Q&A: Differences in curricula between online and traditional courses

Answer: Online courses and "traditional" courses usually have the same curricula. Most online classes (not all) are derived from a "ground" or traditional course. In many cases, the main objectives and much of the content is the same. Depending on the length of the course, the difference may be the content is condensed and/or restructured for online students.

A general example of restructuring for the online environment is group assignments/group work. Since online classes consist of students from all over the world, group assignments are usually an important part of online learning. Group work allows students to interact with one-another and build peer relationships, as most students do in "traditional" classrooms. In a traditional class, if students are assigned to groups, this means physically meeting and preparing an assignment or project. Online, students communicate by phone, email, classroom forum, etc. Since you are unable to meet in person, you may be required to spend a specific amount of time in the group forum or to contribute a certain amount of responses.

A more specific example is an online public speaking class. In a traditional public speaking class, you would be required to actually do a speech (or multiple speeches), in class. Online (depending on the school and instructor), you may be required to submit a written speech and then find a speech online (through an academic or professional source) that demonstrates the assignment's objective(s). Also, an assignment may consist of reading a written speech and editing/commenting on the content. In a traditional class, the instructor would verbally demonstrate/model these tools for the students.

To answer your question about delivery, this depends on the length of the online class. If you have an option and the same online course is offered over 5 weeks or 8 weeks, the classes should have the same objectives and content (as mentioned earlier). Although the assignments are the same, the actual work load is increased in the 5 week course.

Dr. Beverley BrowningDr. Beverly A. Browning (Dr. Bev) has been a higher education adjunct faculty member for over 25 years. She has taught in the classroom and online for multiple colleges and universities including the University of Phoenix, Spring Arbor College, Baker College of Flint, Mott Community College, and Rio Salado College. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, Spring Arbor College and Mott Community College. She is currently an online instructor for ed2go.com (Cengage Learning). In addition to founding and directing the Grant Writing Training Foundation, Dr. Bev is also Vice President of Grants Professional Services for eCivis, Inc. She is the author over over 37 grant-related publications and a frequent keynote speaker and workshop presenter for national and regional conferences. Dr. Bev is a product of lifelong learning and an advocate for online teaching and learning!