How Do Online Classes Work? 10 Frequently Asked Questions About Online Education 2024

how do online classes work

Key Takeaways:

  • Taking online classes requires self-discipline and focus. Organization and time management can make it easier. Try setting up a schedule and prioritizing daily tasks.
  • Communication and support are crucial. Make sure to stay in touch with instructors, interact with classmates, and make use of support services.
  • Strike a balance between your daily life and your studies. While challenging, setting clear boundaries and staying healthy can go a long way to making your online studies a success.

Students are increasingly choosing to study online, and the trend has increased significantly during the pandemic. One reason for this growth can be attributed to the flexibility offered by online classes and programs, which allows students to study and work at the same time. Many of these online programs are very affordable. Which means that students graduate with little or no college debt, especially if they are working. Some schools even offer 1-year online masters degrees. However, just like traditional colleges, online colleges have policies and rules that students have to follow. If you are considering an online college, do thorough research and find out as much as you can about the college and how online classes work. If you do decide online is the right choice for you, here is a ranking of online colleges with no application fees.

Here are the top 10 frequently asked questions regarding online education, including how online classes work. 

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How do online classes work: Is online college right for me?

How Do Online Classes Work?

One of the very first questions to ask is whether an online college is right for you. Different students have different career goals and come from diverse backgrounds. That means their needs from an educational institute will differ as well. The one-size-fits-all solution of online classes may not suit all students. With the online options, students now have many more choices to pursue a college education. 

To determine whether online education is right for you, you have to research what each college offers. Depending on the degree you choose and the level of education, you will have to complete all courses and meet degree requirements. It is important to ask the enrollment counselor how online classes work, how long the entire program will take, and whether there is room for flexibility. You might even want to check out online classes for free. This could help you decide whether or not the format is a good fit.

Despite a flexible format, online programs follow the same academic rigor as on-campus students. Students will have to be very organized and motivated to succeed in an online program. Those who need extra learning support will excel in a college that provides robust support for students taking online classes. 

Along with self-discipline, the teaching style and delivery of lessons may also affect student performance. Recorded lectures characteristic of online classes may be boring, but they may work for students signing up for an asynchronous format. Students who can manage a cohort and more participation may find Zoom lessons easier to manage.  All they need is a place to work, with privacy and a reliable wi-fi connection.

What degrees are offered through online classes? 

How Do Online Classes Work?

One of the other important questions to ask about online college is whether the school offers degrees that match your long-term goals. While online schools provide students the flexibility to study from anywhere and around their own schedules, they need to have the right degree for each student. You will find that the various online undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs make it easy to earn a focused degree when you ask how do online classes work. A quick look at the degrees available via online classes:

Degrees offered through online courses can include: 

  • Associate’s – An associate degree is an undergraduate degree earned after a high school diploma, GED, or matriculation and before a bachelor’s degree. 
  • Bachelor’s – A bachelor’s degree includes BA, BS and BFAs and is awarded upon completion of a course of academic study lasting three to four years. 
  • Master’s – A master’s degree awarded upon completion of a two-year academic course of study. Students with a bachelor’s degree can apply. 
  • Doctorate – A doctorate degree is awarded to students who hold a graduate degree. It qualifies the students to teach at the university level.
  • Certificate – A certificate program is a short academic program that provides specialized training for students to get into a specific job quickly. 
  • Diploma – Diploma programs are typically short courses that lead to vocational, undergraduate, and graduate credentials. 
  • Non-Degree Courses – Non-degree courses are short online courses that provide students with additional knowledge in their fields of study. 
  • Graduate Certificates – A graduate certificate is awarded upon completion of specialized training at the college or university level. 

Is the college offering online classes accredited?  

How Do Online Classes Work?

Accreditation ranks among the most important questions to ask about online college classes. Every student should consider and research if they are choosing the right college and a legitimate institution. Online programs have grown in demand and popularity, but only accredited online colleges ensure that a quality academic institution awards the degree.

Accredited online schools have allowed students to break through many barriers via online classes. Now students can attend any school of their choice regardless of where they are located. They are more affordable, so they do not have to incur heavy college debts. Constraints like the high cost of college, living in rural or remote areas that lack good colleges, or any for that matter, are no longer barriers to higher education, thanks to the availability of online classes. Students who need to start working right after high school or be caregivers for a family member can now continue with their higher education without gaps in their resumes. 

Accreditation is an important criterion since it ensures that the online degree programs from the university meet specific quality standards, including those that relate to the school’s learning management system. To receive accreditation, online degree programs undergo a review process conducted by several non-governmental and nonprofit organizations. All of the schools featured in our rankings, like this one featuring the best online phd in organizational leadership programs, are regionally accredited

What are the credentials of the school’s faculty?

How Do Online Classes Work?

If you are wondering about how online classes work, also consider the school’s professional reputation and ranking. The faculty qualifications and experience are a big part of these rankings. Take a look at the faculty page of each school’s website to see what the overall faculty profile for online college classes is like. Then delve deeper into the departmental faculty profiles to see teacher qualifications for the subjects and fields you are interested in. It will give you a good idea of the quality of education you will receive from the school’s online degree programs. Faculty support and interaction go a long way to ensure student success in online college classes. 

What is the job placement rate for online degree programs?

How Do Online Classes Work?

The goal of higher education is to earn knowledge and also prepare for the workforce. Leading accredited schools and universities have a robust placement program that helps students get into jobs right after graduation. They work with seniors to prepare them for applications and interviews. Most schools have a partnership with local and national businesses where they can try and place students. The process is even more important for degrees that have a vocational or professional bent. Some online schools have a dedicated placement department to train students for specific industries. They have a high success rate of their students getting into entry-level jobs and rising fast in their areas of work. 

How do online classes work when it comes to format and flexibility?

How Do Online Classes Work?

Among the questions to ask about online college classes, students must ask what type of learning platforms they offer to host their online classes. Are these learning management systems flexible and user-friendly? Are these totally online, or are campus visits required? Some students may prefer their schools to be totally online, while others may seek some access to a nearby campus. Some programs let you earn your degree faster thanks to online accelerated associate degree programs. Whatever questions students may have, it is good to make a list and ask them before enrollment to avoid surprises later. Typically, once you fill out a form, an enrollment advisor will be assigned to you, so make sure you take advantage of that and ask all the relevant questions needed to make an informed decision about your online learning options. 

What about extra support and student services while attending online college classes?

How Do Online Classes Work?

One of the most important features that separate a good college from a not-so-good one is the kind of support it provides for its students. It is even more important that they have robust support for their online students who are studying remotely in online classes. These are students who will need emotional and academic support from their teachers as well as peers. Another source of online learning help they will need is from the IT departments of each school in case their laptops or other devices crash or if they have internet issues. Without a strong internet connection and a fast-performing device, they will not be able to attend classes regularly, finish their assignments on time or take tests when needed. So, figuring out what college resources they can access online is very important. 

Are there opportunities to accelerate/stretch online degree programs? 

How Do Online Classes Work?

If you are looking for accelerated programs online, then look for schools that offer this option. Many online programs that are designed with working adults in mind offer accelerated programs online. The availability of these online learning options means that students can take more classes in a shorter period of time to graduate earlier than traditional students. 

At the graduate level, many schools waive the first year of study for students who come from the same field and allow them to get their master’s degree in approximately one year. The undergraduate degree works as the foundational knowledge for the degree. In the same way, those who hold a two-year associate degree can look for colleges that waive them off the undergraduate requote so that they can earn their bachelor’s degree a year or two early. Since these take less time to complete, they are often more affordable than the regular degree programs, even online ones. 

Accredited online schools that offer accelerated programs do not compromise the quality of education. Students can identify and choose a program that best suits their needs, interests, and career goals. They are known for the quality of the program, flexibility, and delivery of their programs. Their high academic standards equip students with the skills they need to excel in their online classes and in their respective fields. 

Does the school accept transfer credits toward online degree programs? 

How Do Online Classes Work?

Students must do thorough research about the admissions process when they consider the questions to ask about online college. If one hasn’t completed an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree, then online college makes it easy for them to do so. However, if they have completed an associate or bachelor’s degree, then transferring those credits for the next level degree like a master’s will be much easier. In fact, if the school accepts transfer credits toward thier online degree programs, then students can save time and money by receiving credit due to their previous college experience. 

The commonly accepted routes for credit transfers are:

  • Previous academic work
  • Certificates
  • ACE courses
  • Military training
  • SOC
  • Life experience
  • Other forms of lifelong learning

The number of credits that can be transferred differs from one school to the other. Students may transfer up to a maximum of 45 credit hours if they are applying at the associate level. Undergraduate students applying at the bachelor’s level have the opportunity to transfer up to 90 credit hours. Many types of prior learning are considered and respected by the leading online schools. If you want to continue learning online, check out our ranking of the top 10 most affordable online colleges for transfer students. Students who wish to learn more can complete a request for additional information by filling up a form or sending an email to the enrollment office. 

The admissions page on the school’s website may also list what is eligible. These include:

  • Admission criteria and admission process (often at no cost).
  • Completion of a transfer credit evaluation application.
  • Students have to provide transcripts/proof of their prior learning.
  • They also have the option to complete a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) portfolio for additional credit.

What about financial aid and tuition costs?

How Do Online Classes Work?

Along with asking how do online classes work, students also need to consider cost questions to ask about online college. The cost of online degree programs is an important consideration and can include a variety of items, including unexpected or hidden costs. By understanding college costs, students can compare schools and explore options of applying for the best college with lower costs, which include more than tuition and room and board. To understand the process better, students need to get an idea of the overall cost of attendance. This includes: 

One of the key cost factors includes tuition, which is the cost of taking online courses, and these costs vary by school.

Along with the tuition for online classes, you will find a fee attached to each credit or semester cost. These typically include activity fees, technology, or parking fees. Students must ensure that the colleges and career schools provide a clear statement of their tuition and fees.

Then there is the cost of room and board, which means lodging and food expenses which also vary by school.

Books and school supplies also form a considerable expense item, even for online classes. These include all textbooks and reference materials, book bags, pens and pencils, notebooks, paper, computer paper, folders, trays, and pen holders, along with other desk accessories.

Travel and miscellaneous expenses can be listed for students who commute to school, including all kinds of transportation costs. Those who live on campus may travel during school breaks. Miscellaneous expenses include clothing, cleaning, technology, entertainment, and mobile phone costs, among others.

Equipment and room materials might include a computer/laptop and printer, tablets, reading lamps, sheets, towels, and other linens. It may also include kitchen items like a microwave, hotplate, and refrigerator. Colleges often attempt to mitigate the cost of the most commonly needed expensive items. For instance many online colleges offering affordable programs give students a free laptop.

A detailed chat with the admissions or enrollment advisor will make a lot of these expenses associated with online classes clear. 


Federal Student Aid
U.S. News & World Report
National Center for Education Statistics