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

Jun 24, 2019

Aspiring students looking for flexible educational options might consider earning their bachelor's degrees through online study. This convenient method lets students learn from the same instructors who teach on-campus courses without ever having to leave their homes.

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Overview of Online Bachelor's Degree Programs

Before enrolling in an online bachelor's degree program, it is important to consider the characteristics and requirements of these types of programs. In many key areas, online bachelor's degree programs work much the same way as on-campus programs, but there are a few key distinctions related to major declaration, degree requirements, course scheduling and general communications that must be considered. Let's take a look at a few.

Degree Requirements

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. Some programs can be completed more quickly also, especially acclerated programs. In accelerated programs, students can receive credit for previous life or work experiences; take shorter, more-focused courses; and take more courses at one time. For instance, a course in an accelerated program could be completed in 3-10 weeks, instead of the more common 16 weeks.

Declaring a Major

One difference between studying online and enrolling in a traditional degree program is that students must usually choose their program of study before enrolling, whereas students taking courses on campus may wait for a year or more before they decide to declare a major.

Course Schedules

Depending on the school and specific course, online courses may be offered in a asynchronous or synchronous delivery format. Asynchronous delivery allows students complete all their coursework at their convenience, as long as they meet the course end date. Students in these courses download lectures or watch them via streaming video. They also have access to study notes, digital learning materials and assignments.

Synchronous courses, on the other hand, meet at fixed times, so students will need to log in and watch live lectures at the same time as their classmates. These types of courses might feature interactive discussions or assignments.

Although many bachelor's degree programs are available entirely online, there are also some hybrid programs that include some on-campus requirements, like in-person laboratory sections. This means that, even if lectures are delivered asynchronously, students may need to attend scheduled on-campus classes or seminars.

Course Communication

Students in online programs can access all course lessons and assignments from their own homes, offices, or anywhere they have internet access. Generally, students complete lessons or quizzes on their own time and submit them via an online learning platform.

Online discussion boards, emails 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. 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.

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