Online classes provide a convenient alternative for people who don't want to travel or quit their jobs. They also reduce some of the expenses associated with earning a college degree. Although some universities remain reluctant to provide online Ph.D. courses, a number of educational institutions have begun to offer this option.
It has become quite common for doctoral students to earn some or all of their credits at home. The American Association of School Administrators reports that colleges hold almost three out of five doctorate-level medical classes online. Nearly 40 percent of education-related courses have moved to Internet classrooms.
Students can earn a wide range of doctoral degrees at home. For example, Capella University awards online Ph.D.s in technology, education, counseling, psychology, public administration, business and health. Online-only colleges tend to supply a wider range of computerized courses than universities with traditional campuses.
Most online doctoral degrees cannot be completed without some offline materials and personal interaction. Students may need to schedule on-campus interviews before they enroll in courses. Many classes still require paper books; some universities are willing to send them by mail. Students typically have to pay shipping fees to receive and return the textbooks.
A number of colleges expect online Ph.D. students to attend occasional classes. For instance, Texas Tech University students must travel to the campus every year for a 14-day seminar. Attendees cannot work during this period of time, so they must gain permission from their employers to enroll in the program.
A few universities offer hybrid doctoral degrees that combine many hours of online and on-campus coursework. Michigan State University operates an education degree program of this type. Students earn their doctorates by attending two summer classes at the MSU campus and completing the remaining courses at home.
Universities often use sophisticated Web interfaces and streaming video to deliver online courses. A person must own modern computer hardware to earn a Ph.D. at home. For example, the College of Health Professions at the Medical University of South Carolina requires each student to have four gigabytes of memory and a 200 GB hard disk drive.
In general, an off-campus Ph.D. program offers a desirable option for someone who can learn independently and operate computers without assistance. It is usually best to choose a fully accredited university that doesn't only provide distance learning courses. This prevents potential employers from knowing if a degree was earned online or offline.