Online Degrees: How Do They Work?

At a certain point in time, all of us have wanted to study online. The convenience an online degree provides is unprecedented. It makes the learning process a lot more comfortable, and because of online learning capabilities, many more people can get educated now. People who were previously unable to attend a class due to their commitments – can now participate in a class thanks to high-speed internet.

But was it always this way? In the late 1990s, when colleges around the world started to add the MBA to the list of programs they offered, there came a dilemma. A master’s degree is meant to be for college graduates, but how is a college graduate supposed to pursue a master’s degree with a tight job schedule?

Sure, students can consider enrolling into a weekend program, but a weekend program can be exhausting to manage since you’re already going to work five days a week. The gap created by this dilemma was fulfilled by an online degree. An online degree allows you to study at your own pace. You don’t have to rush after work to your college to attend a class physically.

When you have the ability to study online, you can take a class anywhere, even when you’re free at work. But with that being said, you must carefully understand how online degrees work before you decide to enroll into one.

Course Formats

There’s a wide variety of online degrees that are entirely online. However, some schools decide to follow a hybrid format, which makes it compulsory for the student to attend some classes on-site. Hybrid learning formats are mostly seen in engineering or medical schools, which have some amount of hands-on training. Some online degrees, particularly those at graduate levels, also have internships that students are required to complete.


Online degrees have flexible scheduling, which is why so many students want to study online. According to some research, the number of students enrolling in online classes has grown for the tenth consecutive year! A student who is taking a class the traditional way has to complete their regular assignments and quizzes by specific dates throughout their semester.

In contrast, a student studying online has the liberty to study at whatever pace they resonate with. As long as a student is completing a course, no one cares how long they take to do it. Some online classes can have a traditional schedule too. So if you’re in an online class that follows a traditional schedule, you’ll have to follow the dates provided to you religiously!

Program Length

Because online degrees are so flexible, the length of the program can vary greatly. Self-paced programs move quickly or slowly. Since the pace of the program depends entirely on the student, there is no specific period as to how long a self-paced program may last. The “self-paced” factor is one of the most prominent reasons why students choose to get an online degree. On average, students who get their bachelor’s degree online complete the program in 2.5 years.

In contrast, students who attend classes on-site take an average number of 5 years to get done with college. Also, students who pursue a master’s degree online, on average, take two years to complete, while students who pursue a master’s degree on-site take three years. Some schools also allow students to take an accelerated program. This gives students the opportunity to complete their program even faster, but accelerated programs are often more challenging.


The enrollment process for an online degree can be slightly different from school to school, but in general, enrolling into an online program is the same as enrolling into a traditional program. Students have to submit an application with their high school or college transcripts. When they’ve proven that they meet the requirements, they are enrolled in the course.

After being accepted into a college, students can review the courses that are being offered. One thing you’ll have to keep in mind is that all courses have enrollment deadlines. So if you’ve made up your mind about which course you want to study – don’t waste time, enroll!

Virtual Classroom

Most online classes are conducted on a website that can integrate forums. Voice Over IP (VoIP) is used, and this allows students and professors to interact in real-time. Some websites can also offer options to test students and give them real-time assignments. These options give the online classroom a more traditional feeling since teacher and students can do practically everything they would’ve in a brick-and-mortar physical classroom.

Students can also view calendars, as well as the lectures that have been uploaded. The lectures can either be in text format, video format, or audio format.

Class Participation

There are a lot of ways students can communicate with each other and the course facilitator when they are taking a class online. You can use instant messaging, email, audio conferencing, video conferencing, or a message board to discuss lectures with fellow classmates. Because online degrees don’t have strict attendance policies, students aren’t required to show up and participate in classrooms.

However, on average, online classrooms see more participation than traditional classrooms. This is because not every student has the guts to raise their hand in class and ask the teacher a question. But when you’re taking a class online, you’re practically alone in your room listening to your faculty, so it can feel like a one on one experience.

Tech Requirements

Schools that offer online degrees have tech requirements regarding what kind of technology a student will need to attend an online class comfortably. In general, students need to have a computer with the following features:

  • Recent Mac, Windows, or Linux operating system
  • High-speed internet
  • A minimum amount of hard disk space
  • Office software
  • Antivirus software
  • Speakers or headphones
  • A microphone
  • CD/DVD drive

Additionally, some programs can also require a student to purchase equipment that traditional students carry to campus. This could be online graphic designing software, their own camera, color printers and editing software.