While design and media elements vary within individual courses, online courses offered through Continuing and Distance Education include two basic formats: semester-based (“paced”) and guided independent study (“open”). Unlike synchronous instruction in which learners and instructor are connected in real time, both semester-based and guided independent study online courses utilize asynchronous instruction in which students determine (within parameters) their instructional time frame and when they access learning materials. Both semester-based and guided independent study courses are designed and delivered using eLearning as a learning management system. Online courses will be conducted almost exclusively via the web, although print and other supporting materials will be incorporated as appropriate.

Semester-based (or “term-based”) courses typically follow a schedule in which the instruction begins and ends within traditional semester time frames, or within a set number of weeks as agreed to by the instructor and Continuing and Distance Education. These courses are “paced” in that a group of students move through a series of modules together in the same general time frame. Students in paced courses have great flexibility in accessing material as they have time, with assignments due at prescribed times. Because students are moving through the material as a cohort group, interaction between learners may be incorporated into the design of the course.

Guided independent study courses are “open” in that students may enroll at any time and take up to one year to complete a course. Students work independently on structured lessons at their own pace, submit assignments online, and communicate directly with the instructor. Interaction in guided independent study courses is primarily between the instructor and student, although courses may incorporate learning activities that involve interaction with others.