How It Works (FAQs)

A World Campus student works on his studies remotely

The concept of distance learning could sometimes feel daunting if you are unfamiliar with the online environment. You might ask: Will I be learning completely on my own? What is the online classroom like? How do I take an exam? Will this take more or less time than an on-campus course?

These are a few of the common questions that prospective students ask. If you don’t find an answer to your question, contact us.

What Does the Online Classroom Look Like?

Our philosophy for designing online courses: Use the latest technology to best deliver the content in the most flexible way while keeping the technology transparent to you.

We use one centralized platform where you can log into your classroom. There you can get assignments, interact with faculty and peers, reply to message boards, and more.

Our courses are created in partnership with our faculty and our instructional designers to ensure a learning experience that is tailored to the subject matter and the expected learning outcomes. We approach the development of our online courses very seriously, so that they mirror the exact same quality content as you would expect on campus.

There is no such thing as a typical online course at Penn State; each course can look different. For example, a chemistry course's components will differ from a history course. 

However, our courses do share the following features:

  • fully online
  • academically equal to campus courses
  • interactive and dynamic
  • adult learner–centric

How Do I Know if I am Ready to Learn Online?

To help you prepare for online course work, we offer a new-student orientation webinar. We also have a readiness-assessment tool that can measure how prepared you are for online learning and provides valuable resources to help you meet your academic goals.

How Do I Interact with My Classmates and Instructor?

We strive to provide a variety of mainstream technology tools so that you can interact easily with other students and your instructor and continue to use these same tools in your workplace. These include:

  • Skype
  • Blackboard Collaborate
  • email
  • discussion forums

How Flexible is the Course Schedule?

World Campus courses are designed with your busy schedule in mind, providing the flexibility you need to study at the times most convenient to you.

The majority of the courses are structured for asynchronous learning to provide maximum flexibility for the adult learner.

All of your course activities, assignments, and exams, however, must be completed by their respective due dates. The typical length of our courses is 12 to 15 weeks. Some courses may also contain online group work that you need to take into consideration.

What is the Time Commitment?

Students enrolled in World Campus undergraduate courses have reported spending approximately 8 to 12 hours per week on readings and assignments for a 3-credit course. Plan to spend extra time when you have papers, projects, or exams. Graduate-level courses will likely require more time per week.

How Long Will It Take Me to Finish My Program?

This answer varies for each student. There are many factors (e.g., transfer credits, course load per semester) that influence how long it will take. Depending on the program, some students are able to complete 12 credits every year — others more than 20 credits. For example, in a cohort-based program, you will be required to take a fixed number of credits each semester as you move through the program with other students, allowing you to consistently complete more credits than students who work at their own pace. You should choose a program that best fits your schedule and your life circumstances. To find out more, contact an admissions counselor.

How Do I Submit Course Work and Take Exams?

Your assignments are submitted electronically through your online classroom environment — just like you would turn them in to your professor on campus. Most exams are taken through an approved University proctor. Once you enroll, we will help you secure a proctor near you. It may even be possible to secure an online proctor in some courses.

What Kind of Computer/Internet Access Do I Need?

We try to make our courses as easy as possible to access technically while still maintaining a quality online experience. (View the basic technical requirements.) You should also review any additional requirements that your program area may have.

Can I Take Part in Student Activities?

Being a Penn State student is more than simply taking courses. Whether you’re located around the world or around the corner, you will have the opportunity to participate in some of Penn State’s most popular traditions, develop your leadership skills, and connect with fellow Penn Staters outside the classroom.

  • We have a chapter of Alpha Sigma Lambda, a national honor society that partners with colleges and universities to celebrate the scholarship and leadership of full- and part-time undergraduate adult students.
  • World Campus students are invited to join the World Campus chapter of the Penn State Blue & White Society — the student membership of the Penn State Alumni Association. As a member, you will have access to networking opportunities, and you will receive a limited-edition Blue & White Society T-shirt each year.
  • The World Campus Psychology Club is a fully online student-based organization that publishes a biannual newsletter and provides students with events featuring psychology specialty experts.
  • You can participate in one of Penn State’s proudest and most unifying traditions — the Penn State Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON). THON is the largest student-run philanthropic effort in the world, which raised more than $13.3 million in 2014 to fight pediatric cancer.

In addition, you can get to know fellow Penn Staters by connecting with us in our online communities: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube. And, of course, in the fall you can tune in to a Penn State football game and cheer along with thousands of your closest Penn State friends.

What Happens When it is Time for Graduation?

When you earn a degree through World Campus, you earn a Penn State degree, so this is a special time for celebration with family and friends. Because we also want to applaud your hard-earned success, we will invite you and your family to a special graduation open house during the same weekend as commencement on campus. And as a World Campus graduate, you are invited to attend the same commencement ceremony as those on campus to receive your diploma in person.

This is often the first time that our students set foot on campus, as well as meet their classmates, faculty, and academic advisers in person. It is truly an exciting and emotional experience, and we are honored to be able to share in this joyous occasion with you. If you cannot attend graduation in person, we will send you your diploma through the mail.

How Can I Stay Connected to Penn State After I Graduate?

Once you've become a Penn State graduate, you become part of a worldwide network of more than 560,000 alumni and can choose to join the Penn State Alumni Association, the largest alumni association in the world with more than 169,000 members — and your first year of membership after graduation is free.

As a member of the Alumni Association, you will gain access to professional development as well as volunteer and friendship-building opportunities with Penn Staters throughout the world. Members can also take advantage of LionLink, a professional networking program designed to assist Penn State students and alumni in exploring various career fields through information interviews with alumni career coaches.

If you have not yet found an answer to your question here, you may want to ask our knowledgebase, an expertly-maintained collection of questions and their answers to many more of students' most-asked questions.