What are the different types of online courses?

Learning and instruction in online courses can happen in many different formats or modes. Two major modes are synchronous (real-time, everyone together at the same time) and asynchronous (self-paced or flexible – activities do not necessarily take place at the same time). We have created a guide that highlights the benefits and drawbacks of each mode and how to decide when you might use each.


What does a typical week include?

Online courses typically include key elements, such as a course overview, learning outcomes, assessments, instructional materials, and learner interaction.  A week (or module) in an online course might include

  • An introduction or overview explaining what is expected
  • Instructional content in the form of videos or web pages
  • Assessment or learning activities that students interact with
  • Facilitation and feedback from the instructor.

We have created a template course in Brightspace to help get you started. Learn more about our fully customizable course template. As always, keep an eye on workload


Strategies for teaching online

Be visible and present

Schedule times to meaningfully engage with students at least a few times a week by posting announcements, answering questions, providing tips on assignments, giving grades and feedback and hosting office hours. This is especially important if your class is mainly asynchronous (i.e., does not have a real-time session).

Keep things simple and flexible

In your treaching, consider the unprecented circumstances we all find ourselves in this year. Keep things simple and mangeable. Wherever possible provide flexibility – allow students multiple different ways to participate and demonstrate their learning. Not only is this important for student well being, it is also a cornerstone of universal design for learning.


Provide clear expectations for students

Students may not know what is expected of them in an online course. From the start, let students know how you expect them to participate and how to navigate your course. During the course, provide guidance through weekly announcements, office hours, rubrics, etc. If using technology, such as lab simulations, for experiential learning, provide clear instructions and guidelines for students on how to interact with the technology.

Keep an eye on balance

Set boundaries for your participation. Provide times when you are available. Facilitate peer conversation instead of responding to every post in a discussion forum. Keep an eye on student workload which can inadvertently increase when moving a course online.


Streamline course organization and flow

It is critical to organize your Brightspace site in a way that helps students know what to do and when. Make things accessible in as few clicks as possible. Learn more about strategies for organizing your course. Use the fully customizable Brightspace template.

Look for ways to be yourself

Online courses can feel like they lack human connection and can feel isolating. Find ways to infuse your personality in your online course. For example, write conversationally, post a profile image, make video announcements. Find ways for students to do the same.


Deliver content in multiple ways

Consider attention span when creating content. Instead of a 90-minute lecture video, try shorter videos interspersed with text explanations, resources, or opportunities for interaction and feedback like a quick poll.

Help students keep on track

Give students regular opportunities to interact at least once every week with the content and their peers. Opinion polls, low stakes quizzes, or discussion forums can create accountability.


Adapt assessments

Assessments may not directly translate to an online context. Instead of trying to replicate in person assessments online, modify them as needed to ensure they enable students to demonstrate that they have attained the intended learning outcomes.

Choose technology wisely

Learning a new tool can be time consuming so use only the technology needed. Use UVic technology when possible and consider FIPPA privacy legislation.

Create an inclusive classroom

 Identify accommodations students may need (e.g. extended time on assessments, transcripts for audio and video, descriptive text on images) and create as few barriers as possible.


Strategies for managing time online

Online courses can feel overwhelming as they are open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Without a regular face to face class, it can feel like you should be on the course site at all times. Check out our tips and strategies to keep your online course manageable for both you or your students.


Is there an example or template I can use?

Moving content into an empty course shell can be a daunting task, so we have created a template course in Brightspace to help get you started. Learn more about our fully customizable course template.

About this post

This post was last updated:

April 28, 2021

We acknowledge and respect the Lək̓ʷəŋən (Songhees and Esquimalt) Peoples on whose territory the university stands, and the Lək̓ʷəŋən and W̱SÁNEĆ Peoples whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day.

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