Considerations When Selecting a Delivery Method for Educational Course Design

As part of course design, instructors consider their learners’ needs to develop goals and objectives for course content. With the rising interest in non-traditional delivery methods for course content, instructors must also determine which method best suits their content and learners.1 The selected delivery method can impact the instructional activities for efficient and effective learning.1 A learning environment encompasses the setting where instructors, content, and learners interact. Beyond its physical aspects, it is molded by the instructional requirements and influenced by the attitudes and preferences of those who manage it.1 Understanding different learning styles and the options offered by online learning platforms can help instructors identify appropriate delivery methods that benefit learners. This publication provides an overview of learning styles, learning management systems (LMS), common delivery methods, and learner accessibility accommodations to guide instructors in selecting a course delivery method. A list of Clemson Cooperative Extension programs and individual courses are presented as examples to feature the versatility of learning types and delivery methods utilized.

Learning Types: Asynchronous versus Synchronous

Instructors should consider their schedules and suitable levels of structure, as well as those of their potential learners, to select the optimal learning type for a course.

  • Asynchronous Learning: Learners access and complete the coursework at the pace and timing that best fits their needs.2 While this type of self-paced learning offers a flexible schedule, some learners may prefer the structure of instructor guidance and pacing offered in synchronous learning options.
  • Synchronous Learning: Learners meet in person or virtually with an instructor in real time.2 This type of learning provides structure and has the potential to foster relationships with instructors and other participants through live and immediate feedback but can lack the flexibility of asynchronous learning.

Learning Management Systems (LMS)

Regardless of the delivery method, many instructors utilize some type of learning management system (LMS). Also known as a “learning platform”, LMS software provides a technical infrastructure for creating, delivering, and managing e-learning activities and for managing learner participation.2,3 Clemson University promotes Canvas for all courses designed and managed by faculty and staff. Clemson Cooperative Extension employees can also utilize Canvas to create educational courses for stakeholders. Initial purchase, maintenance, and support costs vary with LMSs depending on whether they are open-source or closed-source. Open-source LMSs are free for course instructors to design a course and for learners to access. Closed-source LMSs must be purchased and are made available to specific users, such as instructors, employees, and students.2 LMSs offer various features for building courses and for learners to access content and engage with other participants and instructor(s). For example, features may include video and audio track uploads, discussion boards, and quizzes. Some LMSs connect with third-party software to enhance the learning environment—for example, Zoom, Respondus® and Lockdown Browser for online courses and iClicker for in-person courses.

Common Delivery Methods


The classroom-based method is a more traditional method and utilizes synchronous learning wherein an instructor guides learners in person in a physical classroom or meeting room.2 A host facility and set schedule are required. However, in recent years, this delivery method has been modified for virtual classrooms via video conferencing, with instructors needing to adjust the course format for the online transition.4

Fully Online

All learners and activities are Internet-based with the fully online method, and instructors can apply synchronous or asynchronous learning types or a blended learning type (combining synchronous and asynchronous learning).6 One study showed that over half of learners in online learning prefer a combination of synchronous and asynchronous classes.6 A benefit to this delivery method is the ability to apply learner-to-learner and learner-to-instructor interactions. Another benefit is the ability to conduct classes from any location; a set brick-and-mortar location is not required, so instructors and learners can choose the most comfortable setting for themselves. Consideration should be given to whether it may take additional time to organize and prepare content that will be applicable and engaging in a virtual environment. It is also important to address any technical issues that could arise (e.g., Internet access, quality, stability) before implementation.6

Mobile Learning (MLearning)

Many LMSs, such as Canvas, offer Mobile Learning (MLearning) to offer a more accessible solution to learners’ increasing use of mobile devices (e.g., smartphones and tablets). This allows instructors to utilize responsive content (media) specifically designed to adapt to screens of different mobile devices.2


A hybrid delivery method utilizes blended learning. The synchronous portion is typically in-person, while the asynchronous portion offers virtual learning via an LMS.4 The instructor is expected to prepare and organize online pre-class content that applies to the activities prepared for the synchronous portion of the course. Learners then have control over the location and pace in the virtual portion.4 If an emergency virtual plan needs to be implemented, the instructor can shift to entirely online more readily due to the pre-class content already prepared within an LMS. Two standard versions of hybrid delivery are simulcast learning and flipped classroom.

Simulcast Learning

Typically, with simulcast learning, one-third of learners are in-person with the instructor, while two-thirds are virtual. Instructors apply synchronous learning while delivering content simultaneously to all learners. Other activities, such as homework, quizzes, and assignments, are completed asynchronously through an LMS. Instructors may have less up-front class preparation with simulcast learning; however, there could be implications for learner management and an equitable experience for learners.

Flipped Classroom

The flipped classroom delivery method emphasizes learner responsibility with pre-, in-, and post-class learning.5 Instructors provide learners with pre-class content to prepare for discussions and activities in class.5 Afterwards, learners complete activities to strengthen their knowledge.5 Implementing this delivery style gives learners a deeper understanding of the content, allowing them to spend more time reviewing more complex topics and moving past sections they have mastered.5 However, allowing learners to take more time on a topic can hinder the progress of the course as a whole. Learners also do not have access to immediate feedback, which can negatively impact the implementation of this delivery style.5

Accessibility and Accommodations

Regardless of the delivery method, the course design should identify and include accommodations to address the potential accessibility needs of learners. Learners with visual and auditory disabilities may ask to use additional assistive technologies as accommodations.2 Instructors with Clemson University, including those with Clemson Cooperative Extension, can learn more about accessibility resources through the Office of Access and Equity and Clemson’s Accessibility Portal website ( Contact information for the Office of Access and Equity is available on the Accessibility Portal Contacts webpage (

Auditory Course Elements and Accommodations

  • Closed Captions: Pre-recorded videos should have closed captions and a separate document with a closed caption transcript should be provided if the closed captions are not downloadable.
  • Voice-to-Text Applications: Applications that transcribe sound to words can be offered separately or through an LMS so learners can access course content from other third-party video providers (e.g., YouTube) that may not have closed captions.
  • Live Transcription Applications: Applications can transcribe real-time (live) lectures/training sessions to text.
  • Stand-Alone Slides: Lecture slides should convey all details about a concept utilizing words, figures, tables, pictures, and/or graphics.

Visual Course Elements and Accommodations

  • Reading-to-Voice Applications: Technology recognizes voice and will read the text to the learner without having to have a person record the text. Other software can do the same and recognize written and/or typed words to read aloud.
  • Legible Content: Make sure that all resources and assignments have complete text. Figures, tables, pictures, and/or graphics should be easily accessible with alternate text and/or audio description/long description that a transcription application can read.

Clemson Cooperative Extension Course Examples

Examples of courses offered by Clemson Cooperative Extension that utilize the different learning types and delivery methods discussed in this publication are found in table 1. The Upcoming Extension Events calendar ( features in-person and virtual courses, programs, and events and can be sorted by program team topical areas or locations in the state.

Table 1. Examples of courses offered by Clemson Cooperative Extension that utilize different learning types and delivery methods.

Course Title Learning Type and Delivery Method Content and Audience
Know Diabetes by Heart Synchronous

Fully Online

The program aims to help participants better understand the link between diabetes and heart disease.
Yoga for Every Body Synchronous (every Wednesday)

Asynchronous option with recordings of previously held classes

Fully Online

An online, gentle yoga class designed to help relieve stress and get more movement into your week. All levels are welcome; modifications are offered to suit all ages and mobility levels, with the option to participate from a comfortable seat or stand.

Participants learn to listen to their body’s cues to find what feels good, reduce stress, increase flexibility and physical activity, and cultivate a practice of gratitude to help shift perspective.

Carolina Lawn Management Webinar Synchronous

Hybrid Simulcast Learning

A single-day short course covering necessary agronomic practices for all major species of turfgrass grown in the Carolinas; this course is designed for landscapers and lawncare professionals but is applicable to all turfgrass managers. Livestream is available exclusively at satellite extension offices; no personal livestreams are available.
South Carolina Certified Landscape Professional (SCCLP) Asynchronous

Fully Online

SCCLP is an online, self-paced certification program that provides high-level horticulture education and training to green industry professionals and operators.
Clemson Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) Synchronous


EFNEP assists limited-resource audiences in acquiring the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and changed behavior necessary for nutritionally sound diets and contributing to their personal development and the improvement of the total family diet and nutritional well-being.
ServSafe® Food Protection Manager Certification Training and Exam Synchronous


A one-day review course using ServSafe® materials from the National Restaurant Association. Successful completion of the course and certification exam meets DHEC requirements for “Certified Food Protection Manager.”
Master Rain Gardener Asynchronous

Fully Online

A program focused on rain gardens and rainwater harvesting system design and installation. Online course content will include rain garden site assessment, soil analysis, rainwater harvesting system sizing, pre-filtration devices, water use and safety measures, and more.
School Gardening for South Carolina Educators Synchronous

Fully Online

A six-week online program to help educators, parents, administrators, and other caring adults learn to garden successfully with students. Participants learn the basic horticulture skills necessary to maintain their school garden. Licensed educators who complete the course will receive twenty (20) renewal credits from the SC Department of Education.


It is essential to implement a delivery method that optimizes the goals, objectives, and learning type defined by a course design to meet learners’ needs to convey the course content effectively. Researching LMS features and options and delivery methods of other educational offerings will help instructors identify delivery methods that are appropriate, engaging, and accessible for their learners.

References Cited

  1. Brown AH, Green TD. The essentials of instructional design. 4th ed. England (UK): Routledge; 2019.
  2. Bradley VM. Learning management system (LMS) use with online instruction. International Journal of Technology in Education. 2021;4(1):68–92.
  3. Kats Y, editor. Learning management system technologies and software solutions for online teaching: tools and applications. 1st ed. Hershey (PA): Information Science References; 2010.
  4. O’Byrne WI, Pytash KE. Hybrid and blended learning. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. 2015 Aug;59(2):137–140. doi:10.1002/jaal.463.
  5. Al-Samarraie H, Shamsuddin A, Alzahrani AI. A flipped classroom model in higher education: a review of the evidence across disciplines. Educational Technology Research and Development. 2019 Oct;68:1017–1051. doi:10.1007/s11423-019-09718-8.
  6. Al-Kumaim NH, Mohammed F, Gazem NA, Fazea Y, Alhazmi AK, Dakkak O. Exploring the impact of transformation to fully online learning during COVID-19 on Malaysian University students’ academic life and performance. International Journal of Interactive Mobile Technologies (iJIM). 2021 Mar;15(05):140–158. doi:10.3991/ijim.v15i05.20203.

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