Types of courses

This page defines the different types of courses offered at uOttawa: in-class, online, synchronous and asynchronous, as well as hybrid, to help you differentiate between them and decide which one is right for your context.

What types of courses are there?

When you consult the course schedule tool in uoCampus, you will notice a variety of teaching modes (course types), and it is not always easy to understand what they correspond to. The University prioritizes two administrative criteria (location and schedule) to distinguish the four main types of courses offered. These types include the following variants: in-class, online - synchronous (e.g. via Zoom), online - asynchronous (e.g. via modules in Virtual Campus – Brightspace) and, since Fall 2023, in hybrid mode.

The addition of this last type of course to the University's offering will enable students to benefit from greater flexibility in their learning, by combining face-to-face (classroom) and online (distance) sessions.

A key thing to keep in mind about the different course formats is that the type of course does not alter our expectations regarding the quantity or quality of work required for student success. It is important to understand the characteristics of each type of course to get the best out of whichever one(s) you will be using. This will enable you to plan an optimal learning experience, respond to students’ needs and preferences, and integrate best practices into your educational choices. 

Instruction

Click on the following four tabs to discover the main course types. We recommend that you consult the In-class, Online - synchronous and Online - asynchronous tabs before consulting the In hybrid mode tab, to fully understand the nuances.

Enjoy your exploration!

 

Additional terms you may come across: face-to-face, in person, on-site, traditional courses, etc.

Une salle de classe à l'Université d'Ottawa illustrant un ordinateur et un projecteur.

Scheduled time in an assigned classroom

All students are in the classroom with the instructor. Learning activities are carried out in real time in a classroom, which has been reserved for the term at regularly scheduled times on specific days.

For example: Mondays from 8:30 am to 11:20 am in VNR 1095

An in-class course is not just a lecture. On the contrary! There are many instructional and technological options to keep your class active and engaged in their learning.

In addition to lectures, you can use interactive approaches and tools such as collaborative activities, discussions, hands-on exercises, and polls to encourage interaction and engagement by the entire class.

For example, the use of real-time surveys can help to gather opinions or identify misunderstandings so that you can adapt your presentation accordingly. 

By promoting active participation and leveraging the possibilities offered by technology, the in-class course can become an enriching learning experience, fostering interaction, engagement and student success. Another benefit is that your teaching will become much more enjoyable!

Did you know?

Course recording and real-time virtual broadcasting are winning inclusive practices!

All the classrooms on campus have the equipment needed to quickly and easily broadcast classroom lectures synchronously online.

You can take advantage of these technologies to expand the physical boundaries of your classroom. This can enable you to accommodate students who are unable to attend class for various reasons (illness, distance, etc.) or to invite colleagues or specialists who can't physically come to campus.

A classroom at the University of Ottawa featuring a computer and a projector.

 

Additional terms you may come across: distance learning, videoconferencing, Zoom, Teams, etc.

Une salle de classe à l'Université d'Ottawa illustrant un ordinateur et un projecteur.

Scheduled time but no assigned room

All students are present online via a web conferencing platform with their instructor. Learning activities are carried out virtually and in real time on specific days at regularly scheduled times.

For example: Mondays from 1 pm to 2:20 pm via Zoom

An online synchronous course is very similar to an in-class course since they both take place in real time. However, the online course is delivered via a web conferencing platform like Zoom or MS Teams rather than in a classroom. In much the same way as an in-class course, an online synchronous course is not limited to lecturing. Instead, it can also leverage the many instructional and technological options available to actively involve students in their learning and keep them engaged.

In addition to streaming the course live online, you could use interactive tools such as surveys, small-group discussions, collaborative activities or practical exercises in breakout rooms to foster student interaction and engagement. For example, as with an in-class course, the use of real-time surveys can be helpful in gathering opinions or identifying misunderstandings, so that you can adapt your presentation accordingly. Online discussions encourage exchange, enabling students to ask questions, share ideas and collaborate with their peers.

Furthermore, you can take advantage of multimedia resources, such as videos, images and interactive simulations, to make the content more lively and stimulating. This will help to keep your students' attention and promote reflection.

Did you know that?

Netiquette rules are important for creating a respectful and positive learning environment online.

In order to raise students' awareness of online etiquette, or netiquette, it is recommended to establish clear guidelines at the very first virtual meeting. We suggest two resources to help you with that.

A student wearing a headset and taking part in an online synchronous course using a laptop.

 

Additional terms you may come across: web, Internet, online, MOOC, etc.

Une salle de classe à l'Université d'Ottawa illustrant un ordinateur et un projecteur.

Flexible schedule, no assigned room

All activities are online but, unlike the online synchronous course, this course is offered asynchronously. This means instructors and students access the content online (via our Virtual Campus - Brightspace), at different times and from different locations. Students work more independently and fit their course work in when their schedule permits making asynchronous learning a more flexible option for learners. There are still deadlines for activities, discussions, handing in assignments, assessments, etc.

An online asynchronous course requires a certain degree of autonomy and digital literacy skills on the part of all learners since most activities are carried out independently. In this context, a supportive approach is essential to effectively guide the learning process. For an online asynchronous course to be successful, the class must be active and engaged. To achieve this, you will need to design relevant activities to be carried out individually or in small groups.

The organization of learning activities and the clarity of instructions play a crucial role in this type of course. It is essential to provide clear, detailed instructions for each activity, including the objectives, expectations and deadlines.

Many online asynchronous courses incorporate video components to maintain motivation and support learning. Best instructional practices favor short video excerpts combined with a viewing guide that clearly describes the objectives of the activity, key questions to consider and a link to an integrating activity (e.g., an individual reflection and/or a forum discussion). The aim is to encourage students to actively take part in their own learning.

Did you know that?

The length of a video has a significant impact on learning.

Instructional best practice dictates that video clips should be "short". According to research by Guo et al. (2014), videos should be less than six minutes long. A more recent study by Lackmann et al. (2021) concurs, stating that short videos (between six and eight minutes) designed strategically (using images, relevant infographics, animations) will aid in maintaining attention and cognitive engagement, resulting in increased student success.

A photo of a stopwatch.

 

Additional terms you may come across: flexible, blended, flipped classroom, etc.

Une salle de classe à l'Université d'Ottawa illustrant un ordinateur et un projecteur.

Alternating between a set schedule and assigned room; and a set and/or flexible schedule with no assigned room

The hybrid mode has been around for several years in various forms. It is increasingly used in higher education because of the pedagogical advantages it brings by combining the strengths of online teaching (for example, exploration of theoretical concepts in a synchronous or asynchronous virtual context) with classroom teaching (practical application of these theoretical concepts, interaction and discussion with peers and the teaching team to deepen knowledge and skills).

By definition, the hybrid course can make use of the full range of instructional strategies available. If strategic transitions are planned between classroom and online modes, it is possible to incorporate learning activities in both delivery modes that enhance the quality of the learning as well as your teaching experience.

In order to provide guidance to students when registering for a hybrid course, the Provost's Office proposes three formats that are officially included in the University of Ottawa Registrar's databank.

A course with two classes per week

In the example below, the professor meets with students for the first class of the week in the classroom at FSS 1006 every Monday morning from 8:30 to 9:50 am. A second class is scheduled for Thursdays from 10:00 to 11:20 am but this time the class is offered online and synchronously (e.g., via Zoom or MS Teams). This means that only half of the scheduled classes (one per week for the duration of the term) will be held in a dedicated room on campus.

CourseWeekActivityScheduleLocationInstructional approach
CRM3XXX 1LEC 1
LEC 2
Monday 8:30 – 9:50 am
Thursday 10:00 – 11:20 am
FSS 1006
Online
In person
Virtual
CRM3XXX 2LEC 3
LEC 4
Monday 8:30 – 9:50 am
Thursday 10:00 – 11:20 am
FSS 1006
Online
In person
Virtual

Although a specific time slot is reserved, the professor can plan an asynchronous learning module (without the need for real-time virtual presence), to better suit the particularities of the course. It is even possible to alternate between synchronous and asynchronous modes, depending on the learning outcomes targeted and the pedagogical benefits for students. Thus, the 12 online (virtual) sessions offer greater flexibility for the professor.

A course with one class per week

In the example below, during odd-numbered weeks, the professor meets with students in room 070 of Tabaret Hall on Tuesday evenings from 7:00 to 9:50 pm for in-class activities. On even-numbered weeks, learning activities take place online. Therefore, on-campus space is reserved for only half of the scheduled classes (only six out of 12 classes for the term).

The reverse is also possible, with odd-numbered weeks online and even-numbered weeks in class.

CourseWeekActivityScheduleLocationInstructional approach
ADM1XXX1LEC 1 Tuesday 7 p.m. – 9:50 p.m.TBT 070 In person
ADM1XXX2LEC 2 Tuesday 7 p.m. – 9:50 p.m.OnlineVirtual
ADM1XXX3LEC 3Tuesday 7 p.m. – 9:50 p.m.TBT 070In person
ADM1XXX4LEC 4Tuesday 7 p.m. – 9:50 p.m.OnlineVirtual

Again, it is important to note that planned online (virtual) sessions can take different forms. The professor could plan an asynchronous learning module (without the need for a real-time virtual presence), to better suit the particularities of the course. It is even possible to alternate between synchronous and asynchronous modes, depending on the learning outcomes targeted and the pedagogical benefits for students. Thus, the six online (virtual) sessions offer greater flexibility for the professor.

A course that includes a discussion group or a tutorial

For this third format, the pattern alternates based on the type of activity (theoretical versus practical).

In the example below, the professor meets weekly with students at STE B0138 on Tuesday mornings from 8:30 to 11:20 am for in-class activities. In contrast, tutorial sessions (TUT) take place on Fridays from 2:30 to 3:50 pm and they are all offered online (virtual).   

CourseWeekActivityScheduleLocationInstructional approach
GNG2XXX1LEC 1 Tuesday 8:30 a.m. – 11:20 a.m.STE B0138 In person
GNG2XXX1TUT 1 Friday 2:30 p.m. – 3:50 p.m.OnlineVirtual
GNG2XXX 2LEC 2 Tuesday 8:30 a.m. – 11:20 a.m.STE B0138In person
GNG2XXX2TUT 2 Friday 2:30 p.m. – 3:50 p.m.OnlineVirtual

Note that the reverse is also possible. That is, the professor could offer the course online and the tutorial (TUT) or discussion group (DGD) could take place in the classroom.

Did you know that?

The hybrid course should be based on the best aspects of classroom teaching and online learning.

As described by Uskov (2023), the ultimate goal of a hybrid course is "to take advantage of the strengths of both online and in-person learning environments to create a dynamic, highly effective and engaging educational experience for students" (page 4). Therefore, designing a hybrid course will require a bit more time to choose wisely and ensure coherence between the two learning environments.

A student at the library works on an online module.

Summary

Once the type of course has been determined or chosen, it is important to evaluate all the content to be covered, choose the appropriate modality for each of the sessions scheduled during the term and plan how they will be delivered, whether in class or online (synchronously or asynchronously).

How to choose the type of course?

It is not always possible to choose your course type, but in an ideal world, this choice is an important step in course design. 

It is a decision that requires both thought and consideration. How can you learn from the best practices of various course types and adapt your practices to optimize learning and promote student success?

Here are some questions to get you started.

Want to explore further?

Besides the many teaching strategies (short lectures, discussion, case studies, simulations, problem-solving, etc.) that can be implemented in a classroom-only course, other types of courses require more substantial use of technology.

Remember that Virtual Campus (Brightspace) is the platform offered by the University of Ottawa, and that you can get personalized support by visiting the Teaching Technologies Lab at Vanier Hall, Room 1022. Virtual appointments are also available.

Other technologies may also prove useful for the type of course you will be teaching.  

For an in-class course, discover the technologies that will be available in your classroom and familiarize yourself with the functionalities of a multimedia podium. If you want to increase student participation in your classroom sessions, explore the potential of the Wooclap tool, which lets you design polls that can be answered live by your students.

References

Guo, P. J., Kim, J., & Rubin, R. (2014). How video production affects student engagement: an empirical study of MOOC videos. In Proceedings of the first ACM conference on Learning @ scale conference (L@S '14). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 41–50. https://doi.org/10.1145/2556325.2566239

Lackmann, S., Léger, P.-M., Charland, P., Aubé, C. & Talbot, J. (2021). The Influence of Video Format on Engagement and Performance in Online Learning. Brain Sciences 11(2): 128.

Uskov, V. (2023). Smart Education: Students’ Perception of Hybrid Learning in Graduate Computing Curriculum. In, Uskov, V.L., Howlett, R.J., & Jain, L.C. (eds) Smart Education and e-Learning—Smart University. Smart Innovation, Systems and Technologies, vol 355. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-99-2993-1_1

A professor talks with two students

Do you need additional support?

Your commitment to best practices in pedagogy, inclusion and academic integrity, regardless of the type of course, will have a major impact on the student experience. If you want to succeed, don't hesitate to consult the TLSS specialists. We will answer your questions and offer suggestions specific to your course and context.

Request a consultation

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