What’s it Like to Earn a Degree Online?

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

—Benjamin Franklin

The trend of earning a degree online is on the rise according to the Department of Education, bringing with it an exciting new potential for the future of education. Yet earning an online degree can seem daunting. If you’re a potential student, you might have a lot of questions. What is it like to earn an online degree? Is my program affordable? Will I have enough time to complete my degree? Can I succeed in a digital learning environment? Luckily, there is plenty of available information for anyone who wants to learn more about the online education format.

How does online college work?

When you earn a degree online, it resembles earning one through a traditional setting in many ways. Online degrees are usually offered by colleges and universities with an on-ground presence. These programs must meet the same rigorous academic standards as their campus counterparts, and often include similar instructional materials. Additionally, online programs are taught by instructors who are knowledgeable about their subjects and passionate about teaching in the online environment.

However, online degree programs are also unique. Course delivery options, for example, are much wider in scope. They can be offered in both synchronous (real-time instruction) and asynchronous (self-paced) formats.

Other online courses may be offered in hybrid form, meaning they have both online and on-ground components. Online elements of hybrid courses may be either synchronous or asynchronous. Their real-world components often entail activities that are difficult to complete digitally, such as working with patients, teaching children, or participating in an internship. Common programs of study with these types of requirements include nursing, education, business, and social work.

ElementSynchronousAsynchronous
Time structureStudents must be online at the same time as instructorsStudents go online to access course materials on their own schedule
Communication toolsLive chat, audio and video conferencing, telephoneEmail, thread discussions, social networking
Potential instructional toolsShared whiteboard, online slideshows, file attachments, bulletin boards, virtual libraries
BenefitsInstant feedback, feelings of involvement, easier transition from traditional schooling formatAllows more time for reflection, increased schedule flexibility

Online degree programs also have technical requirements. Common items you might need access to as an online student include:

  • Up-to-date computer operating systems
  • High-speed internet access
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Word processing software
  • CD/DVD drive
  • Microphone

The process of earning a degree online involves using a website called a learning management system (LMS). Common LMS products include Moodle, Blackboard, and Canvas, which vary in services and features. An LMS hosts course materials, discussion forums, class calendars, assignments, and any other items that may be required to complete a certain class. Although this learning format may be different, you still must read course materials and submit assignments according to deadlines set by the instructor.

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If your courses are synchronous, you are required to log on at certain time of day to hear a lecture or communicate with fellow students. If courses are asynchronous, your attendance is often counted through participation in online class forums. As in traditional programs, you are encouraged to communicate with your instructors and fellow classmates for academic support and supplementary knowledge.

Examinations for online courses are treated differently than those in the traditional classroom. Sometimes they will be completely absent from your course. Other times, you will be able to take exams at home in an open-book format. Yet for others you must go to a certain facility to take an exam with a test proctor present.

While it may take time to adjust to the format of online education, there are plenty of reasons why it might be a perfect fit for you, especially if you aspire to earn your degree.

What are the benefits when you earn a degree online?

No single educational system is right for everyone. Every student has their own educational requirements, financial needs, and professional interests to consider. However, a growing number of students are discovering the benefits of earning their degree online.

So… why earn a degree online?

All of these factors make online learning an extraordinary experience. However, the most important selling point for an online degree is obvious: successful career advancement.

View all the benefits of learning online.

How do online colleges prepare you for your career?

Earning an online degree is beneficial to your career in many ways. Statistically, college graduates have lower rates of unemployment. They also tend to earn more money. And like the best educational experiences, earning an online degree successfully prepares you for your future.

Online graduates gain skills

When you earn a degree online you also develop crucial transferable skills needed across the workforce. Here are just a few:

Online programs offer career development resources

Learning how to be a successful professional can be challenging, especially without help. Luckily, colleges and universities with online degree programs often provide career development assistance to online students and graduates. These schools can help you with:

  • Academic advising
  • Self-assessments
  • Writing a resume and cover letter
  • Job search assistance
  • Mentorship and networking
  • Job fairs
  • Internships
  • Skill workshops

The career preparation offered by online schools is as thorough as any other. For students to understand this, they sometimes have to see it for themselves.

Online College and You

Earning an online degree can seem like an intimidating challenge. However, online degrees are uniquely situated to help you succeed. Online programs allow graduates to increase their earning potential, develop careers, and do so with convenience and a lower cost than  traditional college programs. When you graduate from an online college program, you’ll rest assured knowing that you’ve developed in your profession and are on your way to building a better life.