General Considerations for Choosing an Online Master’s Program
As online offerings become more available, students considering distance-based enrollment should keep the following three considerations in mind: scheduling flexibility, delivery format, and state authorization.
Scheduling Flexibility: Asynchronous vs. Synchronous
Online programs are often designed with non-traditional scheduling needs in mind, but can vary in terms of how much flexibility is offered. Students seeking full flexibility may want to consider programs with asynchronous instruction. In an asynchronous course, students have deadlines for watching pre-recorded lectures and completing assignments or exams, but they’re not required to login at a specific time. Students who thrive in programs that prioritize interpersonal interactions, by contrast, may want to consider programs with synchronous courses. In synchronous courses, lectures, meetings, exams, discussions, and other program essentials occur in real-time, with students and lecturers logging in simultaneously from different locations. These meetings often happen on evenings or weekends, designed to meet the needs of students who may have full-time jobs or other commitments. Note that it is common for programs to offer a mix of synchronous and asynchronous instruction, and not exclusively one or the other. Primarily (but not totally) asynchronous programs are not uncommon, for example.
Delivery Format: Online Vs. Hybrid
In addition to considering the level of flexibility, prospective online MHA students should keep their program’s delivery format in mind. Some degree programs can be earned 100 percent online, while others are delivered in a hybrid or blended format. Fully online programs allow students to complete all of their coursework remotely, without ever having to visit a physical campus. Hybrid programs offer the possibility to take some or most courses online, but also require a student to visit a physical campus for labs, exams, orientations, immersions, or other degree requirements.
Finally, state authorization status is important for students applying to online MHA programs based in other states. Applicants should ensure that the institution being considered offers degree programs in their state of residence through the school’s website (e.g., Southern New Hampshire University) or by reaching out to admissions officers. Please note that many U.S. states and their distance-based universities participate in the National Council for State Reciprocity Authorization (NC-SARA), which allows students from compact states to pursue an online degree in another region.