Do I have to be online at a specific time for my course?

Online courses typically blend asynchronous and synchronous (“real-time”) activities to provide opportunities for interaction with the course instructor and peers.

Asynchronous activities are those that do not occur at the same time. In online courses, asynchronous communication allows instructors and students to submit and receive course materials according to their own schedules.  Popular examples of asynchronous elements include the recording and accessing of screen-casts or podcasts, online discussion forums or message boards, blog assignments and e-mail communication.

Synchronous (or "real-time") activities take place at the same time. Examples of synchronous activities include, for example, phone calls and web conferencing programs, internet-based collaborative software that combines audio, video, file share or other forms of interaction or 3-d virtual environments.

While learning in some online courses take place entirely through asynchronous activities, it is best to contact the instructor in advance of the course if you have specific constraints on your schedule.