do I need to earn a certificate, license or degree?

Are there free educational resources that could provide me with the information and instruction I desire?

If I need to provide documentation of my educational accomplishments is the required documentation continuing-education units or credit hours?

Is there a subject area where I have significant background and prior knowledge such that a competency-based course would make good sense?

Do I prefer independent study with its greater flexibility or cohort-based study with its added structure? Does my preference depend upon the particular subject?

Have I checked with the Human Resources offices of a variety of possible employers to see if they require regional accreditation or will accept either regional or national accreditation?

Unit: Consider Your Career Goals

Consider Your Career Goals

Identifying a Career/Career Path

You may be interested in online education to advance your career or to change careers. In weighing educational options, it best to work backwards. Begin by determining your career goals and then make your educational choices to maximize your success in that career path. An excellent place to begin is with The Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook provides a table with information on 575 different occupations-from accountants and auditors to zoologists and wildlife biologists-listing: education level, on-the-job training, projected number of new jobs, projected growth rate, and 2015 median pay.

If you are interested in a particular occupation, for example, registered nursing, you can click on that occupation in the table and find more detailed information, under the following tabs: summary, what they do, work environment, how to become one, pay, job outlook, state and area data, similar occupations, more information.

In terms of selecting an online program the “how to become one” tab is especially important. To continue with the registered nursing example, information found in the how-to-become-one tab includes: education; licensing, certifications, and registrations; important qualities [e.g. critical thinking and physical stamina]; advancement.

Check with the Human Resources Office

Once you have settled on a career path, and are thinking about educational options, do some employer-specific research. Identify two or three places where you would like to work. Call the Office of Human Resources, introduce yourself and your career goals, and ask what the educational requirements are for the job(s) you are interested in.  In particular, check to see if-in order to be eligible for employment-you not only need to earn your degree from an accredited institution, but also from a program within that institution that has received separate specialized accreditation.  If, for example, you wish to work at a hospital and it only accepts applicants from nursing programs accredited by CCNE, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, before enrolling in any nursing program, you’ll want to make sure that it has that specialized accreditation. For general information on specialized accreditation in online education, see  For more detailed information on specialized accreditation, see below: Choosing a Program to Prepare for a Career/Career Path. For information on institutional accreditation, see “National versus Regional Accreditation” under “Consider Your Options.”

Choosing a Program to Prepare for a Career/Career Path

The United States Department of Education lists programmatic/specialized accreditation under six headings: arts and humanities; education training; legal; community and social services; personal care services; healthcare.

The U.S. Department of Education makes it easy for you to check on program accreditation at “The Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs” For example, if I selected “Wisconsin” and “search” at the following page:, a list of 87 institutions would appear.

By clicking on any one of these institutions in the “site name” column, for example, The University of Wisconsin-Madison, a listing of all its specialized accreditations would appear:

Some questions to consider:

What is the employment outlook in the career(s) I am considering?

Have I checked with Human Resources offices to see if hiring in my prospective profession depends upon specific kinds of accreditation and licensing?

Have I asked Human Resources offices if they recommend some specific schools and programs?

Would I need to take out loans to pay for my education? If so, given the median income statistics provided by the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, how long would it take me to repay my school loans?

Unit: Make it a Team Effort

Make it a Team Effort

All of us have family, friends, employers and others dependent upon us and to whom we in turn look to for support.

If you need to balance your studies with family and work responsibilities, you are not alone: 26% of all college students are parents; 15% are single parents. 27% of college students are employed fulltime; 39% part-time.

College-level studies are in and of themselves challenging. So, too are parenting and work responsibilities. Combining two or more of these responsibilities, creates extraordinary challenges. None us can meet such challenges alone. Success requires integrating our various spheres of responsibility. Our goal should be to make our studies a team effort supported by family, friends and employers.  Some employers may be willing to pay fully or partially for course tuition, allow the use of company space and computer equipment after hours, and provide flexibility in work hours.  Friends may be willing to step in with some babysitting help. And, family can help by respecting study times and space. But, before we can expect such assistance, we need first to share our educational goals with our close-knit network and solicit its support.  With a supportive team, we will increase the likelihood and significance of our success.

15 Companies that Will Help You Pay for Your College Tuition

Some questions to consider:

What are my non-negotiable commitments to family, friends and work?

In general, do those in my social network understand and affirm the value of education?

Am I willing to ask family and friends for help?

Is my employer willing to pay for part or all of my education? If so, am I required to continue with my employer for a period of time after I graduate?

Would my employer’s contribution to course tuition depend upon my successful completion of the course with a grade of C or better?

Is my employer willing to assist with my education in addition to/or other than with tuition payments, for example, use of a company computer and office space after work?

If my current employer does not provide any educational benefits, is there another place where I could use my workplace skills and receive educational benefits?

Unit: Budget Time and Find Space

Budget Time and Find Space

The Consider Your Options section contrasts three modes of online education: competency assessment versus independent study versus cohort classes.

If you choose to study in a cohort-based, semester-long course, a lot of your planning is done for you.  You know when the assignments are due, the time of the final exam and the like. And these fixed due dates provide pressure to keep up.

If, on the other hand, you are in a competency-based or independent-study program, the burden of scheduling is on your shoulders.  You need to determine how quickly you can complete a course and set your own deadlines. By way of an independent-study example, consider plans for 3 month blocks of time: 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, 12 months.

As first step, in choosing a block of time, start with an estimate of the total number of hours you will need to complete the course. Suppose, for example, that you are considering taking a 3-credit course. A typical face-to-face 3-credit, semester-long course meets for 3 hours a week and requires 2 hours of work outside of class for each meeting, a total of 9 hours a week. The total study hours for a 3-credit course in a typical 15-week semester then would be approximately 135.

For a second step, divide the total number of study hours by the number of weeks in the time periods you are considering. In terms of our 3-month time blocks the breakdown would look like this:

3 months/12 weeks, 135 divided by 12 = 11 hours a week

6 months/24 weeks, 135 divided by 24 = 5 and a half hours a week

9 months/36 weeks, 135 divided by 36 = 4 hours a week

12 months/52 weeks, 135 divided by 52 = 2 and half hours a week

Allowing ourselves 9 months or 12 months to complete a 3-credit course may appear to be a failsafe. How could we miss? Spending between 2 and a half and 4 hours a week may seem quite “doable.” For many of us it would be, except that: fewer hours per week makes it easier to fool ourselves and procrastinate (“I can always make up this week’s study time next week”), and harder to retain the material we have studied and build momentum. Given the challenges of retaining course material and stick-to-it-iveness, we may be much more likely to complete our course in a shorter amount of time. One implication of this is that if our goal is to complete 2  3-credit courses in the next year, we may be more successful if we spend the first 6 months on one course and the second on the other, as opposed to working on both courses together for 12 months.

For a third step, in calculating the number of weeks needed to complete an independent-study course, we need to keep in mind, not only our time, but instruction time and processing time.  Typically, instructors have three business days to provide feedback on assignments and courses have a midterm and a final exam. So, if an ambitious student wished to complete a 3-credit course with 12 assignments and 2 exams, the student would need to plan on a minimum of 7 weeks (spending 19 hours a week on the course = 135 estimated hours of study for a 3-hour course divided by 7.

In addition to the time needed for instructor feedback, careful planning also includes allocation of time for the processing of the course record. If our goal is to graduate on May 15th, the transcript office may need our course grade by May 1st to process it in time for graduation. To play it on the safe side, we would then want to take our final exam no later than the third week of April. So-in this case, what might have appeared to be a May 15th deadline turns out to be an April 23rd deadline.

Whether our online course is asynchronous-independent study or competency assessment-or a synchronous- semester based course, our success depends upon our ability to schedule our time wisely and then stick to our time plan. Perusing the material in the three links below, takes us from general principles of time management to more specific ones:

Time Tip

Dartmouth  (click on “Time Management Tips)

Managing Time for Success in College

UW-Green Bay

Smart tips (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely, take a break)

University of Chicago

Time Management Project Planning Tool

Harvard College

(And for those who have lots of time on their hands, the following link covers the  waterfront in time management approaches: Time Management Tips & Strategies (Epic How-to Methods)

In addition to managing our time, finding a productive place to study is also important. We can take our laptops almost anywhere but there may only be a few places where we can study with maximum productivity. Our job is to find them and study there. Among the factors impacting the effectiveness of study are lighting, temperature and background noise:

Some questions to consider:

Where I would study?

Based upon the number of the course’s credit hours, approximately how much time should I plan on studying?

Given my personal situation, what would be the most efficient and effective timeframe (e.g. three months, six months) for completing a course?

Unit: Study with Your Heart and Head

Study with Your Heart and Head

Academic success is a function of both emotion and intellect.  Peace of mind promotes understanding and retaining course content; anxiety impedes it.  Knowing and addressing our feelings not only makes our studies-but our entire life-more fruitful and enjoyable.

Most of us struggle at one time or another with test anxiety, procrastination, writer’s block and excessive tension. The good news is that there are outstanding resources for us on:

Improving Memory

Overcoming Procrastination

Anxiety and Stress

Progressive Muscle Relaxation Meditation Video

Some questions to consider:

How is my health? Am I eating, resting and exercising well?

What sorts of activities refresh and rejuvenate me?

Am hardly ever anxious? Sometimes anxious? Often anxious?

What strategies, techniques do I use to overcome anxiety? Am I satisfied with the way(s) they are working?

Unit: Read the Directions

Read the Directions

Some of us have an aversion to reading directions. If we make a purchase that requires assembly, our initial impulse is to set the instructions aside and get right to work.  For the engineers among us, that may not be much of a problem. But, for the rest of us, the result is often frustration, and lost time and money-running to the hardware store to replace broken parts.

Enrolling in an online course is exciting and it is tempting to dive in without reading the directions, basic course information, for example: required course materials, instructions for completing and submitting assignments, exam policies, the grading scale and determination of course grade, and the turnaround time for assignment and exam review.

The best way to begin a course well and progress through it without any glitches is to pay close attention to the introductory course material. Details are important. For example, many course texts are available in multiple editions and formats. Looking at the title of a text and its authors, but ignoring the ISBN number specified in the course syllabus, is likely to result in a purchase of the wrong material, adding to the cost of the course and putting us behind schedule.  Assuming that in every course a grade of C is 70-80% may lead to an unpleasant surprise, if the minimal C grade in the course we are enrolled in is 75%. When it comes to the course syllabus and other introductory material, the right policy is to read slowly and then reread.

Some questions to consider:

What is the format of the course assignments?

What is the format of the course exams?

What is the course’s grading scale?

How is the course grade determined?

With many different editions of course texts, how can I make sure that I purchase the correct course materials?

Unit: Reach Out for Help

Reach Out for Help

Most of us are ready and willing to help others but are sometimes reluctant to request assistance for ourselves. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking or ignoring the resources provided by online programs. In particular, if you believe you may need an accommodation, it is important to let student services know about that as soon as possible. If you are not a “techy” make use of the program’s technical support; you’ll want to make sure that its hours complement your schedule.  Also, be sure to check the program’s online writing lab, “OWL” (See Writing Wisely: Using Your OWL).

Some questions to consider:

Do I need a learning accommodation? If so, have I checked with prospective online programs to see if they deem my desired “accommodation” reasonable and will provide it?

Is there a toll-free number for technical assistance?

When is live (as opposed to leaving a message) technical assistance offered?

Does the online program I am considering have an “OWL,” online writing lab? If so, what services does the writing lab offer?

Unit: Mind Your P's and Q's

Mind Your P’s and Q’s

There is a time and cyberspace for informal communication, but online education is not it.  Informality lends itself to misinterpretation and can convey disrespect. For purposes of clarity and courtesy, educators have developed rules of online etiquette, so-called “netiquette.” In some courses the instructor will post the rules of netiquette. Whether posted in the course or not, we need to become familiar with and follow the expected online educational courtesies, noted in the links below. Doing so demonstrates our commitment to clear and respectful communication.

Some questions to consider:

Have I reviewed rules of netiquette?

Am I currently following the rules of netiquette?

Why is it important to follow online etiquette?

Have I ever been offended by an email communication or posting?  What did I find offensive?

Would I be happy if my messages were shared widely?

Unit: Write Wisely: Use Your "OWL" Online Writing Lab

Write Wisely: Use Your “OWL” Online Writing Lab

Before enrolling in an online program check to see if it has an “OWL,” online writing lab, and-if so-what sorts of information and services the lab offers. OWLs may provide information on proper grammar and punctuation, tips on writing, guidance on identifying scholarly research, information on use and documentation of sources, as well as offering critique services. Typically, except for critique services, OWLS-as well as College Writing Centers and Libraries-make their information readily accessible, for example:

Grammar and Punctuation

The “Grammar and Punctuation” section of UW-Madison’s Writer’s Handbook includes information on using: dashes; comas; semicolons, coordinating conjunctions, conjunctive adverbs and subject-verb agreement, how to proofread, and twelve common errors: an editing checklist.

Writing Process and Structure

The UW-Colleges’ online writing lab, “Tips for Essay Writing,” includes material on: conclusions, developing your essay, getting started, integrating sources, introductions, plagiarism, thesis statements, transitions and writing across the disciplines.

The “Writing and Process” section of UW-Madison’s Writer’s Handbook consists of four main sections: creating and argument, working with sources, drafting and revising your paper, and finishing your paper.

Identification of Scholarly Research

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign answers the question “How can I tell if a source is scholarly?” by directing us to five categories: the authors, publishers, audience, content, and currency/timeliness and providing us with questions to consider in each category.

Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab divides its information on the evaluation of sources into four main sections: overview, evaluation of bibliographic citations, evaluation during reading, and evaluation of print versus internet sources. The section on reading and evaluation gives us more than a dozen questions to ask when assessing the quality of a source. The section on print versus internet sources points us to 6 topics relevant for determining whether or not an article is scholarly: publication process, authorship and affiliations, sources and quotations, bias and special interests, author qualifications, and publication information.

Use and Documentation of Sources

The UW-Colleges’ Online Writing Lab explains plagiarism and gives four tips to avoid it.

The UW-Madison’s Writer’s Handbook includes a variety of different formats for documenting our sources, including the MLA (Modern Language Association) approach used for research in English literature and foreign languages.

For additional information on other documentation styles, please see

One way to zero in on scholarly resources is to use the search engine, Google Scholar:

Some questions to consider:

Does the online program I am considering have an “OWL”?  If so, what services does it provide? In particular does the OWL allow students to submit work and receive feedback?

How can I avoid plagiarism?

What documentation style does my instructor require?