Course Experience

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Starting an Online Course at USD


All USD online courses are administered through the USD Canvas portal. When you begin your program of study, you will log in to Canvas to find your courses. Once you log in, click on Dashboard on the left-hand menu to see the courses you are enrolled in. On the right side of the screen, you can see a list of items under To Do that includes assignments, discussions and any other action items that need your attention as well as recent feedback and grades.

Once you click into the course, you will find pertinent information on the homepage such as announcements, the syllabus, the course calendar and links to the modules in the course.


The Modules are the units of study in a course and contain content, activities and assignments. Each course has 7 or 14 modules to complete and each module is typically 1 or 2 weeks in duration. Throughout the course, you will also be able to access the online library, a digital record of your grades, your course contacts and discussion forums.

Logging in

Most USD master’s degree programs begin their school week on a Tuesday. You can log in at any time of day to review the content and participate in the activities that correspond with the due dates for each week.

Accessing & Completing Coursework


As an online student, the program structure allows you to complete coursework at your own pace, when you are able, if you meet weekly assignment deadlines. Assignments are typically due every Monday, which gives you the weekend to work on coursework that you may not have finished earlier in the week.

Asynchronous Learning

The program is designed with a “working adult” schedule in mind. Students are set up to be able to balance their academic coursework while being able to work full-time, take care of family, etc.


The learning weeks begin on Tuesdays and end on Mondays. Each week’s learning module typically opens three days before the learning week begins (Saturdays).  Each module includes an overview that lists the assignments and activities, the day(s) the assignments are due, and the required format for the assignments. This pacing guide helps students plan a cadence for their coursework.

Class Format

Course content is presented in multiple formats including interactive multimedia which gives students a variety of modalities in which to learn. Courses are designed with student engagement in mind so that the learning experience is rich, collaborative, relevant and meaningful.

Communicating with Students & Faculty


As an online student, you will find that help is available every step of the way. If you have questions or comments, you can contact your instructor through the instructor discussion forum or via email. In most cases, you will receive a response typically within 24 hours, often times less.

CLass Discussions

Class discussions are an important part of all online programs at USD. While course requirements vary by program, students are typically required to post a minimum number of comments in each discussion thread each week. Discussion boards not only encourage engagement but also facilitate conversations that might not otherwise occur in a traditional classroom. The course instructor will actively facilitate class discussions in the discussion board several times a week to help propel the conversation, promote critical thinking and answer student questions.

Discussion Forum

The discussion component of each course gives you the opportunity to connect with and learn from other students – and your professors – in a virtual setting and is often cited as one of the highlights of USD’s program. In the discussion forum, you will share ideas and experiences with other professionals from across the nation who are enrolled in the course with you. This peer-to-peer learning is an invaluable part of your USD online education.