What to Expect in Your Online Classes

With everything moving to an online format in September, many students are unsure what their semester will look like. While we can’t tell you exactly what every professor is doing for their class, we can offer some insight to what it might look like.

To begin, all courses offered through the School of Computer Science that are normally delivered on campus and in person will be offered this fall using an alternative delivery “remote learning” format. Based on the learning outcomes for the course, instructors have chosen to offer their individual courses in one of two class formats: synchronous and asynchronous. These are designated in WebAdvisor as “AD-S” and “AD-A”, respectively, and will all depend on the instructor teaching the course and how they choose to format the learning.

Synchronous learning means that you will meet with your class in real time, just as you would if we were in-person, but from your computer wherever you might be! For these classes, the instructor may choose to meet synchronously for all scheduled time slots, or some subset of those time slots. Your instructor will inform you of their plan to use the assigned course time through normal course communication channels (e.g., the course outline, announcements on CourseLink, Moodle or via email, and/or during live lectures). Some instructors may choose to post recordings of lecture or lab sessions. Again, this will be communicated by the instructor. Some instructors may choose to supplement live lectures/labs/class meetings with posted videos, readings, etc.

Asynchronous learning happens on your own time, similar to a traditional Distance Education (DE) course. Your instructor will provide materials for you such as texts to read, lectures to view, and assignments to complete, it is up to you to complete these on your own time. Instructors will communicate through the course syllabus and announcements on CourseLink, Moodle, or email, what materials are required to know for scheduled assignments and/or exams.

Right now, your future instructors are working tirelessly to deliver the best possible learning experience for you in the fall. Some things that they are working on include:

  • Deciding how to use of our online platforms like CourseLink or Moodle for instructional material and learning. You will know what platform each class is using closer to the start of classes, as once again this is determined by the instructor.
  • Structuring both assignments and lab submissions to also be online, via the learning platforms, or other virtual environments (e.g. Google Lab) that your instructor may be using for the course.
  • Scheduling office hours for your instructor and TAs to be online via video communication (Zoom, Microsoft Teams etc.), email, or a chat format.
  • Determining whether access to a webcam or other digital video capability available for course use is going to be recommended; at this point, we are highly recommending this, and communicating via video may be even be required in some courses. For instance, you may be required to have a video interview with your professor or TA as an accountability check on certain submitted deliverables, for scheduled oral exams to ensure academic integrity and concept validity on assignments, and office hours to have your questions answered by a professor or TA. You may also require a webcam for final exams. Clarification on what equipment is needed for these different assessment types will be provided by your instructor at the beginning of the course.

While you may not know what every one of your classes are going to look like, expect your instructors to understand that online learning is new to a lot of people, probably both to you and to them! They are trying their hardest to deliver the best possible learning experience for you given these unexpected circumstances.