Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs
A bachelor’s degree is the mark of a full higher education, and students should graduate with expertise in a particular area of study. It differs from an associate degree in depth and scope, and allows students the opportunity to specialize in multiple areas of interest. Online bachelor’s programs are available in most areas of study, such as the arts, natural sciences, social sciences, business, economics, political science, legal studies, health, and technology.
What Is Required of Online Bachelor's Students?
Students may choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree online for various reasons, such as if they have time-consuming work or family responsibilities and need the flexibility of distance education. Others may simply prefer the online format. "Unlike some other people, I didn’t set out to do [my classes] online," said Elise Leal, a Regent University graduate who earned her bachelor’s degree in communication arts and history online. "I was home schooled and [took dual credit online courses in high school] through Regent," Leal said. "I ended up loving them. When it came time to go to college, my mom was about to have a baby and I wanted to stay close to home that year. I fell into it, but I am glad it happened that way."
Lubens Masere, an American Intercontinental University graduate who earned his bachelor's degree in graphic design, outright preferred online courses for his discipline. "It was better because it was hands-on," Masere said. "I could do it on the computer and focus on my work with no distractions."
When researching potential online bachelor’s programs, it is important to thoroughly research the time commitment your degree plan will require. Once you know what you would like to study, check out the websites of potential schools and speak with admissions advisors to get a clear picture of how long courses will take and when they are available.
The best part for me was that the classroom settings were very small … You can email, text, or call your instructors if you need help with your assignments.
Lubens MasereAlumnus of American Intercontinental University
Most brick-and-mortar universities are set up around a four-year bachelor’s completion plan, and many online universities use a similar model. However, the time for completion is never set in stone and varies based on the school, program, your specific goals and schedule, and the amount of college work you have previously completed. If you already have an associate degree, look into how many of those credits could transfer in toward your bachelor’s degree. This may decrease the amount of time it will take to complete a bachelor’s degree. The same goes for students who have taken college courses while in high school. "When I was taking college classes in high school, I took online courses," said Ashley McPhail, a Regent University graduate with a bachelor's degree in international business. "Then, once I knew I was going to Regent, I preemptively took some eight-week classes online over the summer." She was able to use those credits toward her bachelor’s degree and graduate a year early.
In addition, some online bachelor’s programs follow a traditional semester-based model, but most follow a schedule that is completely different from what you would find at a brick-and-mortar school. Online programs typically feature rolling course offerings, so rather than taking courses during a block semester, students can take courses at any time of the year. Contact your prospective school for more information on how course schedules are structured. Once you have been accepted to an online program or school, the next step is registering and scheduling classes. Online universities will assign an advisor to each student who will walk him or her through the process of scheduling the right courses.
"Once you’re in, you work with an academic advisor, and they help with registering," McPhail said. "They were very knowledgeable and willing to help," she said. AIU grad Masere recommended making an effort to keep in touch with your academic advisor throughout your program. "If you have any problems, they will help you," Masere said. The entire process of registration for courses is done online, and students speak with advisors over email or on the phone.
What Is the Online Environment Like?
All online bachelor’s programs will operate within an online learning system. This is the space where students can log in through a common web page, select the course they would like to go to and view discussion boards, look at assignments, submit homework, chat with other students, message their professors, or listen to online lectures.
It’s easy when you’re online to just do what you have to do, so it’s important to make an effort to be a part of it and make a connection with your professor. They are the professor; it is their job to connect with us, but it’s also our job to take on that responsibility, as well.
Ashley McPhailAlumnus of Regent University
In some programs, students meet online during a designated class time. They may watch video lectures in real time or chat with classmates. It is more common, though, to have no set class time. Participation in these types of courses is largely based on conversing with your professor and classmates over online discussion boards. "In our bachelor’s classes, we had to write a post of 200-400 words once a week," said Regent graduate Leal. "It had to have proper grammar and good flow, and we were expected to cite at least three sources, such as the text book, lecture, and an outside source." Then, students had to comment on at least three other students’ posts.
Communication between professors and classmates takes place via chat, email or over the phone. "The best part for me was that the classroom settings were very small," Masere said. "You can email, text, or call your instructors if you need help with your assignments." Some professors at the bachelor’s level also do occasional video conferences.
"We had video lectures at least every two weeks," McPhail said. "You can’t see the other students, but you can hear them. We could see the professor talking to us and were able to ask questions over chat or through our computer microphone."
Course materials for online bachelor’s classes vary from school to school. Online students often use hardcopy textbooks, ordered online or through the school. Some professors use e-books and PDF documents that can be accessed through the online learning platform. Pre-recorded video lectures or audio tracks are also sometimes used.
According to Masere, McPhail, and Leal, one of the most important rules for success in an online bachelor’s program is to be personally responsible for your own learning. "If you don’t take the time to discipline yourself and make sure you have a set time to do your school work every night, you can really set yourself up for failure," McPhail said. "It’s easy when you’re online to just do what you have to do, so it’s important to make an effort to be a part of it and make a connection with your professor. They are the professor; it is their job to connect with us, but it’s also our job to take on that responsibility, as well."
How Does Earning a Bachelor's Degree Online Impact Your Future?
Pursuing a bachelor’s degree online can be a great choice for your future, as long as that type of program will work for your educational needs. "It’s been great for me," Masere said. "So far, I feel very confident. I’ve learned so much." Masere has received several internships after completing his degree, and says that as a native Hatian who immigrated to the U.S. in 1990, the online format has been the best educational match for his learning style as an ESL student. "Online schooling was way better than the traditional classroom," Masere said. "This is the first time in my life where I've felt like I’ve learned something. I was able to focus on my schooling. I didn’t think that was possible."
"The strength of online learning for me," Leal said, "is that you learn how to say exactly what you mean to say because almost everything is written. I learned a lot in terms of how to be a good writer and how to relate in an online setting." Currently pursuing a master’s in history at Texas Southern University, Leal said that four years of constantly writing every week for her bachelor’s program has improved her writing substantially. "In one of my current classes, we have to do weekly online posts. You could tell the difference between students who had done that type of thing and those who hadn’t," Leal said. "I learned to think with a different part of my brain, successfully communicate my ideas, and give critical feedback on other’s ideas. It was a lot of work, but I wouldn’t trade having taken my bachelor’s online for anything."