All About Online Courses

Online courses are becoming a popular way to learn as they offer students ultimate flexibility and let them learn at their own pace. As many of us have only ever experienced classroom learning, it can be difficult to get our heads around the concept of online learning. This article aims to give you an introduction to online courses by finding out how they work.

Features of an online course

Features of an online course can be broken down into two categories, synchronous and asynchronous. As their names imply, synchronous features require all the members of a class to be online at the same time whereas asynchronous content does not.


In a classroom discussion, student's thoughts and ideas are voiced in real-time and complicated ideas or theories explained to them by their professor. A number of online programs can be used to do this, such as text chat rooms and video conferencing. In addition, your online college may use web conferencing. This type of interaction uses more media and offers a more interactive experience, which makes web conferencing great for lectures!


Email is the predominant form of asynchronous content as it gives students the opportunity to discuss and quiz other students and professors. As opposed to having a traditional library, online courses have large virtual libraries where all the relevant course content, such as eBooks, presentations and lecture notes are stored. This online location means that students can access files wherever and whenever they like—much more convenient than a normal library!

Types of Assessment

In general, the assessment procedures for online courses do not vary much from traditional class-room based courses. Students are expected to complete a number of written assignments, ranging from essays through to extended research projects. The only difference is how they submit their essays. Usually online students email completed course work the appropriate professor or there is an online submission program that they use.

Online courses often require group projects. Again, these work in the same way as traditional group projects however students communicate online as opposed to meeting in person.

On the other hand, the procedures for test and exams are quite different for online courses. In some cases students will have to sit a written exam at a special test center in their local area. However, in most cases tests can be taken online. These can range from regular multiple choice tests to exams that require longer answers.

You may also find that you are graded on your online involvement with the course. Professors assess participation by looking at how regularly you comment on the message boards and what sorts of comments you make: do you make simple, infrequent