ACC Online Frequently Asked Questions

If the information below does not answer your question or get you the help that you need, please email ACC Distance Education at de@austincc.edu.

ACC Distance Education General Information

  • How do I enroll in an ACC Distance Education course?
    • The enrollment and registration process is the same for online courses as it is for on-campus courses. If you are not an ACC student, visit the ACC admissions page for information to get started on becoming an ACC student.

      There’s no fee to apply, and applications are accepted year-round.
      This will get you ready to register for courses.

      If you are already an ACC student, visit the ACC registration page for detailed instructions on how to register for courses.

  • What kind of distance education courses does ACC offer?
    • The following types of distance education classes are offered at ACC:

      ONL (Online): Course instruction is online. Tests may be taken in the Instructional Testing Centers on campus or proctored through the Distance Testing program. Online courses eliminate geography as a factor.

      DLC (Campus testing required): Course instruction is online. Tests are taken in the Instructional Testing Centers on campus. Distance testing is not allowed. Students need to be aware of the on-campus testing requirement when registering. Any distance education course with a DLC designation means exams are required to be taken in an ACC Testing Center on an ACC Campus.

      HYD (Hybrid): Most course instruction is online (more than 50%). There is at least one mandatory on-campus component (e.g.; on-site orientation, lab work, meetings, testing in an Instructional Testing Center). Distance testing may be allowed. Students need to be aware of the on-campus requirement when registering.

  • Are ACC distance education courses self-paced?
    • No, distance education courses are not self-paced. They start and end in the same academic term as on-campus courses, and they have due dates and deadlines for various assignments, tests, projects, etc. assigned by your instructor. All work must be completed by the end of the session in which you are registered. You may be allowed to turn in work early and finish before the end of the session, but final grades will not be posted until the end of the semester.
  • When are distance education courses offered?
    • Distance education courses are offered during ACC’s fall, spring, and summer semesters, the same as on-campus courses. Refer to the Academic Calendar for session dates.
  • Are distance education courses easier than face-to-face courses?
    • No, you will cover the same course topics and objectives as in the equivalent course on campus. Be prepared to spend more time reading and completing coursework.

      ACC distance education courses are every bit as academically challenging as on-campus courses, but many students discover that there are also unique challenges to online education. Common challenges that distance students encounter include lack of self-motivation, inability to focus, trouble maintaining accountability, being disorganized, inability to effectively communicate, poor time management, and failure to balance your educational and personal commitments.

      Since you will not be meeting regularly with your instructor, you must be able to manage your time effectively and prioritize to meet deadlines and stay on track with your coursework. Successful distance students are self-starters who understand the commitment and discipline required to thrive in an online environment. You must be an active learner who asks questions when you do not understand something. Your instructor cannot see you, so you need to “speak up” if you have problems by contacting your instructor right away; otherwise, there is no way for your instructor to know that something is wrong.

      Distance education is not for everyone; these courses require a higher level of self-motivation and self-discipline. Visit the “Am I ready for distance education” survey and “Technical Skills Checklist” survey to help you decide if DE classes are right for you.

  • How can I find out if distance education is for me?
    • To figure out if distance education is for you, we have two online quizzes that can help you self-assess your readiness to take an online course or start an online program. Take the Learning Style Survey and review the Technical Skills Checklist to find out if you’re ready for learning online.
  • What should I expect in a distance education course?
    • ACC distance education courses are interactive, web-based classes designed for students who desire flexibility in their studies. You can take courses at your convenience and study at the times and places that fit into your busy lifestyle. If work or family schedules conflict with on-campus classes, you don’t have to give up your important responsibilities to pursue your education.

      ACC distance education courses do not have regular meetings the way face-to-face courses do, but they do still require your “attendance.” Successful online students actively participate in class on a regular basis just like in an on-campus class and avoid putting off classwork until the last minute. This includes reading assignments, taking quizzes and tests, and any other activities assigned by your professor. You will need to stay motivated and routinely log in to your classes in order to keep on top of your assignments.

      The course syllabus is your key to success. Make sure you read the course syllabus completely and refer to it regularly throughout the semester. The syllabus typically contains the following: instructor contact information and office hours, textbook and other required course materials, assignment schedules, expectations for participation, exam deadlines, and the grading policy.

  • Will a distance education course require as much reading as a face-to-face course?
    • The same topics and objectives will be covered in an online course as in an equivalent face-to-face course. The amount of reading required for a specific class will vary by course and department, but you should expect that online courses will typically require more reading and independent studying than a lecture class on campus. Much of the material covered in an online course will come from your textbook or written lectures, so strong reading and critical thinking skills are very important for your success.

      Communication in a distance course occurs using tools such as email, discussion forums, chats, and instant messaging. You need to feel comfortable expressing yourself effectively and respectfully through writing. This involves more than just being able to put your thoughts into words; it also includes your ability to type, and a basic understanding of online etiquette.

  • What technical computer skills do I need to have?
    • Distance education students will need access to a computer with a reliable internet connection to review course material, turn in assignments, and communicate with your instructor and classmates.

      Some courses may require additional software or equipment such as a webcam, headset, or microphone. Always check the syllabus for each of your courses for complete details about technical requirements.

      Students should have a basic knowledge of computer and internet skills in order to be successful in an online course. Computer literacy includes:

      • Knowledge of common terminology (examples: browser, application, software, plug-in, etc.)
      • Internet skills (examples: connect to the internet, use and update browsers, adjust browser settings)
      • Ability to send and receive emails and download attachments
      • Familiarity with other online communication tools (examples: discussion boards, chats, messengers)
      • Ability to use common software applications (examples: Word, PowerPoint, Excel)
      • Word-processing skills (examples: copy/paste, spell-check)
      • Ability to perform computer operations (examples: manage files and folders, open and save files in different formats)
      • Ability to conduct research online using search engines and library databases
      • Installing browser plug-ins (examples: Adobe Reader, Adobe Shockwave, Adobe Flash, Java)
      • Installing and uninstalling software
      • Awareness of Internet privacy and security issues, virus protection

      To find out if your technical skills and experience meet the needs of Distance Education courses at ACC, take the “Technical Skills Checklist” survey.

  • Will I have to come to campus for a distance education course?
    • The various types of Distance Education courses have different campus requirements. Always review the section note and syllabus in the Schedule to verify specific requirements for each individual class.

      • Many ONL classes require at least one proctored exam, available on campus in the Testing Centers. If you are outside the Austin area, refer to Distance Testing procedures.
      • DLC classes require on-campus testing. Distance testing is not allowed.
      • HYD courses have at least one mandatory on-campus component.
  • How much time should I schedule each day/week to complete a distance education course?
    • Most students find that online courses take at least as much time, if not more than classes on campus. You need to set aside sufficient time for study. Successful online students should expect to spend at least 2 to 3 hours for every credit hour of class time working on your assignments and studying. For example, if you are taking a 3-credit course, you should set aside a minimum of 6 to 9 hours per week.

      There are no minimum or maximum time requirements, so you will have to determine how much time you need to spend based on the assignments and exams listed in the syllabus. Estimate how many hours it will take you to complete the work, and then block off times on your calendar each week for doing it.

      Never wait until the last minute to complete your assignments. You may have a technical problem or other unforeseen issues which may cause you to run out of time. One of the major reasons students fail online classes is procrastination, since it is very easy to fall behind in the online environment. Make sure to set aside specific times on a regular basis to log in and to study.

      Keeping your coursework organized can be a huge factor in saving you some time throughout the week, especially if you’re taking more than one class at a time. If you have separate binders, notebooks, or folders for each class, you’ll quickly be able to find that sheet of notes you need for next week’s test or the printed article you planned to reference for your big research paper. Avoiding clutter isn’t just important when organizing your notes and hand-outs. Be sure to keep your computer desktop organized in a way that always allows you to locate the files you’ll need for each particular class.

      To support you on your path to success in college, ACC offers free online workshops with advice about common topics like taking effective notes, conquering test anxiety, setting goals, and managing your time and stress.

  • Will I have to write essays or make speeches/presentations in an online class?
    • Assignments and activities vary by class. Refer to your syllabus for details about assignments and other course requirements.
  • Will I have to take tests for my online course?
    • Most distance education courses require you to take at least one proctored exam. If you live outside the Austin area or cannot travel to an ACC Testing Center, you may be able to have exams proctored online using ProctorU, or at another location through the Distance Testing program. Visit the Distance Testing pages for details. (Note: DLC classes require testing at an ACC campus testing center. Distance testing is not allowed.)
  • Can I still go to campus to use the library, learning lab, and other ACC services?
    • Of course! Distance education students have access to all the campus-based support resources available at ACC, including the Libraries, Learning Labs, Instructional Testing Centers, Computer Labs, Student Life, Student Services and Advising.

      There are also services available specifically for online learners.

  • How do I register for an online class?
    • The registration process is the same for online courses as it is for on-campus courses. Visit the ACC registration page for detailed instructions on how to register for courses.
  • When will my class show up in Blackboard?
    • Your course should be available in Blackboard by the Friday before the class begins. If you register after the session begins, it may take up to 24 hours to see your course in Blackboard.
  • How do I access Blackboard?
  • How do I begin my distance education class?
    • First, read the entire syllabus for your class. The syllabus can be found with the course section description in the Schedule. Next, complete your DE Course Orientation following the instructions explained in the Course Schedule or course syllabus. It’s critical to complete your DE Course Orientation within the first week of class because knowing expectations and how to navigate through the course will help your chances of having a successful learning experience.
  • Where do I find my DE Course Orientation information?
    • Check the Course Schedule for details on how to complete your DE Course Orientation. Typically, the DE Course Orientation is completed the first week of class.
  • Will I have to buy textbooks for my distance education course?
    • Refer to your syllabus for detailed information about textbooks and other course materials you may be required to purchase. You can purchase materials from the ACC Bookstore website by clicking the “Textbooks” link to the right of the course name in the Course Schedule. Learn more about textbooks and supplies.
  • How do I stay motivated to complete a distance education class?
    • Distance education courses are a convenient option for students who want to work towards completing a degree or certificate program while maintaining their busy everyday lives. Balancing school, family, work, and other obligations can be a challenge; staying motivated is key to your success. Here are a few tips:

      Create a Realistic Schedule

      Setting attainable goals will help keep you from getting overwhelmed and discouraged. Make a list of all the specific actions you need to complete for your courses, as well as for your job, your family, and your other personal or extra-curricular activities, then rank everything on the list in order of importance. Once you have prioritized your responsibilities, estimate how long each activity will take to complete and create a schedule.  Use a calendar and block off exact times for each activity. This will help you ensure that you can get everything done on time.

      Make Time for Yourself

      Between classes, work, family, and other personal responsibilities, it can be hard to find time for yourself. Remember that giving yourself time for a breather every now and then can help you avoid course burnout; in fact, taking occasional breaks will help you return to your studies refreshed and ready to focus.

      Get Social

      Since you will not be seeing your instructor and classmates on a weekly basis, as you would in a traditional class on campus, you may find yourself feeling isolated. Interacting with your classmates online can help bridge that gap. Most online courses provide chat rooms or forums where you can communicate with your classmates. Take advantage of discussion boards to get to know the other students. You might even try setting up an online study group that all the students in your class can use.

      Reward Yourself

      With all the hard work that you are doing, you should take some time out to reward yourself. When you accomplish a goal, no matter how small, reward yourself with a little something you enjoy, and then move on to the next project. Don’t let these rewards distract you from getting all your work done; giving yourself a small reward will help you stay motivated and keep you working toward your next goal.

      Stay Positive

      Staying positive is a big part of the motivational process. If you get overwhelmed and stressed out, you may start to develop a negative attitude when it comes to anything school related, which can cause you to skip assignments and fall behind in your classes. If you are finding it difficult to stay positive, talk to your instructor or an Advisor. You may also want to talk with other students in your class and compare tactics for dealing with stress. Keeping a positive attitude makes online learning much more enjoyable.

      For more strategies to help you stay motivated in your online class, check out these links:

  • Who do I contact if I need help with a distance education class?
    • If you have a technical difficulty, problems understanding course content, or difficulty meeting a deadline, contact your instructor right away. Your instructor can assist you with questions pertaining to your course and what will be expected of you during the semester, and it is always important to let your instructor know immediately if you are having difficulty with your coursework. Be sure you read the syllabus carefully – it may already provide the answers to many of your questions.

      If you are struggling with the coursework, be sure to take advantage of ACC’s Tutoring & Learning labs. They offer services at all ACC campuses, as well as online.

      ACC Libraries offer extensive support and resources for students at all ACC campuses and offer many services online.

      The Student Services Help Desk provides help with a variety of problems including ACCeID issues, ACCmail, Blackboard login problems, and is also the first point of contact for Admissions and Records, Student Accounting, Financial Aid, and registration questions

      Phone: (512) 223-4636
      Email: helpdesk@austincc.edu

      Blackboard Student Support topics are available online at:http://irt.austincc.edu/blackboard/StudentSupport.php

      The Distance and Alternative Education Office is also available to assist you with any questions you may have about online classes at ACC.

      Phone: (512) 223-8026
      Email: de@austincc.edu

  • Where can I comment on my distance education learning experience?
    • Distance education course evaluations are available at the end of every semester. Student feedback received from evaluations is vital to the success of the program. It is shared with instructional departments and used to improve courses. For instructions on how to submit feedback visit the Distance Education Evaluation page.

      If you have problems or complaints about a distance education course during the semester, contact the Instructional Department.

Blackboard

  • My login isn’t working for Blackboard
  • What do I do? Where can I access the course materials?
    • Your course should be available in Blackboard by the Friday before the class begins. If you register after the session begins, it may take up to 24 hours to see your course in Blackboard. To access Blackboard go to: http://acconline.austincc.edu

      If you log into your course after the first day of class and the Blackboard course site has no materials available, please contact your instructor. Also, check your syllabus for any instructions on how to get started with the course.

Distance Testing

  • How soon do I need to set up a distance test?
    • As soon as you know that you will need to take a distance test, contact your instructor and visit the Distance Testing page to review the procedures for distance testing.
  • I need to set up a ProctorU exam, how do I get started?
  • I need help with the distance testing procedures outlined by ACC, how do I get help?

First Day Classes

  • What is the First Day Program?
    • First Day is a program where the cost of digital course materials is included with your class fees for a particular class or program.

      Students receive digital versions of the physical textbook that may include additional educational resources such as workbooks, problem sets, tutorials, video, simulations and interactive software. Digital textbooks have many features that allow you to interact with your class content like never before. Standard features include highlighting, annotation, search functions, and multimedia links. All First Day materials are easy to access through our Blackboard learning management system.

      Get more info from the ACC First Day Program page.

  • How do I access my First Day course materials?
    • Read the course syllabus for detailed information. Access to course materials is typically through Blackboard. Blackboard is the ACC learning management system where students can access their courses and all course materials.

      Get more info from the ACC First Day Program page.

Evaluation

Out-of-State Student Information

  • What is the National Council for State Authorizations Reciprocity Agreement (NC-SARA)?
    • Austin Community College is accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

      The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) provides the nation with a state wide process to expand the opportunities for educational achievement of people by aligning standards and practices across states and creating processes to effectively address quality in online and distance education programs while reducing costs to states, institutions and consumers.

      Austin Community College became a member of NC SARA in 2017. Membership in SARA allows Austin Community College to offer distance education courses in other SARA states without having to obtain approval from each state.

      The following states are authorized members of SARA:

      Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

      The following U.S. Territories are authorized members of SARA: U.S. Virgin Islands.

      Information regarding the complaint process can be found at NC-SARA and Students.

      Disclosures

      No State or accrediting agency have taken adverse actions against Austin Community College.

      Professional Licensure

      Important information for prospective and currently enrolled students: SARA does not include provisions for state professional licensing requirements.  It is highly recommended that you contact the licensing board in your state before starting an academic program.  Academic programs and graduating students must satisfy standards that are established by that state’s licensing requirements to be eligible for a license.

      Accreditation and State Authorization

      Austin Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award certificate, associate, and baccalaureate, degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097, or call (404) 679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Austin Community College. The Commission is to be contacted only if there is evidence that appears to support an institution’s significant non-compliance with a requirement or standard.

      State Contact Information

      To ensure compliance with the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrity Rules, Austin Community College must provide out-of-state distance learning students and out-of-state prospective students with the contact information and complaint filing process for each state’s licensing board and any other agency that would be responsible for the complaint.

      Distance education students who reside out-of-state must follow the institution’s standard procedure for resolution of student grievances.  If a resolution is not met by following Austin Community College’s complaint process, students may file the complaint with the SARA portal agency in the institution’s home state.  The state where the student resides may also resolve the complaint.

      Although students may use their own state’s SARA office to resolve a complaint, the SARA office in the state where the institution is located is responsible for staffing and investigating and resolving the complaint.  Students who are classified as “in state” may not use SARA to complain about distance education courses offered inside the state, only those offered outside the state.

Student Privacy and Information

  • What are the procedures for protecting student privacy in distance education courses and programs?
    • Austin Community College (ACC) protects the privacy of all students including distance learning students through strict adherence to the rules of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 as Amended (FERPA). The official FERPA statement is available for student and public view through the ACC website (https://www.austincc.edu/ferpa) and in the ACC College Catalog and Student Handbook (https://www.austincc.edu/catalog). ACC is committed to protecting student privacy for students enrolled in all courses and programs regardless of the mode of instruction (online, hybrid, classroom). All of the college policies regarding student privacy and information security apply to distance education courses and programs. All ACC students and employees to include Faculty teaching distance education courses and programs are expected to uphold these policies and follow the procedures in the following document:

      Procedures for Protecting Student Privacy in Distance Education Courses and Programs (PDF File)