In most cases, distance learning actually takes place almost entirely online using websites instead of computer programs. Special courses may require additional distance learning software specific to the topic, such as programs related to math or geography. Distance learning software may also facilitate communication between the students and teacher or between the students and other students. Usually, turning in work and taking exams is performed only through online-based distance learning software, although email may also be acceptable. Specific programs may utilize additional online programs that allow for collaborative projects or group discussions.
Distance learning software that is designed to foster communication is often text based and may take the form of message boards or even chat rooms. In some cases, video is used for more direct communication. When lectures are part of the learning program, software that can be used to play audio or video is absolutely essential. Without access to the learning materials, students are unable to succeed in the course.
Often, distance learning software is used to keep track of homework assignments and exams. These tests usually include verification of completion and may grade assignments automatically if they are multiple choice. Sometimes, features to discourage cheating are included in the software, but it is sometimes difficult to make sure that students are acting honorably.
In special cases, additional software may be required for a distance learning course. All software relevant to the course must be available to the student, whether by purchase or through school resources. If the course requires access to accounting software, for example, the student must be required to obtain access to that software prior to taking the course.
Administrators and teachers often require special distance learning software in order to design the courses. Teachers must often be trained to use this special software and to set up the courses for students. While the programs that teachers use to set up the courses online usually appear different than the software students see, they are typically just different aspects of the same software.
Many schools attempt to integrate the many aspects of distance learning into a single website, which serves as a hub for all educational activities. Student communications, assignments, and other materials are often available together for easy access. This makes it easy both for students to take the course and for administrators to keep track of information relevant to the course. If students take more than one course, it is usually possible to have all the courses within the same software.