Students either receive assignments via email or access them through a designated online learning portal - which is commonly located on their school's website. Although learners may need to purchase textbooks independently, supplemental reading material is also usually posted online. Students may need to download PDFs or play streaming videos, and some media requires the use of specific software and extensions.
Assignments and tests may be emailed to the professor or submitted through the learning portal directly. Some assignments can be turned in at students' discretion, but exams are usually due by a certain date and may even need to be taken live with a remote proctor or at an approved location in the student's area.
Students communicate not only with instructors but also with their peers. Addressing either an individual or group, they may asynchronously post to discussion boards or send e-mails. In real time, they may send instant messages or participate in scheduled chats. Web cams are also used along with software such as Skype to facilitate live, face-to-face discussions.
Technological requirements vary widely according to field of study; for example, a sound engineer may need to have specific music editing software while an accountant may need to purchase QuickBooks. However, all students must have an:
Self-paced learning is usually allowed in non-credit online courses, and, while individual lessons are done at the student's convenience, the entire course often must be completed by a deadline. Students must ensure they meet technology requirements.