Being An Online Student

Being an online student allows you to continue to meet your work and family commitments while earning your degree. Every course has a syllabus that lays out the expectations for the semester ahead, so you’ll always know what’s coming up and when you’ll need to carve out extra time. Courses provide a mix of video lectures, reading, and discussion boards that allow you to interact with the material, your faculty member, and fellow students. 

BrightSpace is the software platform you will use to participate in your courses online. Based on the requirements of the course (as outlined in the syllabus), you may be accessing BrightSpace daily or weekly to read course materials, watch online lectures, participate in online discussion boards, and complete assignments, quizzes, and tests. Your professor may also use BrightSpace to post announcements and send emails to the class as a whole with reminders about assignments, as well as new and relevant current events. For more information on BrightSpace, please see our collection of informational videos.  

All the support that is available to on-campus students is also available to you online or over the phone. This includes technical support, advising, writing and tutoring support, and more. In addition, your instructor may hold weekly virtual office hours for you to seek help with the course material. For a list of online student resources, please click here.

Earn Credit for Prior Learning and Life Experience

The Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) office helps qualified students earn academic credit by demonstrating skills and knowledge from their work experiences–saving time and money as they finish their degrees.

Once you are admitted to the university, Transfer Affairs reviews all your previous academic coursework to determine which USM courses you have earned credit for.  If you have a military transcript (JST), Veterans Services reviews that document to see if you have earned any additional credit from those experiences. These processes happen automatically once you are admitted, assuming you’ve submitted all your transcripts.

CPL credit works a bit differently. Since there is no “transcript” that can adequately measure your learning from work, life and volunteer experience, CPL staff will work with you to determine the best ways to match your learning with your degree requirements.

The time needed to complete your degree will depend on previously earned credits and practical experience. Our Admissions team and Credit for Prior Learning experts are ready to help you develop a plan for you to finish your degree.

The CPL office posts credit for degree-seeking University of Southern Maine students who have successfully passed Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), Cambridge AICE (A-level), CLEP, DSST, or approved language exams.If you’d like to send exam scores for credit, please visit the CPL home page and click the “Send exam scores to USM” link in the left-hand menu for more information.

The CPL office offers several standardized exam options for credit. All of these can be taken on the Portland campus, and many can also be taken remotely. The CPL office will work with you to determine which exams are the best match for your learning and will help you progress in your degree. For more information on our standardized exam options, please visit this page.

In addition, some majors may offer challenge exams designed by USM faculty for specific courses. You should check with the CPL office to see if any of your degree requirements can be fulfilled through challenge exam.

University of Southern Maine students may be able to earn credit for certain state, national and industry certifications, if those credentials represent significant seat time and learning comparable to that encountered in the college classroom.  Credentials must be current (not expired) and not provisional to be reviewed by the CPL office.

A list of the CPL office’s most frequently reviewed credentials can be found at this link.

Academic portfolios are documents degree-seeking University of Southern Maine students assemble to show how learning from their professional experiences, community work, or their own personal interests meets one or more of their degree requirements. In addition to saving time and money, portfolio students develop their ability to think critically and connect academic theories to their learning. 

Portfolios usually involve a cover letter, resume, extended essay and/or presentation, and documentation of student learning experiences. Depending on the degree, portfolios may be used to fulfill major, undergraduate core, or general elective credit requirements.

Getting Started with CPL

CPL staff are happy to talk with you anytime. However, the information we’ll be able to give you will depend on where you are in application process. While you’re applying , we will be able to tell you how CPL generally works in your prospective major. Once you’ve been admitted and your academic/military credits posted to your record, we’ll be able to craft a CPL plan based on your specific learning and what is allowed within your major. 

For more information on CPL policies and opportunities within USM majors, please visit this link

To meet with the CPL office, please contact us directly at or 207-780-4663.

Innovative and Rigorous Education

Technology That Works For You!

Brightspace is the University of Southern Maine’s  web-based Learning Management System for traditional and online courses. Brightspace provides a platform for instructors to post course documents, lectures, assignments and exams,in addition to collaborative learning experiences such as discussion forums and more.

Brightspace creates a Collaborative environment that is Accessible anywhere and enables Interactive and Personalized learning.

Our asynchronous online classes mean you can fit study time around your busy schedule. You will engage with classmates virtually on your own time and schedule.

D2L is committed to performing key application testing on new browsers. Due to the frequency of some browser releases, D2L cannot guarantee that each browser version will perform as expected. If you encounter problems with any of the browser versions listed below, contact D2L support, who will give you the best course of action for a resolution. Reported issues are prioritized by supported browsers and then maintenance browsers.

‍Supported browsers are the latest or most recent browser versions that are tested against new D2L products. Customers can report problems and receive support for issues with supported browsers. For an optimal experience, D2L recommends using supported browsers with D2L products. You can access Brightspace Learning Environment with retro or legacy browsers (specific older versions of supported browsers); however, D2L does not test Brightspace Learning Environment against these older versions. This means you may encounter unexpected user interface behavior and appearance, or broken and unsupported functionality. In most cases, D2L does not provide technical support or fix software defects experienced in retro and legacy browsers.D2L does not provide technical support for unsupported browsers.

‍Note the following:
Ensure that your browser has JavaScript and Cookies enabled.
We recommend using either the Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome browsers for D2L.

Supported Browsers:
Desktop Computers  

Brightspace Learning Environment is supported on the following desktop platforms with the latest browser versions: Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox

Tablet & Mobile Devices

Brightspace Learning Environment is supported on the following tablets and mobile devices with the latest browser versions: Apple Safari, Google Chrome