How Online Learning Works

We understand that online students are working professionals striving to balance busy lives and will work with you to deliver flexible and convenient programs that accommodate your schedule and fit your goals. Study, participate in class, complete assignments, and conduct group and project work from any location and often at a time that works for you. Learn more about how online learning works at WPI.



How Online Learning works


Coursework & Homework

As in any course, the amount of time actually invested depends solely on the student and varies on a course-by-course basis. As the same faculty teaches both online and on-campus classes, the courses are designed to teach the same material and require approximately the same amount of student time commitment. In general, you should expect to spend an average of 15 hours per week on class work in addition to lectures. Some courses may require a heavier workload.

Student and Faculty Interaction

Participation and group work is large component of many courses and students regularly connect and develop a rapport with instructors and fellow classmates through e-mail, discussion boards, and chat rooms. Classes are often divided into "project teams” to work on projects and assignments as groups––similar to the real workplace. Online students, who are often geographically separated, use the same tools that are used to deliver the course, such as online discussion forums, to meet virtually instead. In fact, many of our online students say they participate more in their online classes than they ever did as an on-campus student.

Asynchronous vs. Synchronous Learning

Most of our online courses are asynchronous, meaning students can access class content on their own time. Synchronous communications are in real-time and seen as a live conversation (e.g. online chat or videoconferencing).

Online Course Delivery

Our courses integrate the latest technologies in web, videoconferencing, digital recordings, simulations, virtual chat, and discussion boards to provide a rich, immersive learning experience. Courses are structured so that students can go online or view recordings as their schedule allows.

Technology Requirements

In order to access online courses, you must have high speed internet access without firewalls. If you are registered for an online course, it is assumed that you have the basic computer skills (including email and Microsoft Office) necessary for participating in and completing a class online. Knowing how to navigate the Internet is essential and you should be able to download and upload files on your computer. Live technical support is available at least fourteen hours a day.

Completing an Online Graduate Degree

Each online graduate program varies in length, but we do offer all required courses and a number of elective courses each year. As an example, the typical timeframe for completing a 30-credit master's program is three to five years part-time. Our team helps students plan their programs, but students set their own pace. Program lengths also vary for those waiving courses and/or transferring in credit from prior graduate-level coursework.

Commencement Ceremonies

All students—regardless of whether they completed their courses online or on-campus—who have filed a graduation application and are considered a candidate for graduation are invited, and encouraged, to participate in WPI’s graduate commencement ceremony. Commencement exercises are typically held in May each year.

When I started the program, I was worried that I would not like taking classes online, but I have found that I really enjoy it! I can watch and revisit the lectures as my time permits, and the professors are very responsive to questions.
  • Rebecca M.
  • MS Candidate, Robotics Engineering