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How Does Online Learning Work?

CSU online courses are housed within a learning-management system or on web sites with instructors delivering content to you through a variety of media including video, text, assessments, projects and discussion forums.

What to expect as an online student at Colorado State University

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Learning Resources

Canvas, CSU's learning platform, creates an intuitive, easy-to-use environment that empowers you to meet learning outcomes in every course. Within Canvas, you can expect the following types of resources and assignments:

  • Recorded lectures from on-campus sessions for the same course you are taking, i.e. asynchronous learning
  • Instructor lecture video recordings from their office or in the field
  • Real-time sessions, also known as synchronous learning
  • Other videos from online sources
  • Podcast recordings of the instructor or other narrated presentations
  • Audio recordings from online sources
  • Peer-reviewed research, articles, and journals
  • Blog posts
  • Textbooks
  • Articles from online sources
  • Discussion forums
  • Tests and quizzes
  • Projects completed individually or as part of a team
  • Written, video or audio assignments
  • Proctoring tools
    • Instructors often use proctoring to ensure the academic integrity of course assessments

Learning in any environment requires a certain level of independence, motivation, and time management. Across a broad range of disciplines, we have seen students from diverse backgrounds, age groups, and levels of technological skill succeed while learning online.

Technology Requirements

The basic technology requirements for our courses are minimal. Access to the Internet (desktop or laptop computer, tablet, smartphone, etc.) and possibly a webcam (microphone usually included) are the most typical. Some courses may require additional software to complete assignments and collaborate with classmates, all of which will all be available online or within the course.

Who You Learn From

CSU's online courses are taught by the same faculty and instructors who teach on-campus students. All of our instructors bring foundational knowledge, as well as their personal experience and perspective, into their online courses. Because of this, our online programs come with the same challenges, expectations, and reputation as on-campus programs, which is why you earn the same degree as your on-campus peers after completing the degree requirements.

Course Delivery Formats

Synchronous Courses

Much like a traditional in-person class, you will attend a synchronous online course during set days and times. Students are expected to log into the learning management system and/or conferencing application to participate in “real time.” You may also complete some of your coursework or assessments asynchronously before or after your live class time period. Your instructor may also utilize tools like message boards to facilitate discussions outside of class, or assign students to smaller discussion or project groups. In some cases, a synchronous online course may be conducted concurrently with an on-campus course via live lecture capture video (also known as Hybrid Courses). In other cases, an online course is conducted as a stand-alone course with no concurrent on-campus component.

Blended Courses

Some programs combine online learning with classroom instruction. Course instruction is provided to students through the online delivery methods described above, as well as in the classroom with other students and the instructors. The amount of time that students are required to be in a physical classroom varies, so it is important to check each program or course webpage for detailed information.

Asynchronous Courses

Asynchronous online courses allow students to watch lectures or presentations, read materials, and complete coursework on their own schedule. However, students are still given a set timeframe – such as a one-week window – during which they must log in and complete their coursework for that period. This gives students greater flexibility to work studying into their weekly schedule, but also ensures all students in a class progress through the course material in roughly the same timeframe.

Self-Paced Courses

Self-paced online courses have no synchronous components and allow students to complete all coursework and assessments at any time between the course start and end dates. It is entirely up to the student to manage their time so they may complete all coursework, projects, and/or assessments before the course concludes.