Like traditional on-campus bachelor's degree programs, online degrees can be earned in about 4 years, unless students plan to participate in the program on a part-time basis. Students can access all lessons and assignments from their own homes, offices, or other locations where internet access is available. Generally, students complete lessons or quizzes on their own time and submit them via an online learning platform.
One difference between studying online and enrolling in a traditional degree program is that students must usually choose a program of study before enrolling, whereas students taking courses on campus can generally wait for a year or more before they decide to declare a major.
Online programs are offered through asynchronous or synchronous delivery systems, although asynchronous are more common. Asynchronous delivery allows students to take courses at their convenience. Students in these courses download lectures or watch them via streaming video. They also have access to study notes and assignments. Synchronous courses meet at 'fixed' times, so students will need to login and watch live lectures at the same time as their classmates. These types of courses might feature interactive discussions or assignments.
Online discussion boards and chat sessions are the primary forms of communication between students and instructors and between classmates. In scheduled classes, students often also communicate via special chat rooms or instant messaging - this allows for more give-and-take, similar to that found in a traditional classroom seminar. Whiteboard technology may also be in use, where the teacher will be able to draw on a whiteboard and students will be able to see the info on their computer screens.