What’s it Like Being an Online Student at UNM?

October 20, 2023 - Rick Robb

Two people working onlinePeople who've never taken online classes before - at least at college level - are curious about the experience. This useful guide will give you some idea of what to expect.

How do I access my classes?

You'll get to your courses through an online portal called Canvas. Courses become visible on Canvas on the first day of the semester and will become unavailable the week after the final exam period. When you log in to a class for the first time, you should find the syllabus for the course, along with a schedule and, often, some sort of introduction - written or video - from the instructor telling you what to expect.

Canvas is a third-party application used by educational institutions around the world. Think of it as a one-stop shop for your classes. When you log in, you'll see all the classes you are currently taking that are delivered online. On that page you'll find a link for Canvas Support.

You can also get a sense of what the Canvas experience is like by visiting the Instructure Canvas Overview for Students webpage. In general, Canvas functions best using Chrome, Firefox, or Safari browsers. You'll want to be sure you have a strong, reliable internet connection. Losing your internet in the middle of a quiz or submitting an assignment is not fun!

What are online classes like?

Because of subject matter and instructor preferences, each of your class experiences will be different, though your overall sense of familiarity with Canvas will remain the same.

Online classes may consist of the following:

  • Readings: Readings are generally from an assigned textbook or instructor-provided documents and articles.
  • Recorded lectures: Instructors frequently present one or more recorded lectures on the week's subjects. These can help replicate the feel of the live class experience while allowing you to easily pause or repeat sections of the video. In rare cases, a course may have one or more live synchronous sessions, usually via Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
  • Discussion boards: This is where you will respond to a prompt from the instructor. You'll usually write your response and then review one or more peer's responses and comment on those. Discussion boards are a great way to learn about your classmates, and also to read views that differ from yours.
  • Quizzes: The length, frequency, and point values of quizzes will vary depending on the instructor and subject.
  • Exams: Many instructors will use the Respondus® Lockdown Browser to administer exams. The LockDown Browser® is a custom browser that locks down the testing environment within Canvas by disabling certain menu features and the ability to navigate away from the page. This is a simple way to help prevent academic dishonesty.
  • Writing assignments. Again, depending on the course and instructor, writing assignments may be simple 1 paragraph responses or formal, academic multiple-page papers. (It can be hard, sometimes, to differentiate your online classes from your other online experiences such as chats, texts, and social media. It is important that your writing remains formal and avoids slang and chat shorthand such as, “LOL,” “IDK,” “IYKYK,” etc.)
  • Projects: Some instructors may assign projects that go beyond mere writing assignments. They may include media such as video or audio. You may also be asked to participate in group projects where you and your team will meet virtually to develop a project.

Normally, all work will be accessed and submitted through your course's Canvas portal.

What should I be aware of before beginning online classes?

8-week courses are fast-paced and may take some getting used to if you've only ever taken 16-week courses. Despite that, students enjoy the flexibility that online learning affords. Some students say they wish they'd taken all their classes in this format and others are surprised at how fast they run.

The number one piece of advice you'll hear from instructors, advisors, and other students is to make a schedule and stick to it.

Former online MBA student, Claudia Lucero (UNM '22) found scheduling challenging, but doable and worth it. During the week, she worked from 8 to 5, using her lunch break to teach her daughter how to drive. After work, Lucero made dinner, cleaned, and around 7:00 in the evening, started on her coursework, which usually lasted until midnight or 1 a.m.

­­­“You really don't always need 7-8 hours of sleep when you are pursuing your dream,” she said. “The house can be cleaned once a week and your children will be fine eating leftovers for a couple of days. I have also learned to stay away from social media and anyone that will distract me from my goal of getting an MBA, and to just focus on my children, school, and work.”Claudia Lucero Headshot

You should develop a study schedule early on. There are many great tips available for online learning success. We have two articles on our blog that can help you; Finding Success as an Online Learner: A UNM Student and Online Faculty Member Offer Their Advice and 4 Time Management Secrets Every Online Student Needs to Know. Remember that not every schedule tip will work for every student. It's important to find a schedule that works with your style. And remember, most classes are asynchronous and have no meeting times. You can do schoolwork at 2:00 in the morning, or 2:00 in the afternoon - whenever works for you.

How do I know which classes are online?

There are three main ways to find your classes. If you are enrolled in one of the Accelerated Online Programs (AOPs) you will want to find classes with that designation. Occasionally, you may see “Managed Online Program” or “MOPS” as part of the description; this is the same as an AOP.

The first way is using our Schedule of Online Courses. On this schedule, you'll see only classes that are available online. Courses that are part of an AOP are designated by a black lightning bolt. If you are not in an AOP, you will be restricted from enrolling in these classes. If you are in an AOP, enrolling in non-AOP classes will incur different tuition rate for those particular credit hours. This is especially important if you live outside of New Mexico as your rate will be much higher.

We've created a comprehensive guide to help you Easily Find and Register for 100% Online Classes.

Another method for finding classes involves going to LoboWeb (my.unm.edu.) Once you've logged in, go to the Student tab, and select Registration & Records. You'll find a tutorial video there that will give you step-by-step instructions on how to register for classes.

When using the Registration & Records portal, be aware that most of the courses listed here will be for in-person classes. Therefore, it's important that you thoroughly read all descriptions of the class. (Helpful tip: With each course description there is a mini-calendar showing which days a class meets. Since AOPs generally have no scheduled meeting times, you will want to be sure to avoid those courses that indicate one.)

The third way to find them is to use the Registrar's Quick View. This page offers a variety of filters to target specific parts of the semester and online classes. A big advantage here is that you can see if the course has openings, has a waitlist, or is closed to further students. Another plus is that this page is updated every 24 hours, so the information is usually more up-to-date.

When do I register for online classes?

Your registration date depends on how many credit hours you have accumulated; the more hours you earn, the earlier you can register. You can find information on the dates, number of credit hours needed, and instructions for finding your scheduled appointment date on the Registrar's Registration Dates page.

You can also check it in LoboWeb on the Registration & Records page: look for the “Check Your Registration Status” link.

Be aware the popular classes may fill up quickly; be sure to register as soon as you are eligible. If you are unsure which courses you need, speak with your advisor as soon as possible.

How do I get my textbooks?

For many online courses, you will be using an e-textbook that will appear in Canvas. You'll be charged for it through your bursar's account. E-textbooks usually represent a substantial savings over the physical textbook equivalent. Most other required readings should be available in the class as PDFs or web links.

In some cases, you'll need to purchase a physical book. These can be purchased at the brick & mortar UNM bookstore (if you are local) or ordered from the bookstore's website or other online sources (Amazon, AbeBooks, Alibris, etc.) Remember that, if you plan to order the physical book to be delivered, order it well in advance. Used books ordered online are often not delivered until after the semester start.

You can find which books you'll need by going to the UNM bookstore website and clicking the red “ Shop Direct From the UNM Bookstores” box. You can also click on “ Textbooks 101” to learn how to use their site. You'll be prompted to enter your courses and their section numbers before being presented with a list of required books. In some cases, you'll have the option of purchasing a new or used book. For etexts, you'll see the title and price along with a message indicating that you'll see the book when you log in to Canvas on the first day of classes.

When do online semesters start and end?

Courses for Accelerated Online Programs run on an 8-week schedule and are designated as first-half (1H) and second-half (2H).

Certain sections of 8-week courses may also be available for non-AOP students as well as a selection of 16-week online courses.

First-half-term courses start on the first day of the regular semester; around the third week of August for the Fall and the third week of January for Spring.

Summer classes are made up of two 4-week semesters. The first-half-term summer classes start on the first full week of June and the second-half term starts the first full week of July.

You can find more information on the Office of the Registrar's Semester Deadline Dates page for official semester start and end dates.

The flexibility of being an online student at UNM opens up a world of possibilities for students who may not be able to attend classes in-person and allows them to pursue their dreams. If you'd like to know what former students have said about their experiences, visit our Testimonials page.

How can I get more information?

Want to know more about the online experience or about a specific degree program? Reach out to the UNM Online Student Success Team. We have decades of experience at The University of New Mexico and in higher education. We can talk to you about the merits of various degree programs including potential future careers and help you make an informed decision.

You can reach us by phone Monday through Friday 8-5 Mountain Time, by email at online@unm.edu, or by joining us on Zoom for Virtual Advisement Hours, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to Noon, Mountain Time. Meeting ID: 967 7118 3893