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Online Courses

Course Formats

The structure of online courses varies widely. The format of course materials, how you access them, and ways you communicate with your professor and classmates will vary from course to course.

Many online courses at USC are hosted using a virtual platform such as Adobe Connect or Blackboard, or both. The virtual platform, which makes the session live or synchronous, allows you to observe class-level audio and visual materials in real-time.

The Online Learning Experience

Like a traditional university classroom, online learning offers a rich, interactive learning experience that often includes virtual office hours for your instructor. Many courses facilitate interaction among fellow classmates using discussion boards, live chat, blogs, wikis and virtual groups. 

You can attend a virtual class at home, at work or on a classroom computer. Viewing times may be set by the instructor or students may be able to download and view class sessions offline. While the majority of sessions occur online, some courses require that you attend specific sessions in-person on the Columbia Campus. Assignment and testing deadlines must be followed according to the instructor's schedule. Here are common ways online courses are delivered:

Web Conferencing

  • Utilizes Adobe Connect virtual platform and, in some cases, Blackboard
  • Requires access to a high-speed internet connection via DSL, cable, fiber optic or satellite at an FCC-recommended rate of 4 Mbps for optimal performance
  • May require attendance in class sessions on scheduled days or times either in-person on the Columbia Campus or online
  • May require exam administration at an approved testing site on the Columbia Campus, off-campus or online via remote proctor


Streaming Video

  • Access password-protected lectures via Media Services within 24 hours after live class and for the next three weeks
  • Course includes instructor-determined deadlines with viewing and study times determined by student 
  • Assignment and testing deadlines must be followed according to the instructor’s course schedule
  • May require attendance in class sessions at scheduled days or times in-person on the Columbia Campus
  • Students may be required to take examinations at approved testing sites or USC Columbia


Special Fee Notification

Students may be required to be proctored during online test completion.  If students are unable to attend test proctoring sessions in person at the Distributed Learning office, additional fees may apply for online test proctoring if the course requires online testing. 

Online Courses