Defining Modes of Instruction and Synchronicity

Modes of Instruction

The university will strategically and systematically deploy four modes of instruction for spring 2021: in-person instruction, hybrid instruction, remote instruction and online instruction. The mode of instruction indicates where course section meetings occur (i.e., in person, online, a hybrid/mix). This page aims to describe those modes of instruction in the context of current university policy. 

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

In-Person Instruction (SIS code: P; CDR code: N)

For many instructors and students, this is the most familiar mode of instruction. Generally speaking, one credit for an in-person course section involves 50 minutes each week of in-person instruction accompanied by two hours each week of outside-of-class student work. For a three-credit course section, this means 150 minutes in the classroom each week in a normal semester; for a four-credit course section, this means 200 minutes in the classroom each week (often a combination of lecture and discussion/lab). Course sections that meet occasionally in an online format – less than 25% of course meetings – should still use the in-person mode of instruction. 

Current Official Definition

Course section is not a Distance Education course-section (SIS code: P; CDR code: N).

Hybrid Instruction (SIS code: WC; CDR code: N)

Hybrid course sections involve a mix of in-person and online instructional meetings between instructors and students. The range of what is included is broad and flexible by design. Various mixes of in-person and online meeting patterns are permitted. The hybrid mode of instruction is appropriate when there are more than occasional online meetings (at least 25% of meetings as a guideline). Otherwise online course sections that meet only for in-person exams are not permitted and are not considered to be a hybrid mode of instruction. Such course sections should add additional in-person instructional activities to fall within the hybrid mode of instruction or go entirely online. 

Current Official Definition

Online/Some Classroom: Course section is a partially Distance Education course-section. Seventy-five percent (75%) or more of the section is delivered via distance learning technology, but at least one class session (including exams) is on campus (SIS code: WC; CDR code: P).

New Definition

Online/Some Classroom: Section is intentionally designed to include a regular pattern of online and in-person meetings. More than twenty-five (25%), but no more than seventy-five percent (75%) of the section is delivered via distance learning technology, and the section meets in person for at least several times each semester. In person instructional meetings must include more than meeting only for exams. Meeting in person only for exams with all other instructional meetings online is not permitted. (SIS code: WC; CDR code: N).

Remote Instruction (SIS code: R; CDR Code: T)

Course sections that in normal circumstances would be offered in-person and that have been converted for remote delivery in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. All course activities occur remotely/online (typically through Canvas, the university’s centrally supported learning management system) with no in-person meetings required or expected. Course activities may be synchronous or asynchronous, always keeping in mind the expectation of “regular and substantive interaction between students and the instructor.” No in-person meetings means no in-person exams. All learning activities are delivered remotely/online. 

Note: In-person exams are not permitted for a remote section. Sections with in-person exams should have sufficient additional in-person activities to meet the standards for the hybrid mode of instruction. In Course Search & Enroll, students see these sections as “Online Only.”

Current Official Definition

Course section that under normal conditions would be in-person is offered totally remote in response to COVID-19. Section is totally (100%) delivered via distance learning technology (including exams), no campus visits are required (SIS code: R CDR Code: T).

Online Instruction (SIS code: WO; CDR code: T)

Course sections that were specifically designed and predetermined to be offered online on an on-going basis. All course activities occur online (typically through Canvas, the University’s centrally supported learning management system) with no in-person meetings required or expected. Course activities may be synchronous or asynchronous, always keeping in mind the expectation of “regular and substantive interaction between students and the instructor.” No in-person meetings means no in-person exams. All learning activities are online.

Note: In-person exams are not permitted for an online section. Sections with in-person exams should have sufficient additional in-person activities to meet the standards for the hybrid mode of instruction.

Current Official Definition

Online only: Course section is totally Distance Education course-section. Section is totally (100%) delivered via distance learning technology (including exams), no campus visits are required (SIS code: WO; CDR code: T).

Synchronous/Asynchronous Remote Section Attribute Values

An attribute for remote sections noting synchronous and asynchronous will be included in spring 2021 to assist in the schedule build process. The synchronous/asynchronous attribute indicates when course section meetings occur (i.e., whether there are section meetings at fixed days and times). Within Course Search & Enroll, the Office of the Registrar will use the presence (or lack thereof) of a day/time meeting pattern to allow students to search and see sections meeting synchronously or asynchronously.

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

Synchronous: (SIS Code: RMTE-SYNC)

  • A synchronous course section involves scheduled, time-specific meetings (in-person or online) as part of an intentionally designed learning experience. The synchronous components must be scheduled in compliance with university policies on class scheduling (unless an exception is granted).
  • A synchronous course section may or may not have synchronous exams.
  • Synchronous learning happens whenever students are engaged in learning activities “live.”
  • The format allows students and instructors to meet at the same time and in the same space (physical or virtual.)
  • The course section has clearly articulated meeting times commitment that cannot be rescheduled once student enrollment has occurred.
  • Most synchronous course sections are entirely synchronous. As detailed in UW-Madison Policy on the Credit Hour, synchronous course sections generally require students to complete asynchronous activities (e.g., course readings, research assignments, group projects).

Asynchronous: (SIS Code: RMTE-ASYNC)

  • Asynchronous learning allows students to learn on their own schedule, within a certain timeframe (e.g., certain activities are required to be completed during a specific week), as part of an intentionally designed learning experience.
  • An asynchronous course section will have asynchronous exams which can be completed within a certain timeframe or synchronous exams if accommodations or flexibilities are made for students unable to attend synchronous exam times.
  • Asynchronous activities may include video lectures, readings, assignments and group discussions or collaborative tasks.
  • Students and instructors engage with each other, course content, activities, and instructional materials at various times, but there are no required section meetings at specific days and times.
  • While there are still due dates, students can generally complete tasks any time within the given timeline.
  • The instructor provides students with online content and materials to review on their own time.