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Online Courses: Media Used in Online Courses

written by: Sonal Panse•edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 1/5/2011

Let's take a look at some of the different types of media used in online courses. Developments in online media have enhanced the online learning experience, making the distribution of learning materials easier and more efficient. Students can get a better and interactive learning experience.

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    Media and Online Learning

    Online courses are gaining in prominence as they are well-suited to reach a broader base of students. You can take them from anywhere and at any time as per your convenience. All you need is a computer or a mobile device with Internet access and audio and video capabilities. The rapid developments in Internet and multimedia technologies have proved to be a boon for online learning.

    When online courses were first developed, they were mostly a matter of instructional content provided for reading online meant for passive intake. Now the Web 2.0 types of media used in online courses have changed that scenario for the better. Students can now learn in an interactive, cooperative way making use of various social media tools like blogs, wikis, podcasts, videos, forums, and so on. They can change and modify content, carry on live online discussions, and participate in online seminars, quizzes, and tests. They can learn not just from the content and materials provided but also from each other. The more interactive the technologies become, the more closer the online learning experience gets to actual classroom learning.

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    Main Types of Media Used in Online Courses


    Interactive and easy to navigate course websites make life easier for users by providing them with clear and detailed information about faculty, courses, eligibility criteria and admission requirements, course updates, lecture schedules, lecture notes, required readings, online learning materials, online projects, exam dates, and much more. Students can register and pay for courses online, get online counseling, and purchase required texts online.


    Blogs are more interactive and more regularly updated than websites. Online courses can be provided in the form of daily or weekly blogs with students and instructors interacting through the comments section. Students can keep blogs about their work or project progress, and faculty can maintain blogs about course matter, learning expectations, and course requirements.


    Many online courses feature live and recorded instructional videos. Students can watch videos during specific lecture schedules or at any convenient time. It is often easier to understand a concept when someone explains it to you rather than reading it, and having a recorded explanation has the advantage over a live one in that it can be endlessly repeated. Students and instructors can also interact live with one another through video conferencing.

    Online Forums

    Online forums are a good place for students and instructors to discuss particular topic threads. People signing up for an online course may be provided with a password to access the forums for that course.

    Instant Messaging

    Instant messaging is a convenient way of communicating with peers or instructors about any particular course issue.


    Email can be used to deliver learning materials and newsletters to students as well as for regular communication purposes.

    Virtual Classrooms

    Virtual classrooms are virtual environments, where multiple users can participate in lectures, class discussions, work projects, and so on.

    These are the main types of media used in online courses. Further developments in the types of media used in online courses will of course lead to a richer, more varied learning experience.