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Frequently Asked Questions

General Online Education Information

Online learning courses may be 15 weeks, 12 weeks, 10 weeks, 8 weeks, or 5 weeks in length; each course has specific startrefundfirst assignment due datewithdrawal, and end dates you should be aware of when you select a particular course. Note that any course shorter than 15 weeks in length is an accelerated course that will require more work per week than the standard 15-week course.

Normally, students do not need to be online at a certain time, although some courses do have specific in-person or online meeting times for labs, online lectures, or class discussions.

Regular submission of work is required. Some courses require students to meet frequent deadlines (such as weekly due dates), while others offer flexibility as to when assignments can be submitted.  In most courses, students must submit minimum required assignments as specified by the instructor to avoid being administratively withdrawn from the course.  Students should be sure to read all course information carefully when the course begins to understand the deadlines that apply in each course they are taking through NOVA Online.

Exams are taken at any campus testing center or students outside the area may request exams be sent to a proctor.

Students should complete the online orientation prior to registering for or beginning their online courses.


The cost of enrolling in a course at NOVA is the same whether it is an online learning or traditional course. Check the NOVA Website under Tuition & Fees for the most current tuition rate.


Students enrolled in online learning courses do not normally need an NOVA student ID card unless they visit a campus-based facility (e.g. computer lab) or plan to print materials from a campus computer. It is generally recommended that students enrolled in online learning courses obtain a NOVA ID card.

College policy states that all NOVA students are required to show their NOVA student IDs when they want to use an open computer lab. This includes students enrolled in online learning courses. In addition, in order to return textbooks at any VCCS bookstore, students must present a NOVA ID card.

NOVA's pay-to-print service, FASTPrint, uses NOVA student IDs as debit cards for this service. Students can add money to their ID cards to print in the open computer labs or make copies in the libraries. This is especially helpful if one forgets an exam pass and needs to print one at the last moment for an exam in a campus testing center.

NOVA offers many online learning course options, both campus-based and at NOVA Online. However, if you cannot find exactly what you need, we encourage you to look at these other possibilities such as:

VCCS Online - The Virginia Community College System has twenty-three community colleges, many of them offer distance learning options.

Registration Information

Registration for NOVA Online learning courses begins at the same time as traditional campus courses at the beginning of each semester. However, NOVA Online also offers additional start dates later in the semester and students may register for these sections accordingly. When course capacity limits are reached, NOVA Online sections are closed to further registration. For more information see Important Dates on the Online Learning website.

You can find the class number in the current Schedule of Classes. Choose the term, subject, NOVA Online as the campus, Dynamic Session as the Session; click "search."  You will find a list of classes with the class number for each course.  This 5-digit number is also listed for each course in the printed Schedule of Classes.

NOVA online learning courses are listed in the Schedule of Classes. Online learning course offerings can be found listed under each campus and in the section of the PDF Edition schedule of classes, under NOL - NOVA Online. Course listings are also available online on the NOVA Online Course Information page and in NOVAConnect – Click the Guest button, Guest Services; Catalog; View Schedule of Classes; Northern Virginia Community College; Term; Basis Search; Subject; Course; check the Open Only box; and choose VIRTUAL & NOVA Online in the Location box; click Search.

Not all of NOVA Online's additional sections are listed in the printed Schedule of Classes. Additional sections offered are based on what courses reach their enrollment limits in the first registration session. If available, sections will be posted in the Announcements section on the NOVA Online website. They are also listed in NOVAConnect - Click the Guest button, Guest Services; Catalog; View Schedule of Classes; Northern Virginia Community College; Term; Basis Search; Subject; Course; check the Open Only box; and type VIRTUAL in the Location box; click Search.

Both campus-based online learning courses and NOVA Online learning courses start at the beginning of each semester. However, if you choose an NOVA Online learning course, the course start date may not be at the beginning of the semester. Additional NOVA Online learning course sections open periodically throughout the semester. Therefore, it is very important to check the Start Date on the Quick Start Syllabus you receive in the mail. (Some NOVA Online courses offer accelerated 12-, 10-, 8-, 5-week options to complete the course.)

Your course will show in Canvas on the first day of class. Students will receive a Quick-Start syllabus to their NOVA student gmail account close to the start date of the class. If you have not received a Quick-Start syllabus within 3 days after the course has started, call NOVA Online Registration at (703) 323-3368. Students may also access the Course Description at Choose the semester, select the course and read the course description for required course materials, how to contact your instructor, etc.

You may drop a course and receive a refund by the Last Refund Date. Drop online with NOVAConnect. Drop by phone by calling (703) 323-3770 or (703) 330-3770 Prince William County residents.

You may withdraw from a course without grade penalty by the Last Date for Withdrawal. Drop online with NOVAConnect. DO NOT withdraw online if you are past your Last Date for Withdrawal. The system will assign an “F”. Students past their Last Date for Withdrawal must complete the Student Initiated Withdrawal Form and submit it to their instructor with supporting documentation.

Students enrolled in NOVA Online learning courses must sign into their Canvas course site and complete the First Assignment Due Date to avoid being administratively deleted without a tuition refund. If you have questions concerning an administrative withdrawal or believe that you have been dropped in error, you must contact your instructor.

If you have questions concerning a drop for other reasons, you may contact the NOVA Online Registration office at (703) 323-3368.

Reinstatement in an NOVA Online learning course is by special permission of the instructor only. When instructors reinstate you in an NOVA Online learning course, they will mail a letter to you giving you permission to complete course assignments and take exams with the W on your record. You will need to take it with you to the testing center each time you take an exam.

When all assignments and exams are completed, the W grade is changed to the final grade assigned by the instructor.

Course Information

The cost of course materials varies with each course. Almost all online learning courses require a textbook as a minimum. Other courses may require workbooks, CDs, videotape programs, course guides, or science lab supplies. If you have a specific course in mind, visit the NOVA Online Bookstore website or call the bookstore directly at (888) 744-7839.

Students must present a NOVA ID in order to return textbooks at any VCCS bookstore.

Ordering books and other course materials for NOVA Online Learning courses can be done by any of the following methods: Online (preferred), phone, fax, or mail. For more information on these methods go to All NOVA Online textbooks are available at the Alexandria Campus Bookstore. The other NOVA bookstores may carry texts for a limited number of NOVA Online Learning courses.  Before traveling to a campus bookstore, call ahead to confirm that your books are in stock.  For more information go to

You can call the Alexandria Bookstore at (888) 744-7839, be sure you specify that you are taking a NOVA Online course. All NOVA Online textbooks are available at the Alexandria Campus Bookstore. The other NOVA bookstores may carry texts for a limited number of NOVA Online Learning courses.  Before traveling to a campus bookstore, call ahead to confirm that your books are in stock.  For more information go to If you need additional assistance, call the NOVA Online hotline, (703) 323-3347.

Courses are designated as online and delivered on Canvas.

Students registered for online learning courses should consult their course syllabus on Canvas for detailed instructions.

Refer to your course syllabus for specific instructions on how to submit assignments.

No. The content is the same, no matter how you decide to take the course, and although your professor for online learning courses is adapting the methods for teaching at a distance, you are expected to learn the same amount of material. Many students have expressed surprise that the online course is actually harder because it requires so much self-discipline.

In online learning courses, interaction with other students is usually limited to online discussion forums in which messages are posted to the course website. A few courses require class meetings—the dates and times are published in the printed and online Schedule of Classes for each semester.

You may need to go to the campus testing center of your choice to take exams for your NOVA Online course. Any other required class meetings will be published in the Schedule of Classes or listed in the Course Syllabus.

You may also need to go to the campus testing centers if you are planning to complete a certificate or degree at NOVA or are planning to take an English or math course. If you live outside the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, you can request to have a proctor outside NOVA to administer your exams. Refer to NOVA Online Policies and Procedures for all the details. In a few specialized courses, an on-campus lab is required.

Yes, but keep in mind that each course has specific amounts of work that you must complete before the First Assignment Due Date or you will be administratively withdrawn. One of the benefits of taking an online learning course is the ability to study independently.

Some online learning courses do not require fixed assignment due dates. However, research shows that students are most successful with independent study when they start their course work immediately and make steady progress. To help you accomplish this, most online learning courses offer a course progress schedule that you can follow.

Check with the individual instructor and your course information in the course syllabus for details. Students enrolled in many NOVA Online learning courses can accelerate the course assignments and schedule. For those courses, final grades are assigned as students finish the course. It is not easy to complete the course sooner than its end date. Plan to schedule 2-3 hours of study per credit hour. For example, for a 3-credit course, plan to study approximately 6-9 hours per week.

If you have successfully completed the minimum amount of course work as specified by your instructor, you may request an Incomplete in writing from your instructor. An "Incomplete" or "I" grade is assigned and will change to your final grade when all assignments and exams have been completed. The length of the extension is determined by the instructor but can be up to 16 weeks.

Generally, the instructional content of online learning courses is similar to what you study in a course on campus, but the online learning course may require a different textbook and types of assignments and exams. If you have a specific course in mind, refer to the Course Description for information about the textbook, types of assignments, and exams.

Course credits transfer only from colleges and universities that are accredited by the Commission on Colleges or the Commission on Higher Education of the regional accreditation associations or conform to the requirements published in the Transfer of Credit Practices of Designated Educational Institutions by the American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers. If you have a specific course in mind, contact an NOVA Online counselor at (703) 323-3347.

NOVA is an accredited institution of higher learning. Because online learning courses are part of NOVA, they should transfer to any institution that accepts NOVA credits. However, it is always a good idea to check with the institution.

NOVA Online learning courses do have limits as to the number of students that may register. Once the maximum number of students have been registered, the course is closed to additional students. Some NOVA Online learning courses have published closing dates due to required meetings, scheduled submission of assignments, and other course objectives that require the students to start the course at the same time.

There are several reasons for course limits - state and college policies limit the number of credit hours faculty can teach; most faculty teach full-time on campus in addition to teaching their NOVA Online courses and these combined credit hours make up a full teaching load; availability of funds to pay for the credit hours faculty can teach.

Your Start Date is the official start date for the course and all other dates are based on it. For NOVA Online learning courses, this date does not necessarily correspond to campus start dates.

The important dates for your online learning course are the Start Date, Canvas Sign-in Date, Last Withdrawal Date Without F, and End Date. For NOVA Online learning courses, these dates are listed in the Quick-Start syllabus that is emailed to your NOVA student gmail account.

Start Date: This is your official start date; all other dates are based on it. Your course start date does not necessarily correspond to campus course dates. You are expected to meet a schedule for submission of your work, so you need to buy your course materials and start on time.

First Assignment Due Date: Students must log into their Canvas course site by this date and complete the first assignment to avoid being administratively deleted without a tuition refund.

Last Refund Date: This is the last date on which you can drop your course and receive a refund of your tuition. This is also the last date on which you can drop your course and add another course without paying additional tuition. To drop your course, use the NOVAConnect online or telephone registration system.

Last Date for Withdrawal: This is the last date on which you can withdraw from this course without grade penalty. Use the NOVAConnect online or telephone registration system to drop the course. You will receive a grade of "W." Instructors also have the option of withdrawing (without refund) students who are not meeting course progress requirements by the Last Withdrawal Date. However, students who expect a W are responsible for withdrawing themselves in NOVAConnect before the last withdrawal date.

End Date: All assignments and examinations should be completed by this date. (Also see Incomplete Grades.)

If the testing center of your choice is open, you make take exams on your End Date. Plan to take your exam early as there may be a line at the testing center. Mailed assignments postmarked by the End Date will be accepted, but it’s also recommended that you email your instructor that an assignment has been mailed.


If your instructor has assigned a final grade, you can find out your grade by calling (703) 323-3770, option 2-Grades or by logging into NOVAConnect.

If your instructor has not assigned a final grade, your grade will not be posted on NOVAConnect. Contact the instructor to check the status of your final grade. If you still require help locating your grade, contact the NOVA Online Hotline at (703) 323-3347 or (888) 435-6822.

Instructor Information

You can contact your instructor to make an appointment. Course syllabi provide your course instructor's office hours and contact information through email, voice mail, or telephone.

Students can contact their instructors by email, by telephone, or voicemail. Students can make an appointment to meet face-to-face with the instructor. Some instructors have posted campus and NOVA Online office hours. Contact information is provided in the course syllabus or on the course website.

Your instructor is your primary support while taking an online learning course. In addition, the NOVA Online learning counselors and other staff are available to assist you if you have a question, problem, or concern related to your studies. Contact an NOVA Online learning student service counselor for answers to questions about financial aid, career planning, and tutors.

Testing Information

Yes, all NOVA courses have proctored exams.

Proctored exams are a critical part of online courses. NOVA Online is required by The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA) and our accrediting body, The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), to verify the identities of every online student through secure logins and proctored examinations. Due to these strict guidelines, students who do not pass their proctored exams may fail their course regardless of their performance on homework and projects. For details about your course requirements, review your syllabus under “Grading, Withdrawals, and Incompletes.”

Similar to campus-based courses, faculty will be proctoring your assessments virtually during a scheduled day and time using either Respondus Monitor and Respondus Lockdown Browser and/or Zoom Live proctoring scenarios. For more information, please view the NOVA Online Testing Information page.

Be sure to speak with faculty if you have any issue taking a proctored assessment. If you have questions, call 703.323.3347 or 1.800.435.6822 or email

When taking a test at an NOVA campus testing center, you will need to bring your exam pass and a photo ID. It does not have to be an NOVA student ID.

If you forget your exam pass and need to print one at the last moment in a campus computer lab or library, you will have to pay for printing the pass. NOVA's pay-to-print service, FASTPrint, uses NOVA student IDs as debit cards for this service. Students can add money to their ID cards to print in the open computer labs or make copies in the libraries.

To request a proctor, complete the NOVA Online Proctor Request Form and submit it with your proctor's statement on letterhead to NOVA Online (see the Proctor Request Form for details.)

Technology Information

The NOVA Online section of the Schedule of Classes describes the type of technology used in each course. Specific course information can be obtained from the Course Syllabus which can be downloaded from the NOVA Online Learning Website. If you are using dial-up, you may have trouble accessing some course materials and may need to use a public or work computer for some of your course work.

If you are taking an online course, prior experience using an Internet connection and a browser is required. All online learning courses require regular Internet access.  Because most communication between faculty and students occurs by email, we recommend the following:

  • reliable access to email
  • reliable access to the Internet (with a recent version of a browser such as Firefox, Chrome, or Safari)
  • MS Office (mainly needed for word-processing in order to complete assignments.)
  • access to software such as Adobe Reader, RealPlayer, etc.

You must use a standard Web browser such as Firefox, Chrome, Safari, or Microsoft Internet Explorer. You must enable cookies and Java to access most courses.

Prior to the beginning of the semester, most course websites are under revision so students will not be able to access their Canvas course right away. Check the NOVA Online Learning website for details on accessing your NOVA Online course website. If your course is not listed by the Start Date listed on your Quickstart Syllabus, contact the NOVA Online Hotline at (703) 323-3347 or (888) 435-6822.

Yes, college policy states that all NOVA students are required to show their NOVA student IDs when they want to use an open computer lab. This includes students enrolled in online learning courses. NOVA's pay-to-print service, FASTPrint, uses NOVA student IDs as debit cards for this service. Students can add money to their ID cards to print in the open computer labs or make copies in the libraries. This is especially helpful if one forgets an exam pass and needs to print one at the last moment for an exam in a campus testing center.

Opportunities for Teaching Online Courses through NOVA Online

NOVA Online at Northern Virginia Community Colleges offers robust, interactive online courses in more than 50 academic disciplines.  Students can complete entire degrees and certificates through NOVA Online, or may choose to complete their academic work through a combination of online and on-campus classes.  Some faculty teach courses they have designed themselves with instructional design assistance from NOVA Online staff, while others teach sections of already-developed courses.

If you are a current NOVA faculty member and are interested in learning more about teaching for NOVA Online, please contact to discuss possible openings.  If you are not currently a NOVA faculty member, please review the Frequently Asked Questions below to learn how to proceed.

Our needs at NOVA Online are always changing.  We often have need for faculty to teach common general education courses such as English composition, basic math, and introductory economics or other social science courses.  However, we also often have need for faculty to teach more specialized courses.  The best way to find out what we need at a given time is simply to contact us at  If we do not need faculty in your area at that time, we will keep your contact information on file for future consideration as our needs change.

NOVA Online courses are designed to give students an interactive learning experience. Every course is different in the technology tools employed and the types of assignments used to engage students. Some courses are self-paced, allowing students to complete assignments on a schedule most convenient for them, while others require students to meet regular (often weekly or bi-weekly) deadlines. When you are assigned a course to teach, a fellow faculty member or an instructional designer will review the whole course with you to be sure you are comfortable with its structure and content. In order to maintain course integrity, we require that you teach the course as currently designed, making no changes to course content, structure, or assignments without permission from NOVA Online.

Your role as a teacher in an online course is to support, guide, and provide feedback to students as they move through the material. This includes sending students regular reminders about making progress and meeting course deadlines; participating in class discussion forums; answering student questions and doing one-on-one tutoring or advising by email/chat/phone/audio conferencing; and grading and providing helpful feedback on student assignments.

To teach at NOVA Online, you must hold a Master’s Degree and have successfully completed 18 graduate credit hours in the discipline you will teach. Faculty who have community college teaching experience, and/or experience teaching online, are preferred.

NOVA Online faculty are paid at the same rates as other college faculty. Adjunct faculty pay is determined by Human Resources based on degrees held and past teaching experience. The Academic Dean interviewing you can give you an estimate of the pay you might receive. (See below for more on the hiring process.) Pay for NOVA Online courses, however, is pro-rated based on enrollments (if you have low enrollment, your pay will be reduced accordingly). We can discuss our workload policies and formulas further with you as you explore teaching for NOVA Online.

NOVA Online courses are delivered using Canvas. NOVA Online faculty are expected to complete training in Canvas in order to be competent using its range of features, including discussion boards, posting documents, using the assignment feature, using the gradebook, and creating and deploying exams. Canvas training is offered on all six NOVA campuses and online. Faculty who live out of the area but need Canvas training may be able to self-train using online training materials, or find training in their area.

In addition to the ability to use the range of features in Canvas, as mentioned above, NOVA Online faculty are expected to participate in a half-day new-faculty orientation session to learn about administrative policies and procedures and best practices in online teaching. (For faculty who live out of the Northern Virginia region, arrangements can be made to participate from a distance.) And, since NOVA Online courses are taught online, we expect our faculty to be competent and comfortable with email and the basic office software necessary for record-keeping and communicating with students and NOVA Online staff.

NOVA Online has a full staff available to support our faculty in their work. You can call the NOVA Online Hotline, email our instructional design help team, contact our Canvas administration team, or chat with our Faculty Liaison or Coordinator of Faculty and Student support if you are having any kinds of problems, from technical problems to student problems. Depending on the course you are teaching, you may also have a Course Coordinator (an experienced NOVA Online instructor who teaches the same course) or a faculty mentor who can help support you in your teaching.

If you are qualified to teach online and are interested in teaching for us, please send a resume/CV and cover letter to  Your experience and credentials will be reviewed, you will be contacted for further information if necessary, and your background will be examined to see if you might fit with our current staffing needs.  If your experience does fit our current needs, NOVA Online will put you in contact with an Academic Dean on one of the NOVA campuses, who will interview you and complete the actual hiring process.