Online Training Programs: How Do They Work?

Online training programs offer professional, career, post-baccalaureate or graduate education. Programs are offered at community colleges, universities and vocational schools.

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Online training programs often offer the flexibility that many students need but may require additional self-discipline to stick to studies without the traditional classroom structure. Here, we'll look at those issues as well as admission requirements, scheduling and coursework.

Online Programs

Online programs are often pursued by students who need scheduling convenience and flexibility; however, they may be more intensive and require added focus and determination. At the bachelor's degree level, courses may be offered through degree completion programs designed for students who already possess an associate degree. Additionally, some graduate programs, particularly those in specialized fields such as health care or computers, may only be open to students with relevant work experience or a related bachelor's degree.

Program Learning Styles

Students can participate in cohort programs, in which a group of students enters the program and moves through it together. Other schools offer the opportunity for self-paced learning, meaning that course start and end dates are open and can be completed on the student's own schedule, independent of other learners or on-campus programs.


Online training programs may be held exclusively online or as hybrid programs that require some on-campus participation. Programs can be semester-, trimester- or quarter-based, in keeping with the on-campus academic calendar of the host school.

Some distance education courses are completed in shorter, accelerated sessions when compared to their on-campus counterparts. For example, some online courses run eight weeks, while courses at a college campus may run for 15 weeks.

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Lessons and Coursework

Courses in an online training program may require participation in scheduled live chats, or they may be entirely asynchronous, with no real-time interaction between classmates or between students and the professor. While students are often able to complete studies on their own time frame, they must usually submit assignments by scheduled deadlines. Additionally, some projects may require online students to work in small groups.

Students can communicate with instructors and fellow students through:

  • E-mail
  • Online discussion forums
  • Course management interfaces.

These interactive opportunities may be required or simply available for student use if desired. Some online training involves streaming video and audio lectures.

Residencies and Internships

Programs usually have no residency requirement, save for occasional class meetings or lab work a few times a year. Some programs require internships that may be facilitated by online training programs, or students may be responsible for arranging their own internships.

Technical Requirements

Certain specialized programs, such as those in art and design and computers, may require students to obtain and use industry software programs and additional computer hardware. Some programs may require the use of audio recording equipment and Web cameras. Schools that offer streaming video and audio lessons require sound and video cards. Students may also need technology skills for accessing library materials and library databases.

There are many online training programs available, both as degree programs and as specific training courses. Scheduling and coursework is often formatted in a flexible way, and internships and cohort learning opportunities may be available.

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