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July 06 / 2013

4 Basic Components of an Online Course

Currently, there are numerous online educational institutions offering various online courses and distance learning programs for the benefit of students who wish to gain access to quality education but are unable to due to financial or other constraints. Although these may vary, there are a few basic components of online courses that determine its quality and credibility. These are:

1. The learning management system: When students enroll themselves in an online course, they are later asked to log on to the online institute’s learning management system or LMS. This is a platform whereby students are free to view their course schedules and syllabuses, interact with faculty members and other fellow students, access relevant course material and view their financial summary. Although some schools design their own learning management systems, most colleges use Blackboard, Moodle and Desire2Learn, says Peter Shea, an education professor at the University at Albany—SUNY. Most of these systems are similar and fairly intuitive, he says.

2. Course materials: Almost every online course gives students access to course material relevant to the subject being studied. Students can either read e-books or order textbooks online. Others ways include podcasts, PowerPoint presentations, webcasts featuring lectures and instructional videos on sites such as TeacherTube. The idea is to give students the freedom to listen, read or watch assignments on their own schedule.

3. Assignments and group projects: Assignments, reports and projects are important aspects of a typical study program. When signed into the LMS, students will be able to find a list of assignments, reports and projects accompanied by their respective due dates. In addition, most students will be expected to participate in online discussion forums related to different subjects and topics. Once students log in to the LMS, they should find a list of assignments and due dates. Most students will be required to submit papers as well as participate in and moderate discussion boards.
In addition to papers and discussion boards, students are often asked to create blogs or projects demonstrating their subject knowledge.

4. Grading: Contrary to what most believe, grading assignments and exams online is very much possible as a result of the efficient LMS. Instructors are able to conduct tests and assessments through multiple choice questions or even major projects. To make sure students don't cheat on exams, many online educational institutes are making use of proctored tests. In some cases, students need to report to a physical location where they will be monitored. On other occasions, students are asked to use a webcam and take a proctored exam at their desk. To make sure the right person is taking the test, students can be asked to flash their photo identification into the camera.

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