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Campus Resources for Online Education

Online students, whether they live near school or far from it, can use the Internet to access certain departments and student services that exist on campus. As traditional colleges and universities have become more integrated with the digital world, many on-campus services and departments have developed online offerings, from virtual libraries to telehealth appointments. Online students looking to make the most out of campus resources can research these departments and offerings at their school.

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The Library

Online students may not be able to take advantage of the library as a computer lab or study space, but they can get their hands on the library’s wealth of information. This includes materials to help study for class or to use as sources for research papers. College libraries buy subscriptions to academic journals, and online students can request journal articles to be delivered electronically. Many inter-library loan requests are also digitized, making them easy for online students to access. Some libraries may even allow online students to request books by mail. And if you need help, library desks have posted hours where staff are willing to answer online students’ questions by email or phone.

The Bookstore

Campus bookstores have increasingly developed an online presence for their virtual and distance learning students. Online students should be able to purchase textbooks and other printed materials from their bookstore’s online portal and have books shipped to their home. Bookstores may also direct students to digitized materials available on a school’s learning management system (LMS), like Blackboard, that are created specifically for a course. Some bookstores may even allow students to mail their textbooks in at the end of the semester for a virtual book buy-back. Students should take into account the distance between them and their school and order their textbooks early in case of postal delays.

The Mail Room

Most colleges offer mailboxes only to residential students. Students taking only online classes and not living on campus may not be eligible for a campus mailbox. Instead students should direct packages and mail to their off-campus address.

Some students may have had to leave campus due to extenuating circumstances (i.e. COVID-19). They should contact their school for procedures on how to have mail forwarded to their current address.

Health Services

To accommodate students living off-campus who need medical help or counseling, campus health services have begun to offer telehealth appointments. Telehealth appointments may resemble video calls, but they are just as confidential as a regular health appointment.

There are two important caveats for online students when it comes to accessing health services. The first is that students must have health insurance and pay a college health services fee. Students only enrolled in online courses are not required to have health insurance, unlike residential students who have a student health insurance requirement. Furthermore, online-only students are not required to pay a health services fee, which is necessary to receiving on-campus health services, even telehealth appointments.

The second is that physicians and counselors are restricted from practicing on students who live outside of the state where they obtained their license. Students taking online courses out-of-state may be barred from health services because of this restriction.

Students whose schools have transitioned to online-only learning due to extraneous circumstances (i.e. COVID-19) should expect to have the same insurance and fee requirements as they would normally and should be able to access campus health services without issue.

For online students in a pinch, most campus health services websites have links at the bottom of the page for national 24-hour crisis phonelines that are free to use.

Office of Student Services/Affairs

Online students seeking help from topics like admissions to advising can reach out to their campus’s Office of Student Services/Affairs through online chats, telephone calls or email. This office is the one to contact for students with questions or concerns regarding financial aid, graduation, admissions, career services and counseling, and other school-related topics.

Disability Services/Accessibility Office

Like the Office of Student Services, the Disability Services/Accessibility Office is open to all students, including online students, who need accommodations for their studies. Online course accommodations can take the form of extra time on tests, live captioners for online lectures or assistive tech tools like screen readers. See our article on Online Learning for Students with Disabilities for more information.

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Last Reviewed: December 2021