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Online Associate's Degrees: How Does an Associate's Degree Online Work?

Research online associate's degree programs. Find out what you can learn in these courses and what you'll need in order to participate in online learning to determine if it's right for you.

Associate's Degree

An associate's degree program usually consists of 60 credits and can be earned in about 2 years; these programs are commonly found at community colleges or technical or trade schools, but online options are plentiful at this degree level. Online options may include degree programs in business, medical assisting, accounting, health care management, computer info systems, paralegal studies, criminal justice and medical transcription. These programs prepare students to enter the job market or to transfer to a 4-year institution.

Earning an associate's degree online means students can learn from the comfort of their own homes. In most cases, these programs don't require students to take classes at certain times, creating flexible options for students to continue working or pursuing other interests while earning a degree. However, any in-person requirements are program dependent.

Degree Options

Online associate's degree programs aren't limited to a certain field of study. Programs at this level range from business to medical assisting. Some common options include:

  • Accounting
  • Healthcare management
  • Computer info systems
  • Paralegal
  • Criminal justice
  • Medical transcription

Program Structure

Most online degree programs utilize online learning platforms that let students login and access all of the course materials required, including streaming videos, assignments and quizzes. These platforms can also provide a space for students to upload assignments or view message boards. In general, students will have access to the virtual classroom anytime throughout the program and aren't required to login to courses at any specific time. Online associate's degree programs also commonly feature virtual tutoring sessions and web-based academic advising or career counseling options. Virtual libraries are available, and many instructors post study notes and other learning tools.

Communication Channels

Students can use e-mail to communicate with instructors, but other options are available. Some programs utilize discussion boards or online chat sessions, while others use technology like Skype. Students might participate in group projects with their classmates or utilize virtual office hours to get help from their instructors. Students might also communicate at pre-arranged times in chat rooms or by instant messaging so the whole class can participate in a discussion.

For students who want to earn an associate's degree online, there are plenty of options to choose from in various fields, including business, medical assisting and paralegal studies. Distance learning often involves the use of virtual classrooms and web-based academic advising, as well as other Internet-based platforms and tools.

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