Fully online associate's degree programs in biology are not typically available, but some schools - primarily two-year community colleges - may offer distance learning classes that students can take in conjunction with on-campus labs. For students who want a fully online program, they may consider pursuing a biology bachelor's degree, though only a handful of schools offer them completely via distance learning.
Biology programs at the associate's level are usually focused on preparing students for transfer to programs in the major at four-year colleges or universities. The coursework is designed to provide a foundation in the sciences and in general education. Students may need to purchase lab kits and microscopes.
Typically, there are a limited number of science classes offered online, because most such classes require extensive hands-on laboratory work. Some associate's degree programs may offer an introductory biology course that offers a broad overview of the principles of biology. In these online classes, students may be required to rent lab kits for use in doing lab assignments at home. In some cases, students may be required to purchase lab supplies - including microscopes - and pay a small lab science fee as part of the tuition. Online labs may cover such topics as:
- Cells and membranes
- Human biology
- Organic molecules
Some schools may offer biology courses in a hybrid format, which allow students to complete written assignments, quizzes and other requirements online but require on-campus attendance to perform mandatory lab work.
Online classes allow for students to make use of animations, videos, quizzes, learning activities and diagrams to help them grasp the material. Schools use content management systems to organize online classrooms for students to interact with their classmates and teachers using tools like virtual message boards or chat rooms. Teachers post lecture materials, visual aids and assignments that can be viewed and completed independently at home.
It is recommended that these types of online biology courses be reserved for students experienced in distance learning, since they demand discipline and time management. Students with previous experience working with distance learning software and online courses will be best prepared to take advantage of online biology laboratory classes.
Gen Ed Courses
Associate's degree programs typically require a certain number of general education class credits for graduation. Courses such as general chemistry, calculus, analytical geometry, sociology, psychology and English are generally offered in an online format, allowing students to complete most of the degree online. Students will then complete the required biology and other lab-based science classes on campus or in a hybrid format in order to earn their associate's degree in biology.
Although it is not usually possible to earn an associate's degree in biology entirely online, there are programs that offer a mix of online theoretical coursework and on-campus lab work. Some programs also allow students to fulfill lab requirements on their own. Students committed to learning fully online may look into bachelor's programs in biology, though they aren't widely available.