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. Beginning in Fall 2020, students will see these modalities listed when choosing classes. These modalities are clearly defined below 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 to 11:00. All other learning activities would be moved to an asynchronous online format.
This modality allows for increased enrollment in on-campus classes under social distancing conditions, by alternating groups of students who attend any given scheduled time. The instructor repeats the same material twice for the separate groups of students, and students complete other learning activities asynchronously online to offset their reduced face-to-face classroom time.
The following modalities do not require a physical classroom. All course activities are conducted online asynchronously and/or via synchronous videoconferencing.
Asynchronous online classes have been the default modality for online learning at DePaul up until the COVID pandemic. 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 format is similar to the standard, on-campus modality in that class meetings occur at scheduled times throughout the quarter just as they would in a face-to-face course. However, instead of meeting in person, students and instructors meet online via a videoconferencing tool such as Zoom.
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. Dates and times for synchronous meetings must be visible to students when registering for the course.
The following modalities require an on-campus classroom that is equipped with Zoom hardware and software. For fall 2020, DePaul is equipping a set of rooms with technology to enable some class members to be physically present while others access the class online at the same time through Zoom. Two different set-ups are being implemented, each with its own unique advantages and disadvantages:
This class consists of a section that meets on campus in a Zoom-enabled room at a specific time on a specific day, linked to a section that meets at the same time on Zoom. Students sign up for either the face-to-face section or the Zoom section and participate through the selected modality throughout the course. (The two sections are encoded in PeopleSoft, respectively, as an on-campus course with a specified room, and as Online: Sync - Classroom Link.)
Like "On-Campus Plus Zoom,” this class consists of students who meet on campus in a Zoom enabled room at a specific time on a specific day, along with students who meet at the same time on Zoom. The difference is that most students will alternate between meeting on campus and meeting on Zoom, while some students will meet only on Zoom. This modality allows for increased enrollment in on-campus classes under social distancing conditions, while at the same time offering a fully online synchronous modality to students who may be unable or unwilling to come to campus.
All these classes will be scheduled in Zoom-enabled rooms. If you are teaching ABC 101 scheduled as a Hybrid:Alternating-Sync with an overall schedule of T-TH 9:30 - 11:00, you will have one group of your students in class on Tuesday and on Zoom on Thursday, a second group in class on Thursday and on Zoom on Tuesday, while a third group will always be on Zoom. Students self-select by registering for one of the three sections, with a clearly visible meeting pattern. (The three sections are encoded in PeopleSoft, respectively, as two on-campus hybrid with a specified room, and one Online: Sync - Classroom Link.)
This class consists of a section that meets on campus in a Zoom-enabled room at a specific time on a specific day, linked to an online asynchronous section that may utilize recordings of the on-campus section. Students in the online asynchronous section have the option of connecting via Zoom, if and when they are available, with the live classroom and the instructor. This modality is most commonly used in CDM. The two sections are encoded in PeopleSoft, respectively, as an on-campus course with a specified room, and one Online: Asynch (Synch-Option).
Questions? Talk to the instructional designer assigned for your college/school.