how it works

How it Works - Online Education

For some people, the idea of earning an entire degree completely online might seem new, confusing, or even far-fetched. In reality though, more and more students are turning to online universities to earn their degrees. In fact, according to an article by CBS News, the online student population is expanding by 30% each year.

If you've considered enrollment in an online master's degree program, you'll have many questions about how it all works.

Considering your options

Questions to ask admissions officers
  • Is the university accredited?
  • What is the graduation rate of students?
  • How much will tuition cost?
  • How can I access financial aid?
  • Can I transfer over any previous college credit in my program?
  • How long will it take to graduate?

The first step toward earning a degree online is one of the most important – researching all of the different online universities. Before enrolling in an online master's in education program, you must pick a program that meets all of your specific needs.

While researching different programs, some important facts to check for include accreditation status, graduation rate, and if a program will count toward teacher certification requirements, if needed. Click here for more information on university accreditation.

In order to gain additional information about a university, you also need to speak with an admissions officer. On a school's main web site, you can request communication with an admissions officer, who will contact you over a chat messaging system or phone call to answer your questions.

Admissions officers explain the various degree programs a university offers, and help potential students to understand how and if a program will meet their needs.

With a greater understanding of admissions requirements and information about what the university offers, you'll feel confident you're making a good decision. If you decide to enroll, the school will then assign you an academic adviser who will help walk you through course scheduling.

Charting a course for graduation

Your academic adviser will become your inside source for university knowledge, helping you to figure out a course schedule that works best for you.

When talking with your adviser, seriously question yourself about how much work you're willing to do in a semester, and how the addition of classes will affect your life. During discussions with your adviser, you'll discover which courses you'll need to take first, how you'll communicate with classmates and teachers, and what rewards you can expect in the future by earning a master's degree in education.

Different universities have different ways of administering classes and course work, so make sure to ask your adviser about your future learning experience. Now is the time to ask any additional questions you might have about earning a degree online, before you've registered completely for classes.

With your course work scheduled, and your path to graduation set, you should begin to take the time to prepare for classes. Click here for more information about getting organized and preparing for your online master's degree program.

Beginning the journey

Your first day of class might seem confusing or overwhelming, but it won't take long before you adjust to your new schedule.

At the start of your master's in education program, you'll focus on entry-level courses to both introduce you to the online learning experience, and to the overall master's curriculum.

Depending on your specific master's degree, these entry-level courses will vary in concentration. For example, a student earning a master's degree in elementary education might focus on elementary curriculum development, and instructional strategies to teach reading, mathematics, social studies, and science.

How classes are set up depends on both the specific class and the university. Some classes might involve watching video instruction from your instructor, or watching live Power Point presentations about a new subject.

A major part of your class participation will involve discussing course work and reading assignments with your instructors and fellow students. These class discussions typically take place over message boards or chat rooms provided by the school.

As you progress in your master's degree program, you'll begin to break into more advanced theories and concepts that drive the teaching profession. You might look into the psychological and cognitive development of students in order to examine the effectiveness of newer teaching strategies, and gain additional content knowledge in specific school subjects, such as English and math.

Students who are on course to both earn master's degrees in education and apply for teacher certification will also begin student teaching near the end of their academic careers. Students entering these internships are first-time teachers, and gain the skills and background they'll need to enter teaching careers.

Crossing the finish line

The time it takes you to finish your master's program and graduate largely depends on how much work you're willing to put into earning your degree. Students may graduate quicker by increasing their course loads or transferring previous academic credits to their online programs.

However, many students maintain full- or part-time jobs while enrolled in their online master's degree programs, which sometimes makes it difficult to increase the amount of classes they take at once.

While the time it takes you to graduate largely depends on your own schedule limitations, your teachers and academic advisers will help as much as possible along the way. If you're having difficulty meeting class requirements, or need to make changes in your schedule, you must communicate with your teachers and advisers.

Advisers and teachers will help you find tutors, or methods to streamline your work strategies in order to assist you with graduating as quickly as possible. These professionals understand that you're busy and have many responsibilities, and want to ensure school fits well in your life.

As you near graduation, make sure to stay in contact with your adviser through e-mail or phone to make sure you meet all graduation requirements. You don't want to be a month away from graduation only to discover you haven't met a certain requirement.

Strong communication will be the key to staying on track and graduating on time. With strong communication strategies, dedication to finishing work quickly and effectively, and an ability to never lose sight of your goals, you'll soon be able to put your master's degree to work in your career.