Published: Oct. 10, 2023

If it has been awhile since you were in an educational setting or if this your first time taking an online class, you might be unfamiliar with some of the terms surrounding online learning.

We want you to start your educational journey feeling prepared and knowledgeable, so here is some information to get you started.

What is the difference between asynchronous vs. synchronous learning?

When you read about a program’s structure and courses, you will most likely see the terms asynchronous and synchronous used to describe the classes. Asynchronous learning means that you access course materials at your own pace and interact with your classmates over longer periods in a virtual space. Synchronous learning refers to instructors and students gathering at the same time in a virtual place and interacting in “real-time”.

Most CU Boulder Online courses are delivered asynchronously, which provides a lot of flexibility for you to complete your coursework week over week. However, some CU Boulder online courses are synchronous, which gives you the opportunity to connect directly with others and engage in course content. Be sure to keep your eyes open for the learning designation in program descriptions to ensure the programs you are most interested in fit with your individual needs and schedule.

What are the differences between “delivery modalities” for a program?

Online programs are delivered through a variety of platforms, depending on the institution and program you choose. You might have heard of companies like Coursera, Canvas, Blackboard, and Moodle that offer different ways for students to access their course content and interact with their peers and instructors. CU Boulder Online delivers most of its programs via Canvas or Coursera and each platform provides different benefits.

Canvas and Moodle

The university offers several programs through the learning management systems, Canvas or Moodle. If you choose a program that uses one of these systems, you will get to:

  • Interact with faculty and peers every week
  • Enjoy regular pacing of assignments and coursework, which provides structure to move through the program

Learn more about Canvas


The CU Boulder-Coursera partnership enables you to access CU Boulder’s rich academic and professional resources with flexibility in the following ways:

  • Performance-based admissions
  • Year-round enrollment so you can start learning any time
  • The ability to upgrade from non-credit to for-credit courses with ease
  • Pay-as-you-go tuition

Learn more about CU Boulder on Coursera

Whether you choose a program delivered through Canvas or Coursera, you are guaranteed a terrific learning experience and a credential awarded by the University of Colorado Boulder.

Interested in learning more? Email us at or explore our programs.