4 Basic Components of an Online Course

Online courses usually involve learning management systems and group projects.

Although online courses vary, you’re likely to use video, audio and discussion boards in your digital classroom.
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[Explore how to network in an online MBA program.]

4. Grading: Although some students might wish otherwise, testing and assessments play a significant role in the virtual classroom. The way instructors grade students varies, experts say. Some will give multiple choice tests graded by the computer, while others will rely more on papers or major projects.

To make sure students don't cheat on exams, Albany's Shea says it's increasingly common for schools to use proctored tests. In some cases, students need to report to a physical location where they will be monitored. On other occasions, students are asked to use a webcam and take a proctored exam at their desk. To make sure the right person is taking the test, students can be asked to flash their photo identification into the camera.

In general, Shea says, instructors familiar with their students' work product are quick to notice when someone might be taking advantage of the system.

"It's actually easy to get to know your students from the quality of work they submit," he says. "In some ways that inhibits breaches of academic integrity."

Trying to fund your online education? Get tips and more in the U.S. News Paying for Online Education center.