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Distance Learning

What is distance learning?

For working students or people with children or other family obligations, distance learning can be an excellent solution. Classes are flexible and student-centered. Using the Internet, television, videocassettes or other media, learning from home is made possible!

Who can take a distance-learning course?

Students who study on their own must be self-motivated and well-organized! Course requirements are the same for both distance-learning classes and courses offered on campus. For instance, upper-level courses may require prerequisites. If you're admitted to study at a college, you're qualified to take its distance-learning courses.

How do I find out about distance-learning courses?

College Planning is a great place to start. Explore Schools to learn more about the schools and to gain contact information. Then, for more details, contact the college you plan to attend.

How do I register for distance-learning courses?

In most cases, you register for distance-learning courses the same way you would for campus classes. However, if a college has a distance education office, you may need to register through that office. Many colleges offer online registration, and allow students to pay their tuition online. So you may just save yourself a trip to campus!

What technology do I need?

Distance-learning classes vary. For an online class, you'd need a computer and Internet access. For a class delivered by broadcast, you'd need a television and perhaps cable TV. Check your college's distance-learning catalog to find the technology requirements for class. If you still have questions, contact your college's distance education office before registering.

How much is tuition for a distance-learning course?

Tuition costs vary from college to college. Distance-learning courses may cost a little more or less than campus courses. Be sure to contact your college's distance education office for details.

How do I earn a degree online?

Degrees earned online have the same requirements as degrees earned on campus. Typically students take general education courses in the first part of their degree. These general courses give students the background they need to earn a bachelor's degree. In most cases, students also take a series of courses to form their particular major. Contact your college's admissions office or distance education office for a distance-learning catalog.

How do I choose a college or university?

Before choosing a college, you'll probably want to consider costs, the programs offered, location and other factors. Explore Schools for school details, such as tuition costs, financial aid, size, academics and student life. You can even Compare Schools side by side to see how they measure up!

If you're interested in distance learning, find colleges that provide this option. Look for colleges that offer advice and other student services online or by phone. If you're a working student, search for colleges that offer student services evenings or weekends.

Can I take courses at more than one institution?

Check with an advisor to make sure that classes from another college are transferable, and will count toward your major.

What does matriculate mean?

A matriculated student is someone who is enrolled in a college with plans to complete a degree or certificate program.

Am I eligible for financial aid if I take distance-learning courses?

If you're taking an occasional distance-learning class as part of your degree, you may be eligible for the same financial aid as if you were taking all your classes on campus. Restrictions may apply if you're taking only distance-learning courses. Contact your college's financial aid counselor for details.

Can I transfer credits that I have earned over the years to a current degree program?

Your current college decides which courses transfer. Colleges have different rules on transferring credits. Most limit the number of credits you can transfer and the length of time that can pass since you earned your credits.

Also, the credits earned at a previous school may not necessarily count toward your current degree. Check with your college's academic advisors for details.

In addition, most colleges have a "residency requirement," meaning you must take a certain number of credits at that college in order to graduate. The number varies from 15 to 45 credits.

Why can't I just take courses that interest me?

You're free to do this; however, your courses may not lead to a degree or certificate. Colleges and universities develop learning plans, with specific required courses, to best prepare students for success.

If you want to earn a degree, talk to a college advisor to learn more about the degree programs offered, and the courses required. Explore Programs and Majors to learn more about what's offered and find out what interests you.

What's the difference between an undergraduate and graduate degree?

An undergraduate degree is a student's first degree -- typically a bachelor's degree. A graduate degree is an advanced degree, with the general requirement that students must have already earned an undergraduate degree.

Students can earn the following degrees:

  • Associate degree, requiring 60 to 69 credits
  • Bachelor's degree, requiring at least 120 credits
  • Master's degree, requiring 30 to 60 credits beyond a bachelor's degree
  • Doctoral degree, requiring about 30 credits beyond the master's degree

Do I need textbooks? How do I take exams?

Like regular campus classes, distance-learning courses generally include course syllabi, textbooks, lectures, coursework and exams. But instead of sitting in a lecture hall, you might receive your lectures via the Internet, a videotape or CD. If you live far from campus, you may need to locate a proctor to take exams. Order your textbooks online or by phone. But be sure to allow extra time for the mailing of the textbooks.

After registering for a course, contact your instructor for class instructions.

For distance-learning courses, who should I contact with questions about course content or assignments?

First of all, contact your instructor. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses may be found in class catalogs, websites or syllabi. Alternatively, contact the college's distance education office.

Are there any in-person requirements for distance-learning classes?

Requirements will differ from class to class. Some courses may require you to be in a certain place at a certain time. Other courses may allow you to study at your leisure. Check the class catalog for details, or contact your instructor.

When are distance-learning classes offered? And how quickly can I complete one?

Many distance-learning classes follow a traditional semester calendar, with courses offered August to December, January to May, and May to August. These classes tend to have specific time periods for exams and assignments. Some distance-learning courses may be accelerated.

Other classes offer open enrollment, allowing you to register any day of the year, and giving you a completion deadline, which is based on your start date.

Will credits from distance-learning courses count toward graduation?

Yes, many distance-learning classes meet general education graduation requirements. Check with your college's advisor to make sure the credits will count toward your degree or certificate.


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OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.