Online Learning Tour

Because the layout of courses can vary greatly, be sure to take a tour of the course early to familiarize yourself with its various sections. Here is a breakdown of the different common online course components:

Course information

Also referred to as: Classroom, Course Schedule, Calendar, Course Outline.

This is the heart of the course--the lecture hall so to speak. Here you will usually find all the material for the course, including grading policies, weekly deadlines, lecture materials, and online resources.

Testing Area

Etudes has a "Assignments, Tests & Quizzes" tool where you can take quizzes, exams, surveys, and practice tests.

In some custom-designed courses, instructors provide links to tests, quizzes, and tutorials in the course schedule, along with the deadlines.

There may be instructors that require proctored exams (mid-term or finals) to be taken on campus or another facility near you (to be arranged).

In many custom-designed courses, instructors provide links to course assignments. Under each assignment, they specify whether you must email your work as attachments or post it in the forum.


At the heart of most courses is the Discussions & Private messages area. It is also referred to as the forums area. This is where classroom interaction takes place: formal and informal discussions, exchanging of ideas, and asking/responding to course questions.

Make sure you understand the two types of online communication--one is not as flexible!

  • Most courses require some form of regular asynchronous communication, meaning users may log on at different times, whenever it is convenient. There are regular deadlines that you must meet; however, you get to plan class time to log on and complete activities.
  • Very few courses require synchronous communication (chat/ ICQ), meaning users must log on at the same time for scheduled discussions or teacher/student conferences.

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This orientation was originally developed by Vivie Sinou as part of a grant from the Chancellor's Office, CA, 1999-00, and was adapted for Foothill College. The pages were designed with ideas from Maricopa Center for Learning & Instruction, Illinois Online Network, and input from members of the California Community College Distance Learning Consortium.

Last Updated September 12, 2014
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