Teaching Commons > Teaching Guides > Course Design > Course Modalities
Course modality refers to how a course is offered by the instructor. For many years there was only one option available: On-campus instruction. As the field and practice of distance education and online learning has matured, the number of course modalities has increased as well.
DePaul has been offering training programs on developing quality online learning for over a decade. Until recently, the vast majority of online classes have been asynchronous; that is, all course content is housed in D2L, and any live video meetings or other “real-time” interactions have been an enhancement to the course experience but not a requirement for students to attend. As technology tools for remote synchronous meetings have improved and gained widespread use, instructors and students now have more options for how they connect.
Below, you’ll find an overview of different course modalities and key considerations for each. These modalities are described so that you will be better equipped to design the best possible learning experience for your students. In addition, students will be able to register for courses with a clearer understanding of two key factors:
Discuss Options with Your Unit/Department
Your academic unit may have specific modalities that are preferred, discouraged, or limited. Be sure to discuss your preferred course format(s) with your department chair or program administrator before investing time in a redesign of your course materials and teaching plans.
As you review the different modalities available, you may find it helpful to view the matrix at the end of this section. It provides an at-a-glance view of key features and requirements for each modality.
The following modalities all require students to come to an on-campus traditional classroom that does not include technology for videoconferencing or recording of class meetings.
This is the mode of instruction that you’re likely most familiar with. These class sessions meet in person on the specified day(s) and times, throughout the term.
These class sessions blend in-person sessions on the specified day(s) and times with online asynchronous learning opportunities (e.g., video-lectures, online activities, discussions). For example, instead of teaching a traditional, on-campus course that meets T-TH 9:30 - 11:00, all of your students would only come to campus on Tuesdays, from 9:30 - 11:00. All other learning activities would be moved to an asynchronous online format.
The following modalities do not require a physical classroom. All course activities are conducted online via synchronous videoconferencing and/or asynchronously.
Asynchronous online classes have been the default modality for online learning at DePaul since the early 2000s. There are no set meeting times, and course content is available to you and students 24/7 via D2L. If an instructor offers synchronous meeting opportunities in this modality, student attendance should be optional and students who cannot attend should not be penalized.
This class meets at scheduled times via a video conferencing tool, such as Zoom. The scheduled meetings cover the entirety of the required contact hours for the course.
Online hybrid blends asynchronous and synchronous online formats, with 30% or more of the learning activities designated as asynchronous online. Synchronous videoconference meetings are scheduled and occur using tools like Zoom. It is important to establish dates and times of synchronous meetings in advance. This allows the information to be included in the scheduling system so that students can build their course schedules with that information in mind.
The following modalities require an on-campus classroom that is equipped with Zoom hardware and software. These classrooms allow some students to be physically present while others access the class online at the same time through Zoom. Two different set-ups are being implemented:
This class meets on campus in a Zoom-enabled room. Students are free to attend on-campus or synchronously on Zoom and may change their attendance location anytime throughout the quarter. All learning activities, including assessments, are planned in an equitable manner, serving both student audiences. There is no expectation for students to attend in-person learning activities, including assessments.
All classes are automatically recorded. Recordings are automatically uploaded to D2L and are available in a folder that is by default hidden from students. Instructors have full control over student access to the recordings. Note all course materials, including class recordings, are governed by the University’s course access policy.
This class meets on campus in a Zoom-enabled room. It offers two sections for students to choose from: a Flex section where students can participate in person or in Zoom, and a Zoom-only section (called Online: Sync-Classroom Link in PeopleSoft).
This class meets on campus in a Zoom-enabled room. It offers two sections for students to choose from: a regular face-to-face section where in-person attendance is required and a Zoom-only section (called Online: Sync-Classroom Link in PeopleSoft). Students register for either the on-campus section or the Zoom section. Students need instructor’s permission to switch sections.
This class meets on campus in a Zoom-enabled room. It offers two sections for students to choose from: an on-campus section (typically Flex but could also be regular on campus) and an online asynchronous section. Students in the online asynchronous section have the option to join the on-campus class via Zoom, if and when they are available. All students can review recordings of the live classes. All classes are automatically recorded and can be accessed via the course D2L page. Note all course material, including class recordings, are governed by the University’s course access policy.
The two sections are encoded in PeopleSoft, respectively, as an on-campus course with a specified room, and an Online: Asynch (Synch-Option).
Questions? Talk to the
instructional designer assigned for your college/school.