One question most new students have about online courses is a broad one: how do they work? With all the different approaches and changing technologies in online education, we know some additional detail will help prospective students make an informed choice. Here are the key features:
- 100% online. Online students will submit all work electronically in CFRM courses, and there is never a requirement that you come to the UW campus in Seattle.
- Fixed dates, not on demand. Online students are enrolled in the same courses, doing the same work, and learning from the same lectures by the same instructors as the classroom section. That means that courses have regular meeting schedules between 8am and 8pm Pacific time, and assignments are due for all students on the same dates and times.
- However, live attendance is not required for online students–class meetings are recorded and available for you to watch on your own time.
- Because of the weekly due dates, online students must keep up with the class during the quarter.
- Proctored exams. Online students will need to find a suitable proctor at a convenient location to monitor midterm and final exams. CFRM will only send the exams to, and will only accept completed exams from, your approved proctor.
- Online students who are located in the Greater Seattle area may take exams on campus if there is extra space in the assigned classroom. Check with your instructor or TA if you are interested.
- Varied media. Courses are delivered using multiple software tools, all of which require a high-speed internet connection and may require the installation of browser plugins or other software.
- The majority of CFRM courses use Mediasite, a high-definition lecture capture service that provides a picture-in-picture feed with both video of the class and a digital capture of the projector. These courses are broadcast live via the web, become available for streaming playback immediately after lecture concludes, and are published for offline viewing about four hours after class ends.
- Other CFRM courses rely on a web conferencing tool with collaboration features like instant messaging, voice chat, screen sharing, digital whiteboards, and document sharing. Live video is typically not available in these courses. Class meetings are recorded, but playback requires an active internet connection. Offline viewing is not available in these courses.
- Some CFRM courses adopt a “flipped” class model, where pre-recorded videos are assigned ahead of class, with the scheduled meeting used for a highly interactive exploration of concepts introduced in the video. These courses will use an online video player in combination with web conferencing software.
- Access to classmates. Each course also has a website on the UW Canvas learning management system, where assignments can be downloaded and submitted, electronic course materials are stored, and there are active discussion forums for the use of both online and classroom students.
- Personal contact. Online students also have access to a course teaching assistant (TA), who will hold weekly office hours at set dates and times for direct help. If your schedule or time zone prevents your being able to attend, many of these sessions are recorded and posted online for your later review, and you can always contact the instructor or TA via email or Canvas message, as well as use the discussion forum to help and ask for help from fellow classmates.
- A high-speed internet connection with reasonable transfer limits is required for all online CFRM courses. Streaming lectures will require around 2GB per week, per course. If you choose to download lectures for offline viewing (when available), you can expect to transfer at least 5GB per week.
- Students should ensure that they have administrative privileges on their computers to install necessary software.
- Although not required in order to view lectures or access online materials, many CFRM courses involve programming assignments where Mac support can be idiosyncratic. Apple OS X users who do not have the time or interest in troubleshooting these minor but unpredictable quirks should consider installing Windows 7 or later in a virtual machine ahead of time.
- Mobile devices (e.g., smartphones, tablets, Chromebooks) may not be supported by some software products used in CFRM courses, even where a mobile app is available.
Because of the diverse combination of software technologies used in CFRM courses, there is no single support resource. UWIT does not have access and cannot help resolve issues with certain tools, including services provided by UW PCE. Please pay attention to the troubleshooting instructions provided to students via email or posted on the course Canvas page to avoid delays in any support requests you may submit. If you have an unresolved technology problem that is interfering with your ability to complete an assignment, contact your TA or course instructor promptly for alternative arrangements.