How online courses work

It's easy to start taking courses with Stanford Online. Courses are available entirely online, are free to take, and don't require your physical presence at any specific location or time. 

To take a Stanford Online course, first register an account and activate it. Then, enroll in courses that interest you.

Each course will have a particular start date, which refers to when some or all of the course content will become available to you. While no one will be there monitoring your presence after the course starts or "goes live", it's a good idea to sign in and visit the Course Info page. This page may include information about when material will be available, if there are graded assignments, if there are deadlines for graded assignments, and where to find additional help - be it through a Discussion feature or additional documentation in the course.

Enrollees participate in courses by watching pre-recorded videos, completing assignments, and engaging in discussions with your peers in an online discussion forum.  All of these tasks can be completed at your convenience – there's no need to "come to class" at a particular time of day, although some assignments do have due dates.  Deadlines and due dates display in local time and use a 24-hour clock, so be sure to carefully check the time at which an assignment is due.  The homework assignment below, for example, is due at 01:00 PST, which - on a 24-hour clock - means the assignment is due at 1 a.m. on the specified date.

Many courses offer a Statement of Accomplishment to participants who meet certain requirements, but you also are welcome to "audit" a course and just take part in the activities that interest you most. 

Courses offered through are all offered free of charge, so you can sign up for as many as you like. There are three kinds of courses available to you: live, archived, and self-study.

Courses that are running right now are called "live" courses. In these, the instructor is actively engaging with the participants, and new content may be released each week. In live courses, it is often possible to earn a Statement of Accomplishment by meeting certain grade requirements. After the course ends, these Statements are processed.  Emails are sent to participants once the Statements are available to be downloaded from the dashboard. When a live course reaches its end date, it becomes an "archived" course.

Courses that have already ended are called "archived" courses. The content in these courses is still available, but it is no longer possible to submit graded assignments, nor earn a Statement of Accomplishment. Some archived courses are planned to run again in the future, sometimes as often as two or three times a year. As a registered user, you'll be notified via email whenever new courses are announced.

Courses that have no end date or one that is far in the future are called "self-paced" or "self-study" courses. Participants can go through the course materials and assignments at their own pace, and often earn a Statement of Accomplishment by completing the assignments. These courses will typically include a way to trigger the system to process and finalize your particular grade in the course, and will result in a Statement of Accomplishment being generated if the requirements were met.

We hope you enjoy your courses!

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