How Online Learning Works

Getting Started

Since onGEO began in 1999, its main priority has been to create high-quality courses that are convenient and accessible to students living and working around the world, while maintaining high standards of academic integrity. It is our belief that one of the primary benefits of online learning is that a student can access course material from anywhere at any time while they are enrolled. The only requirement is daily access to a computer with a stable Internet connection. For students who are more accustomed to traditional lecture courses, or have taken online courses that require proctored exams or face-to-face time online or in a classroom, this can be a new and uncharted experience. A list of frequently asked questions about online learning follows to help guide you through the process. If you still have questions, please feel free to contact us.

How do I register for an onGEO professional (non-credit) course?

Getting registered for our professional courses is as easy as 1-2-3. Classes begin every seven weeks throughout the year, so:

  1. pick a start date from those listed above,
  2. select a course that is being offered with that start date*,
  3. follow these instructions (provided as an MSU GoogleDoc).

The secure registration process using the MSUPayment system takes only a few minutes.

*If you would like to register for a session that is not currently listed, please email us ( and we will create the listing for you.
** While you do not need to be a MSU student or alumnus to register and you do not need an MSU Net ID to register, you will need to create an MSU Community ID prior to beginning the registration process. Please read the instructions linked in step 3 to accomplish this.

For answers to additional registration questions, please check out the Professional GIS Certificate Overview page.

Register Now

How do I enroll in an onGEO undergraduate/graduate (credit) course?

There are different ways to enroll in (University credit) onGEO courses, depending on the type of student you are.

  1. Current, degree-seeking students at MSU can enroll for onGEO courses just as they would a traditional course, via the school's online enrollment system.
  2. Those wishing to take an onGEO course without pursuing a degree at MSU can register via Lifelong Education Enrollment. It is also possible to take onGEO courses for 'no credit' or as a 'visitor'; please contact the Office of the Registrar to designate such as choice once you have enrolled in the course.

For answers to additional enrollment questions, please contact the Office of the Registrar.

Enroll Now

Do I have to come to campus while taking an onGEO course?

No. You can take an onGEO course from any location as long as you have daily access to a computer with a stable Internet connection.

Can I travel nationally, internationally, or both, while taking an onGEO course?

Yes, as long as you have daily access to a computer with a stable Internet connection. We have had students travel across the United States and abroad to places like Europe and Asia while taking an onGEO course—they simply found an internet cafe or public library every day so they could check their email accounts for messages from their Instructor and log into the course website to read lesson, submit homework assignments, and take exams.

What do I need to take an onGEO course?

You need daily access to a computer with a stable Internet connection—there are also a few technical requirements. Depending on the course, you may also need a required textbook. See course syllabi for current textbook information.

How will I know what to do on the first day of class? Is there an orientation for onGEO courses?

There is no formal orientation for taking an online course. You will receive emails (to your account, or other forwarded account) with instructions on how to get started an onGEO course on the first day of class. These informative emails will continue, sometimes daily, throughout the session. Please watch for these emails as they will likely answer most questions that you have; your course syllabus will contain valuable information as well.

When can I log in, view, and begin working on my onGEO course?

The first day of class. Access to the course website (D2L), and course material begins on the first day of class. Students enrolled in an onGEO course can log in to the course website on the first day of class and access to the course site ends about one week following the end of the session. Course sites and material are not available at any time to students who are not enrolled.

How do I log into a onGEO course?

You log in to an onGEO course in D2L using your MSU net ID and password.

Do I need to log in to my onGEO course website at a specified time or for a specified duration?

No, you may log in to your course site 24 hours a day, seven days a week during the session or semester for which you are registered, and spend as much or as little time as you like on the site. On that same note, you may access the course site as many times as needed or for as long as you need to complete your required work. Please note that it is possible for instructors to track your login/logout times.

Am I required to work on the weekends while enrolled in an onGEO course?

You are not required to do work on weekends, but you can if you want to to keep up with the course requirements. Exam and/or quiz deadlines will not be scheduled on weekends, nor will assignment deadlines. Additionally, you may receive emails from your instructor on the weekend.

Where do I take exams or quizzes for an onGEO course?

You can take exams and quizzes on any computer with a stable Internet connection. All exams and quizzes can be accessed from the course website, by clicking on the assessment title. You may log into the course site and begin an exam/quiz at any time during the period specified by the course schedule (usually a 24-hour window), as long as you allow yourself enough time to finish and submit before the end time. Detailed instructions for taking an assessment are sent out by your instructor prior to the first one.

How many hours a week should I expect to spend on an onGEO course?

Students in the past have reported spending between 8 to 15 hours per week on average working on an onGEO course; however, the time commitment may vary widely by student and course. Some students may be able to do well in a course spending 10 hours, while for another, that number may be closer to 20. Regardless, to do well in an onGEO course, you should plan to devote a significant amount of time each week to reading course material, taking notes, completing assignments, and taking assessments.

Can I take more than one onGEO course at a time?

Yes, you can enroll in more than one onGEO course at a time. If you enroll in more than one, please notify your instructor. Some course combinations are far more demanding than others.

I am a person with a disability—can I take an onGEO course?

Yes. Taking an onGEO course offers a few benefits over a traditional lecture. All material is provided for you on the Internet the course website, which to a degree, you can cover at your own pace. If you are registered with the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities, please contact your instructor. Assessments can be setup to accommodate your needs.

I am enrolled at a school other than Michigan State University—can I take an onGEO course and earn credits toward my degree?

Yes. If you are a degree-seeking student enrolled at a school other the Michigan State University, we recommend contacting Beth Weisenborn prior to registering for the course to obtain a detailed copy of the syllabus and schedule for the course you intend to enroll in. You will need to discuss these materials with your academic advisor and department to gain permission to take the course and transfer the credits, prior to actually taking our course - the course syllabus and schedule are typically needed to document course content. You will also need to contact the Registrar's office to determine whether you would enroll as a degree-seeking student or as a Lifelong Education student.