Q&A: Do Online Classes Meet at a Set Time?

For example, is the whole class and the instructor assigned to meet together in the online classroom or can I do my work when I have the time?

Answer: This is a great question. There are some schools and/or specific classes that offer both. Most schools offer asynchronous learning. This environment allows students to log in, complete assignments and participate in discussions at their discretion. Asynchronous learning is often easier for the student because you can study and submit work when you have time.

With that being said, most classes still have due dates. However, there isn't a designated time for the student to be online, as long as they meet the participation and due date guidelines. The following is an example of what a syllabus may say regarding student presence.

"For participation credit, students must be present in the discussion forum (4) four days each week and respond to 4 peers for each discussion question. Quizzes are due on Fridays at 11:59 p.m. and written assignments are due on Sundays at 11:59 p.m."

Under these guidelines, the students can go into the classroom and discussion forum, anytime they choose, as long as they are in the forum four days each week. The days and times are up to the student. The quiz can be taken any day/time of the week, as long as it's taken by Friday night and the same with assignments, due on Sunday night.

Asynchronous learning is the most common for online education due to its flexibility.

Some colleges/course are offered through synchronous learning. Synchronous learning means two or more people are communicating at the same time or in "real time". A great example of this type of learning is when students are in a "traditional" or "ground" class and meet every week for a specific time period. However, students can do the same in an online format, as well. The following is an example of what a syllabus may say when synchronous learning is a part of the online class.

"Each week, the instructor will provide a live, web lecture on Monday at 6 p.m. in the classroom. Attendance is encouraged to earn points towards participation. Students are also required to set (2) one-hour sessions per week to "virtually" meet with their groups to work on group assignments. The instructor will provide (2) two live, web tutoring sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8-9 p.m. Students are encouraged to meet with the instructor in the live-chat forum for assistance."

With synchronous learning, the students have the opportunity to meet together (in their groups) and with the instructor − "live" − so that instant feedback is provided.

There are many colleges/courses that offer a combination of both. There may be a time for live tutoring, but students can still work on their homework/assignment at their discretion (as long as it submitted by the due date). When looking for a school to attend, be sure to clarify whether their program offerings are asynchronous or synchronous or may vary.

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 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!