Frequently Asked Questions

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What is a certificate?
An academic certificate is comprised of a series of post-baccalaureate courses that enables a student to explore a specific area of study. Like a master's or doctoral degree, a certificate is offered by a host academic department, is approved by UNC's Graduate School, and is related to an academic area of study. Some credits earned in a certificate program are eligible to be applied to graduate-degree programs. Certificates are noted on university transcripts, and no distinction is made between certificates earned online and those earned on campus.

Are the programs and courses offered through online learning technologies the same quality as those offered on campus?
Yes. Courses in this certificate program were designed under the supervision of full-time faculty members in the UNC School of Media and Journalism. Additionally, students are asked to complete evaluations to assess the quality of their instructors and course material. These evaluations are reviewed by school administrators, who make adjustments to course and program requirements as needed.

How much time will I need to spend on this program?
Students should expect to spend an average of 10 hours per week on readings, class discussions and other assignments for each class in which they are enrolled. Students with full-time jobs and other commitments could have a difficult time taking two online courses in the same semester.

How long do I have to complete the certificate program? May I take a semester off once I enroll?
The program can be completed in as little as one year. Some students take one course after another; others take a semester or two off depending on their home or work circumstances. Both approaches are acceptable. However, the work required to earn the certificate must be completed within five consecutive calendar years from enrollment in a student's first course.

Does course credit transfer?
Credit hours earned in this program may be transferred to a graduate-degree program. The amount and type of credit granted is at the sole discretion of that program. Certificate students who are accepted into the UNC School of Media and Journalism’s graduate program may apply credit as follows:

  • M.A. in Digital Communication: MEJO 711: Writing for Digital Media and MEJO 714: Database and Web Research (certificate students entered before fall 2014) or MEJO 713 (formerly 890): Digital Data and Analytics (certificate students entered fall 2014 and beyond).
  • M.A. in Media and Communication: Up to six credit hours toward requirements if the credit is deemed relevant to the student’s course of study.
  • Ph.D. in Media and Communication:  Three credit hours toward requirements if the credit is deemed relevant to the student’s course of study.

All credits must have been earned within five years of admission to the graduate program.

Will admission into this certificate program help me get into the school's graduate program?
Admission into the certificate program has no bearing on admission to the school's graduate program. However, outstanding performance in certificate courses might be viewed favorably by the admissions committee. Recent certificate graduates have been admitted to the school's master's and doctoral programs.

Will the certificate be listed on my transcript?
After completing the program, a student's transcript will indicate having earned a Certificate in Digital Communication from UNC-Chapel Hill. Transcripts can be obtained from the Registrar.

Does the School of Media and Journalism offer an online master's degree?
Yes. The school offers an online master's program. The first class began in fall 2011. About one-quarter of MJ-school online master's students first enroll in the certificate program.


Course Structure and Management

I have never taken an online course. What is it like? Do I have to be online at a certain time?
The courses MEJO 711 and MEJO 712 in the certificate program are taught on a 15-week semester schedule, meaning that courses are taught within the time frame of the UNC-Chapel Hill fall and spring semesters. MEJO 713 is offered over a 10-week summer semester. Students enrolled in a course must complete the course within the given semester. However, students generally do not need to be online at a certain time of day. Each course consists of a mix of readings, discussion forum postings, individual assignments and audio/visual tutorials. Several courses also teach students how to create and use a blog, in addition to other digital media tools.

Is online education right for me?
The certificate program is a distance-education program that allows students to take advantage of a Carolina education from anywhere in the world. However, distance learning is not for everyone. It requires self-motivation and discipline. Students will have greater interaction with fellow students and less interaction with instructors than is typical in on-campus classes. Written communication — whether in e-mail, discussion forum postings or assignments — is the primary avenue for learning. Check out Online Learning Essentials for common myths and tips for success as an online student.

Will I ever have to physically visit the UNC campus?
No. The certificate program is completed entirely online.

How do I communicate with my instructor and classmates?
Communication methods vary from course to course, but most instructors use e-mail and discussion forums in Sakai. Please note that courses are taught in English and students need to be proficient in reading and writing English. The best way to request specific help from an instructor is via e-mail. Instructors try to respond to e-mail within 24 hours when possible. During weekends and holidays, response times may be longer. Instructors communicate via a student's UNC-CH email account.

What kinds of technology do I need at home or work to participate in an online course
High-speed Internet access and a relatively new computer are essential. Students must have regular access to a reliable Internet connection throughout each semester. The Sakai course management system delivers the content for this program. Sakai is accessed via a web browser at

Do I need to know a lot about computers?
Courses are designed to be accessible to people with a wide range of experience using computers. Students will need to be comfortable sending email and using the internet. Students will become familiar with posting messages to a discussion forum in Sakai, and likely will create documents and attach them to email messages. Courses also teach students how to create a blog.

I would like to familiarize myself with HTML before starting classes. Can you recommend some online tutorials?
While prior knowledge of HTML is not a requirement — nor is in necessary to succeed in the certificate program — some courses do discuss HTML as part of the course curriculum. Some students prefer to familiarize themselves with HTML before starting classes. Many find the following sites useful: HTML Tutorial and Cheat Sheets.

Can I utilize UNC library resources?
Yes. The Library provides a proxy service that authorizes students to connect to electronic resources (databases, indexes, electronic journals, etc.) from off-campus. An Onyen and password is necessary when connecting to these resources. The library has a website dedicated to distance education.

How am I graded? What are the grade options?
Student work is graded on the scale used by on-campus graduate courses at UNC-Chapel Hill: H = High Pass, P = Pass, L = Low Pass, F = Fail and I = Incomplete. A grade of P does not equal a conventional C grade. The majority of students receive a P for work equivalent to an A- to a flat C. If a certificate student earns two grades of L or one F, he or she cannot continue in the program and will not be eligible to receive the certificate. Students earning an incomplete (I) have one year to complete the coursework.

When will I receive my grades?
Grades should be available about one week after the end of the semester, if not sooner. Grades are available in your ConnectCarolina Student Center. Log in with your Onyen and password at


Financial Concerns

Do you offer tuition assistance or scholarships?
Unfortunately, there are no grants or loans at this time available through UNC-Chapel Hill for students in the certificate program. Students in the certificate program are not eligible to receive Federal Student Aid. In general, students must be pursuing a degree in order to be eligible for Federal Student Aid. However, students can apply for private educational loans. The PNC Education Loan Center offers private loans for graduate or professional students who are enrolled in a certificate program:

Does the UNC Cashier’s Office offer an installment payment plan?
Yes. Contact the Cashier’s Office for details. Deadlines for enrolling in the payment plan are July 31 for the fall semester and December 1 for the spring.

Does UNC accept military tuition assistance?
Yes. Please contact the Cashier’s office.

Do students living outside of North Carolina pay a different tuition rate?
Yes. Students living outside of North Carolina must pay out-of-state tuition rates. Because UNC-Chapel Hill is a state-supported institution, resident tuition is subsidized by N.C. taxpayers, and the different rate scale affects distance as well as residential students.

Is tuition tax deductible?
In many cases, students can claim a tax credit or deduction for some or all of their higher education expenses. Consult a tax adviser or preparer for more details.




Still need help? Have another question?

The school's online graduate programs staff stands ready to answer any questions. If they can't answer a particular question, they'll find someone who can. Contact us 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday, excluding university holidays.

Rachel Lillis, director of online graduate programs
Phone: (919) 962-7024

To discuss your specific fit for the certificate program, please contact academic director Andy Bechtel at

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