Prospective students who are interested in earning an undergraduate degree online can find degree options in many different fields. It can be helpful to learn about content delivery methods and school accreditation before enrolling.
Online Undergraduate Degree Program Information
Associate's and bachelor's degrees can be earned online in many fields of study. Associate's degree programs take approximately two years to complete, while bachelor's degree programs usually take four years. Programs may cover such topics as:
- Health care
- Criminal justice
- Information technology
- Liberal arts
Online Program Formats
Depending on the school and the program, online education is provided in different formats. Some of the specifics and delivery method options are covered here:
Online schools provide content through a variety of different formats, including:
- Streaming video and audio
- Lecture notes
- PowerPoint presentations
- Textbook readings
Students may also communicate with professors and other students through a variety of online platforms, including:
- Message boards
- Video chatting
- Instant messaging
There are two main scheduling options for online degree programs. Asynchronous learning allows students to work at their own pace when it is convenient for them, using features like e-mail and discussion posts. Synchronous learning requires that students meet at the same time for classes. This can be accomplished by web conferencing, instant messaging and chat software.
For some programs, schools may require that students take lab classes and clinical practicums onsite. This is particularly common for educational programs that require hands-on training, such as those in the health sciences. Some hybrid programs require students to appear on campus, while others allow students to fulfill practical training requirements at approved locations in the student's area, like local hospitals.
Finding Accredited Programs
Students looking for an online undergraduate degree program should make certain that a prospective program has the proper accreditation. Students can discover if a school is accredited by checking the U.S. Department of Education's database of accredited institutions.
Prospective students should be aware that there are two types of accreditation: institutional and programmatic. Institutional accrediting bodies may be national or regional, and they evaluate the quality of entire schools. Programmatic agencies evaluate the quality of specialized programs in particular fields.
Although both forms of accreditation are well-recognized, there can be problems with credit transfer should a student decide to continue his or her education at another institution. Students who complete an online associate's degree program and plan to transfer to a bachelor's degree program should first check to ensure that credits are transferable.
Individuals who are looking to earn an online undergraduate degree can find relevant offerings at the bachelor's and associate's degree levels in a wide range of subjects. Online learning typically involves nontraditional course material delivery through online platforms, although on-site study is sometimes required for graduation as well.