Frequently Asked Questions

About course registration
Q. How do I register for the upcoming Early Grade Reading course?
Q. What is the course fee?
Q. How do I make course payments?
Q. What is the refund policy if I need to drop the course?
Q. Is there a scholarship or financial aid available for the course?

Who can take the course?
Q. What are the admission requirements?
Q. Do I have to take the TOEFL test for admission?
Q. Can non-US residents apply?
Q. Do I need to be a UMass student to take the course?

Q. Can UMass students take the course?

What is the course like?
Q. How is the course structured?

Q. How intensive is the course? How many hours per week do I need to work on it?
Q. How is the course organized for participants in different time zones?
Q. If I am not interested in the graduate certificate, do I still need to submit assignments?
Q. Is the course graded or can I take it on a “pass/fail” basis?

Q. Is there a final examination?

About the Graduate Certificate program
Q. What are the five courses of the Early Grade Reading Graduate Certificate?
Q. Must I take all five courses?
Q. I am interested in receiving the Graduate Certificate. What do I need to do?
Q. How can I keep learning after I finish the program?

More on course costs
Q. With so many free online courses around, is there a comparable one that is provided without a fee?
Q. What is the difference between these online early grade reading courses and other courses or webinars available for free?
Q. Is there a reduced fee to take the course without credit (i.e., to audit the course)?

 

Q. How do I register for the upcoming Early Grade Reading course?

A. You can enroll yourself in our courses through SPIRE, the student information system for the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

  1. Create a student account. Go to spire.umass.edu. On the right hand menu, under “Apply/References” click on “Non-Degree Enrollment Application” and fill out the form there. Please note that although there is a field for Social Security Number, you do NOT need a Social Security Number to apply – just leave that field blank. You will receive an email with your NetID and password (this may take up to 3 days.)
  2. Get an enrollment appointment. Once you have received your NetID and password, activate your account and log in to SPIRE (spire.umass.edu) with your new NetID and password.
    • Go to Main Menu > Enrollment > Summer/Wntr/Non-degr Enroll Appt and follow the instructions.
    • (NOTE: It can take 1-2 days for SPIRE to recognize your NetID, so if you do not see these screens, try again the next day.)
  3. Register for the class. The enrollment appointment should be available immediately.
    • Go to Main Menu > Enrollment > Add Classes.
    • Search for the class:
      • How Children in Developing Countries Learn to Read
        (Class number81794; Course number – EDUC 680)
      • Materials and Technology for Early Grade Reading
        (Class number – 81793; Course number – EDUC 687T)
    • Add the class to your Shopping Cart, then select the class from the Cart to enroll.

View step-by-step screenshots for Step 2: Get an enrollment appointment.

View step-by-step screenshots for Step 3: Register for class.

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Q. What is the course fee?

A. Tuition for the 3-credit course is $1,422. There is also a $47 non-refundable registration fee.

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Q. How do I make course payments?

A. Bills are usually generated by the Bursar’s Office around the 15th of the month after you have registered for a class, and are due by the 10th of the following month. You will receive an email to your UMail account when your invoice becomes available. You may view and pay your bill in QuikPAY.

To access QuikPAY, log in to SPIRE. Go to Main Menu > Finances > View/Pay Bill.

QuikPAY allows you to pay your bill by e-check, credit card, or international bank transfer (via Flywire).

You can also authorize someone else to pay your bill in QuikPay. Learn more in the Authorized Payer Guide.

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Q. What is the refund policy if I need to drop the course?

A. For Fall 2018 courses, if you drop the course before Monday September 17, you will get a 100% refund of the tuition. If you drop the course by Thursday October 30, you will get a 50% refund of your tuition. If you drop the course AFTER October 30, you will get no refund on your tuition. Your registration fee may be refunded if you are dropping all courses for that semester; otherwise it is non-refundable.

NOTE: “Refund” here also means removing charges from your account, if you have not yet made any payment. If you cannot take the course after all, please drop the course in SPIRE before the deadline, otherwise you will be charged the fees indicated.

For more information, see https://www.umass.edu/cpe/tuition/refund-policy

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Q. What are the admission requirements?

A. In order to take the course, you should:

  • Hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree;
  • Work or intend to work in the field of education and/or early grade reading;
  • Have English reading and writing skills equivalent to an 80 on the TOEFL Internet-based course (Note: you do NOT have to take the TOEFL).

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Q. Do I have to take a TOEFL test for admission?

A. No, participants do not need to take the TOEFL test or submit their scores. We recommend that your English reading and writing skill level be equivalent to a score of 80 on the TOEFL IBT as a guideline for the level of English you need to do well in the course. You should assess your own English skills and decide whether they are sufficient to be successful in the course. We will not be verifying people’s English skills directly before or after registration.

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Q. Can non-US residents apply?

A. Yes, anyone in the world can apply. We have designed this course specifically for participants living outside of the U.S.. International participants do NOT need a Social Security number. You can just leave that space in the form blank.

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Q. Do I need to be a UMass student to register for the course?

A. No, you do NOT need to be a registered student at UMass to take this course.

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Q. Can UMass students take the course?

A. If you are a UMass Amherst graduate student, you can register for the course through SPIRE, as you do with your other courses. However, because the course is offered through the Continuing and Professional Education (CPE) unit, the fee structure is separate from your graduate program, and you will need to pay the course fees and non-refundable registration fee that CPE charges. (Tuition waivers offered by your graduate program do NOT apply to these courses).

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Q. How is the class structured?

A. The online course is 12 weeks long and includes readings, online discussions and both practical and written assignments tailored to your own early grade reading context. It may also include multimedia presentations, virtual small group work, and online presentations of students’ products.

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Q. How intensive is the course? How many hours per week do I need to work on it?

A. Participants should spend approximately 5-7 hours each week during the 12-week course. This should be enough time to read the assignments, watch the short videos, post and read comments on the discussion board, and write and post your written assignments. All of the weekly assignments are “asynchronous”, which means that you can work on it at any time during the week; you don’t need to be available at a specific time during the day or week.

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Q. How is the course organized for participants in different time zones?

A. The course is designed asynchronously. You can complete your assignments at any time during the week they are assigned. Even if you are doing group work with people around the world, you can submit your posts and responses and upload your assignments to share at any time. Others in your group will access them whenever they log on. Presentation of material is all in video format, not live, so you can watch it any time you are able to be online.

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Q. If I am not interested in the graduate certificate, do I still need to submit assignments during the course(s)?

A. The certificate is for those who complete all 5 courses. However, if you sign up for any of the courses, you are required to do the assignments. Even if you don’t want the university credits for completing the course, doing the assignments is important to help you process what you are learning. Also, sometimes other students will share their assignments with you and you will share yours with them, or you may work on a group assignment together; thus everyone learns more. If people take the course without doing the assignments, it makes the course less valuable to all.

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Q. Is the course graded or can I take it on a “Pass/Fail” basis?

A. You can receive either a grade or a “Satisfactory” if you pass the course. You can let the instructor know whether you want to take the course on a “Pass/Fail” or a graded basis after you start the course.

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Q. Is there a final examination?

A. There is no final examination. You will be graded on how well you participate in the course and on several written assignments. You will be required to submit several papers as the course progresses that help you apply key concepts about early grade reading to your own work and context.

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Q. What are the five courses of the Early Grade Reading Graduate Certificate?

A. The courses in the Early Grade Reading Graduate Certificate are:

  • EDUC 680 – How Children in Developing Countries Learn to Read
  • EDUC 680B – Systems to Support Early Grade Reading
  • EDUC 697TP – Teacher Preparation and Support for Early Grade Reading
  • EDUC 687T – Materials and Technology for Early Grade Reading
  • EDUC 687R – Role of Community and Family for Supporting Early Grade Reading

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Q. Must I take all five courses?

A. You can take just 1 or 2 courses, if you wish, for your own professional development, and you will receive 3 graduate credits for each course. You are not required to take all 5 courses. Do note, however, that you are only eligible for the Graduate Certificate if you complete all 5 courses.

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Q. I am interested in receiving the graduate certificate. What do I need to do? 

A. If you are intending to earn the Early Grade Reading Graduate Certificate, we encourage you to apply to the Certificate program by the end of your 2nd course. To apply:

  1. Fill out the online application form
  2. Send the following materials to egrcert@umass.edu:
    1. Resume/CV
    2. Short personal statement (maximum 1 page single-spaced), explaining your interest in the Certificate, how your professional and educational background makes this program a good fit for you, as well as your professional development goals.

Once accepted to the Certificate program, you will be assigned an academic advisor who will be available to discuss your professional goals and academic work, and help you to get the most out of each course.

You will register for and complete each individual course as usual. (Note that while your application is being processed, you can already enroll yourself in the individual courses by following the registration instructions in the course flyer or at the top of this page.)

After you have successfully completed all 5 courses, you will need to submit a completion form and a short (1 page) reflection paper to receive the Certificate.

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Q. With so many free online courses around, is there a comparable one that is provided without a fee or charge?

A. You may find free online courses or webinars on reading instruction; however, this particular course is tailored specifically for those who are working on early grade reading reform projects. The course is the only one available on early grade reading that is part of a graduate certificate that, if you are interested and able to take all five courses, will give you a FORMAL certificate from a U.S. university that you otherwise would not be able to obtain.

The 3 or 6 or 15 credits that you will get from finishing a course or two or all five courses (respectively) will be applicable towards a formal master’s degree here at UMass Amherst, should you decide later to apply to the on-campus master’s or doctoral degree. Webinars often do not offer formal graduate credit that may be useful for you to further your qualifications through a recognized and accredited university.

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Q. What is the difference between these early grade reading courses and other courses or webinars available for free?

A. There are significant differences in intensity, depth and level of commitment between these courses and free courses that are available online. While there are short-term webinars and free courses, the difference is that students in those courses may “stop in and out” at will, and are usually not required to write papers about theory and practice and get feedback from instructor and peers, apply their learning to their own context, and commit to a full course and all the assignments and depth of learning involved.

As such, these courses are intended to provide a level of mastery that most participants do not get from free or audited courses by simply reading or watching videos. This, we feel, makes a significant difference in the quality of their learning and in their ability to apply and adapt theories, research and professional wisdom to their own work, as well as gain academic skills AND get extensive feedback and advice from expert instructors and enthusiastic peers. In short, we see for-credit graduate courses as a “different bird” than free courses and webinars, and those who can make a financial commitment to them also get more than they would otherwise (in credits and in the educational experience itself).

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Q. Is there a reduced fee to take the course without credit (i.e., to audit the course)?

A. The Continuing and Professional Education unit at UMass Amherst, through which the online courses are offered, does not allow anyone to audit the online courses. This is a unit that is set up specifically to offer credit to students at a distance/online, and so it is specifically for participants who want credit. All universities charge for credit, even in face-to-face courses.

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Q. Is there a scholarship or financial aid available for this course? 

A. Unfortunately, the university does not offer scholarships for these courses and there is no financial aid available. However, previous course participants have been able to obtain some financial support from their employer for these courses. International NGOs and development agencies often have professional development support schemes for their staff. As these are university-accredited courses, they are usually eligible for such schemes. Do check with your employer if they provide such support.

If you are a Massachusetts state employee, you may be eligible for a tuition waiver which provides a 50% discount on course tuition. For more information, see http://www.umassulearn.net/financial-info/financial-aid. (Note that most financial aid through CPE is for U.S. citizens pursuing degree programs. Certificate courses such as these do not fall into this category).

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Q. How can I keep on learning after I finish the program? 

A. All course participants, whether you have taken one course or completed the whole program, are eligible to be members of the Early Grade Reading Community of Practice, an online professional learning community. As a member, you can continue discussing issues and sharing resources related to early grade reading with colleagues around the world.

If you are a course participant and have not yet joined the community, please email us at egrcert@umass.edu and we will send you an invitation.

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Q. How do I get more information about the course and/or Graduate Certificate?

A. Please contact:

egrcert@educ.umass.edu

Early Grade Reading Certificate Program
Center for International Education
College of Education, University of Massachusetts Amherst
813 North Pleasant St
Amherst, MA 01003

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