Online colleges or other online educational institutions facilitate learning by streaming presentations, holding discussions on message boards or forums, encouraging professor-to-student interaction through email and messaging, and maintaining group projects through virtual workgroup applications. Students interact in many of the same ways as brick-and-mortar colleges, but webstreams supplant physical seminars.
Different learning institutions implement different methods. One way to look at the differences in learning methods is to differentiate between synchronous and asynchronous sessions. Synchronous learning sessions involve students and professors interacting in real time through video chats, instant messaging and other methods of real-time communication. This allows for fast responses, near-instant interactions and requires a much-firmer schedule than other online learning courses. Asynchronous learning sessions are courses held in non-real time, where a seminar may be videotaped and then posted online for later viewing, and where discussions are held through message boards that do not necessitate instantaneous responses. Often, an online course combines synchronous and asynchronous learning through a combination of livestreams, messaging, email and other forms of interaction.
Many online courses use specialized software that combines message boards, grading software and testing solutions into one user-friendly web interface, so that students and professors alike can log into one single learning portal.