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Introduction to Online Degrees

Last updated:
9th Aug, 2022
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Introduction to Online Degrees

The year of 2020 profoundly impacted billions of lives on this planet. An unprecedented, unparalleled circumstance in the form of a global pandemic brought the world to a sudden break. While this crisis was extremely tough for each one of us, it was also one of the finest moments in the history for innovation in education in India. The determination and diversity of our country is a strong force to steer us all through the tough times and so is the story of online degree programs.

But first, some background

UNESCO defines Gross enrolment ratio (GER) as the total enrolment in a specific level of education, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the population in the official age group corresponding to this level of education. India’s GER in higher education was 27.1% in 2020 as per the report by All India Survey of Higher Education (AISHE)

All India Survey of Higher Education


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In comparison to India, the global average GER is marginally high at 27% but substantially high with developed counties like USA (88.2%), Germany (70.3%), United Kingdom (60%) and well high for emerging countries like Brazil (51.3%) and China (49.1%) also.

Degree programs are the fundamental qualification of skills in any discipline. They are awarded only after a learner successfully completed through the designated set of theoretical & practical knowledge and passed various key assessments from a recognized higher educational institute. The degree certifies that the learner is totally capable of applying the knowledge for their discipline in relevant industries. Hence, an academic degree is the key eligibility criteria for any respected job.

Birth of online degrees

National Education Policy 2020 approved on 29th July 2020 was targeted to bring significant reforms in the higher education system of the country. While education is one of the most key factors of the growth in a developing country like India, this NEP replaced the National Education Policy of 1986 which was last modified in 1992.

While the decision to relax regulations for launching online programmes was announced in the Union Budget 2020 in February, it was not until 04th Sept 2020 that University Grants Commission (UGC), a regulatory body set up by the Ministry of Education, Government of India, released the regulations & guidelines for Higher Educational Institutes (HEI) to provide degrees through online medium.

As per the guidelines established by the UGC, following criteria have to be met by a higher education institution to offer online programmes:

  • they have been in operation for at least five years;
  • they have earned accreditation from the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) with a minimum score of 3.26 on a scale of 4; and,
  • they should also be in the top-100 in overall category in the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) for at least two years in the previous three years

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This reform was highly appreciated by educationalist in the country as a measure to improve accessibility to quality higher education programs and boosting the country’s GER in the upcoming years. The vision of NEP 2020 is to reach 50% GER by 2035 and online degrees were launched as the biggest driving factor. 

Defining online degrees

In a country where children are extremely influenced by the family and relatives to choose their higher education programs, online degree is a highly misunderstood concept. Most of the general population are still adapting to internet especially in tier-III or below cities/towns. Lack of clarity on the advantages of technology in delivering quality education through online medium is a basic misunderstanding among masses. What most people fail to realise is that a data science principle or a digital marketing concept will remain unchanged regardless of the learning environment. Internet is merely one of the medium to share various areas of knowledge. So, online degrees are simply your regular degree programs delivered through an online platform in place of a classroom infrastructure. 

If you are looking to understand the key differences between an online degree and on-campus degrees, you can check out our article on this topic: Online vs Offline Degrees: Which is Better?

All online degree programs are composed of the below 4-quadrant approach as per UGC (Credit Framework for online learning courses through SWAYAM) Regulations, 2016

online degree programs are composed of the below 4-quadrant approach as per UGC

Here is what is covered in each Quadrant:

  • Quadrant 1: Online program consists of e-Tutorial that are video-based lectures in live or recorded format to explain various topics by a subject matter expert 
  • Quadrant 2: Online program consists of e-Content  in form of PDFs, Text, e-Books, Illustrations and Documents, including Web resources (Reference links, Wikipedia, Open-source content etc.). 
  • Quadrant 3: Online program consists of Assessments ranging from various problem/ solutions, MCQs, Short answers type, Quizzes, Assignments etc.
  • Quadrant 4: Online program consists of Discussion forums for enhance peer-to-peer interactions amongst students and academic staff

Together these four quadrants build the fundamentals of online degree programs. These quadrants ensure an exhaustive learning process for students. They help students learn & implement all necessary concepts in an appropriate manner and build the skill sets as part of their academic curriculum. Hence, an online degree provides an all-round development experience at par with any on-campus degree program. Since the new generation of students have exposure to electronic devices from a very young age, they have build a knack of using technology platforms at ease and hence, academic delivery of degree programs through an online mode has even shown better results for students from upcoming generations. 

Last thoughts

If you’re thinking whether online degrees is suitable for you personally, you can learn about it at upGrad. upGrad is India’s largest online higher education company with a mission to making our learners achieve their desired outcomes. upGrad has helped over 2 million students from 100+ countries to decide and choose the best online programs that can help them reach their goals. 5 out 6 upGrad learners have received a positive career outcome as per a recent review by Deloitte. You can visit upGrad Degree Counseling  to learn more about best online degree programs, top Universities and add-on services to assist the online degree students.


Kamal Jacob

Blog Author
Kamal is an experienced Online marketing consultant with a high degree of expertise in SEO, Web Analytics, Content/Technical planning and marketing.
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