Boston University Online Education – What to Expect

What does it mean to study online at Boston University? Here are some things you should know.

Studying Online

Most Boston University online programs are 100 percent online, which means students do not come to campus. Instead, we’ve designed a media-rich, collaborative learning environment, allowing our faculty members to interact with students through a learning management system (LMS). Course content may include online lectures, videos, interactive animations, discussion boards, electronic portfolios, Web conferencing, and more. Students submit regular assignments including homework, projects, and papers, through the LMS. Some courses include secure, proctored online exams.

That said, upon completion of their degrees many online students make the journey to Boston for Commencement ceremonies, where they can meet their peers and professors in person.


Online learning requires a substantial amount of written communication. Because you learn at your own location and during the times that you prefer, email is your primary means of communicating with instructors and other students. In addition, most courses require you to engage regularly in online discussions and collaborative work with classmates. As an online student, it is important to feel comfortable interacting with others from a distance, since you will not have the same face-to-face contact as a student learning on campus.

Motivation and Discipline

With disciplined work habits, you are likely to succeed as an online student. A greater degree of flexibility requires that you take an active role in your education—it is up to you to log on to your course and meet your own deadlines.

Time Management

Online courses are intense and can consume a great deal of your time—especially as many of you are trying to balance school, work, and family. In order to receive competitive grades, plan on spending at least 20–25 hours a week on each class. Read all the course content, complete all the assignments, and block out time to do it.

High-Quality Instruction

Boston University faculty are highly respected. In addition, many of those who teach online tend to have extensive, hands-on experience in their fields. They are researchers and industry professionals, with extensive academic expertise. They deliver an education that focuses on practical application, while developing a core foundation of knowledge and theory.

Professional Connections

Most students in BU’s online graduate programs are employed when they enroll. In addition, many BU faculty who teach online have connections to industry. That means the online learning environment ensures access to diverse insights, expertise, and practices, and comprises an extensive network of professionals in a variety of industries.

“I work as an IT manager, and right from the very beginning , every class I took was relative to what I was doing at work at that time.”—Tim Heilman, MS Computer Information Systems graduate


It goes without saying that technology plays an integral role in online learning. You’ll need a high-speed Internet connection and basic computer skills (we’re happy to help you get up to speed). For specifics, please visit our Technology page.

Course Schedules

Most courses operate on a seven-week schedule, with start dates in January, March, May, July, September, and November.* Though you can complete course assignments during the hours that work best for you on a day-to-day basis, you must finish each course within the allotted time period. Each course has built-in deadlines along the way to make sure that you progress at a manageable pace.

Because of the concentrated schedule, students in Boston University online programs are typically able to complete two courses per semester by taking one seven-week course at a time.

You can apply for and begin a Boston University online program at almost any time throughout the year. Visit the online course schedule to view current and upcoming courses, and for information about how to apply.

Technical Help and Student Support

Boston University ensures that online students receive experienced support throughout their studies. Distance Education office staff, your course facilitator, and your course instructor are all available by phone or email to answer questions and guide you as needed. However, online students should be comfortable learning independently, taking the initiative to ask questions, and receiving instruction at a distance. Technical support is available through BU’s Information Services & Technology (IS&T) group.

*Most Gastronomy & Food Studies online courses run on a 14-week schedule, with the exception of online cooking and baking courses, which follow a seven-week schedule. Fourteen-week courses begin in September, January, and May only.