All About Online Bachelor's Degree Programs

You would like to earn a bachelor's degree, but do not have the time to commit to four years in residence at a brick and mortar college or university. After looking at other options, you may want to consider enrolling in an online degree program.

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When considering enrolling in an online bachelor's degree program, it can be helpful to learn how course material is delivered, what to expect from the curriculum and what technology the students need for online study.

Online Learning

An online degree is something new to the field of academia, and has only attained prominence over the course of the last several years as Internet use becomes widespread at all levels of society. Such a platform enables students to 'attend' all of their classes from their own homes or places of business, or even from a public access Internet computer (such as is found in a public library) for students who do not themselves have access to the Internet. This type of arrangement is especially convenient for students who are employed and/or have family commitments, as they are not required to live on or near a college campus.

Course Material Delivery

In online bachelor's degree programs, course material is delivered through online platforms. Virtual classrooms, available through schools' Web sites, make it possible for assignments and projects to be distributed and submitted entirely online. Lessons may be given through online readings or through live or recorded lectures. In some programs, live classes are scheduled in the evening or on weekends in order to accommodate the needs of students with daytime work obligations.

There are also a variety of ways in which students may communicate with professors and with each other to discuss course topics. These include:

  • Message boards
  • Instant messaging
  • Video chats
  • Email
  • Online forums

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General Education Requirements

Just like in a traditional bachelor's program at a brick and mortar college or university, the online bachelor's degree requires that a student complete a certain number of general education courses such as:

  • Natural Sciences and Mathematics
  • Social Sciences
  • Communications
  • Humanities

Major Requirements

Coursework will also be required in a major subject area - the difference being that an online student typically selects a degree program before enrolling, whereas a student at a traditional college or university tends to enroll in the school first and may take a year or two before declaring a major.

There are a wide variety of programs available online in most of the subjects you could study at a traditional college or university. You can find a number of fully online degree programs in popular subject areas such as:

  • English
  • Communications
  • History
  • Humanities
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Computer Science
  • Criminal Justice
  • Business

There are also majors that are offered in hybrid formats, which combine on-campus or other in-person requirements with online learning. For instance, students may be required to complete on-site residencies, labs, internships or clinical experiences. Subjects offered in hybrid formats can include:

  • Engineering technology
  • Allied health
  • Teaching/education
  • Life sciences
  • Fine arts

Technology Requirements

In order to earn a bachelor's degree online, students need to have access to a computer with adequate hardware and software. Although major-specific software requirements can vary, schools typically specify the basic features that a student's computer must have, which can include:

  • An up-to-date Windows or Mac operating system
  • High-speed internet access
  • A certain amount of memory
  • Office software
  • Antivirus software
  • Web camera
  • Headphones and speakers
  • Microphone
  • CD/DVD drive

To recap, online bachelor's degree programs are becoming increasingly common, and hybrid and fully online options are available in a wide range of subjects, from English to engineering to teaching. Before applying, students should consider the program's academic and technical requirements to ensure they possess all of the necessary qualifications that will yield success in the program.

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