How Do Online Colleges Work?

Online education is the answer for many who have a demanding life. But how do online colleges work? This article will answer this and other practical aspects.

Some people need help to fit a college education into their lives, whether because of their already busy schedule or the need to work while studying to afford a college degree. Whatever the reason, millions of people around the world have found a solution when it comes to obtaining a college degree—online colleges. So, how does online college work?

Keep reading to learn more about the most important aspects of online education and what to expect in an online degree program!

Do Online Degrees Have a Good Reputation?


Though online degrees have increased in popularity in the last few years, some people still have reservations about enrolling in an online degree program. Even though technology has made it possible to create a good learning environment by allowing students and teachers to communicate with each other more efficiently and in various forms, there are still some concerns when it comes to online degrees.

The main issue with online degrees is whether or not employers deem them to be on the same level as on-campus degrees. In such cases, we should turn to statistics to find out the reputation of online degrees:

  • 61% of HR leaders deem online learning to be at the same level or higher than traditional learning methods.
  • 71% of organizations admitted to having hired someone with an online degree in the last 12 months.
  • 52% of employers believe that people will complete most advanced degrees online in the future.
  • 33% of employers believe that the advancement of technology will contribute to online education surpassing traditional learning in the future.
  • 83% of business leaders believe an online degree at a well-known institution can have the same value as an on-campus degree.

Are Online Colleges Only Online?

This depends on the college and the program you enroll in. Some college programs are 100% online, whereas others might alternate between online and traditional on-campus courses—i.e., a hybrid approach.

In 100% online programs, students attend and view lectures online via on-demand videos, use chat rooms for group discussions, and participate in video conferences for group work with other students. On the other hand, students enrolled in hybrid programs will usually complete the lectures online and use in-person classes to ask questions and collaborate with other students face-to-face.

Online degree programs remain popular for the flexibility they offer students who want to complete a degree program at a different pace than on-campus programs.

When it comes to choosing a fully online degree program or a hybrid one, it’s really up to you. However, it is best to go for a traditional college or university with a good reputation, as this can lend credibility to an online degree, even if you never attend on-campus lectures.

What Is Required to Take a Degree Online?


Online degree programs offer students flexibility in different aspects, one of which is accessibility. Typically, all you need to obtain an online degree is a computer and an internet connection. However, using computers and technology shouldn’t intimidate you in the least because courses in online degree programs are typically very user-friendly. General computer literacy and knowing your way around the internet will be enough to complete an online degree.

When you enroll in an online course, you need to access the course website to attend or view lectures, participate in class discussions, and finish assignments. You will have to log in at a specific time for a live lecture and discussion in some courses. However, colleges usually record all classes so that students who cannot attend the live lectures can also access them.

How Does an Online Class Look Like?

In general, online classes are very similar to in-person classes regarding coursework. Generally, it takes students the same time to complete an online college course as it takes them to complete a traditional one. Because the syllabus is the same for a degree, whether students attend classes online or in person, assignments and deadlines will also be similar. Though online courses offer more flexibility, they require students to work and study to obtain a degree, just like traditional courses.

Online classes can be synchronous and asynchronous. In some instances, colleges require students to attend virtual lectures at a specific time weekly. These are what we call synchronous courses, and they allow students to view/attend lectures in real time, mimicking traditional in-person classes.

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However, some colleges and programs take “flexibility” to another level allowing students to study on their schedules. With asynchronous online classes, students can juggle working, spending time with their families, and obtaining a college degree. These classes allow students to view recorded lectures whenever they choose to.

Lastly, some colleges require students to attend online meetings with their professors and contribute to class discussions or message boards.

How Do Online Exams Look Like?


There are different ways students are evaluated online. In some cases, students have to download exams into Microsoft Word or a similar program, complete it, and upload it for the professor to check and grade. In other cases, professors require students to take the exam through the class website.

Some professors will time online exams, which means students have to find the time and place to complete the test on time without any interruptions or distractions. Another must-have for students when taking online exams is a good internet connection. While professors will usually let you make up the exam if your internet connection fails, starting an exam all over again is an inconvenience, especially true if you can’t retrieve the answers you already gave. Online exams can be “open book” exams or “closed-book exams.

Open-book vs. closed-book exams

In some courses, the professor will compile exams and quizzes to be “open book” type, meaning that students can refer to their texts or other learning materials during the exam. However, not all online exams will be “open book” exams. In some other cases, online exams will be closed-book exams, in which students are expected not to refer to their texts during the exam.

What Is the Relationship Professor-Student in an Online Degree?

Another concern students may have about online degree programs is their relationships with their professors and peers. This is why you should choose an online program that focuses on their students having direct access to professors, advisors, and classmates—the same way they do in a traditional program.

One way to interact with your professors and peers during class sessions is through online chat. Regarding time outside of class, students usually use emails and phone calls to reach their professors and advisors.

In many online courses, group assignments are a requirement. For such assignments, students can book online conference rooms where they can meet “face-to-face” with their group to finish the assignment using laptop cameras and microphones.

Wrapping Up

If you want to obtain a college degree but are limited by geographic factors, a busy life, or are simply looking to fit more things into your schedule, consider enrolling in an online degree program. Online degree programs offer students flexibility in more ways than one and have grown in popularity over the past few years. With minimal requirements to attend classes and finish coursework, i.e., a computer and an internet connection, a college education has never been more accessible.

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