Understanding Online Degrees – Residency

Understanding Online Degrees – Residency

residency program
As discussed in prior posts, online degrees have many different formats, styles and requirements. In terms of degree level, graduate programs (Masters and PhD/Doctorate) typically have more options, more complexity and a larger number of requirements.


One of the common requirements is known as Residency. Despite being an online program, a degree with a Residency will require students to come on location to complete a portion of the program. These residencies are typically on campus, although there are a few online programs that will host residencies in various cities to make it more convenient for students.

There are many flavors of residency, and to illustrate here is a portion of the residency description for a group of PhD and EdD programs presented to one of our clients:

  • 1 time 5-day residency (8am-5pm);
  • Three 4-day Dissertation Research Seminars required
  • 2 residencies (roughly three and one-half days each) in Chicago. The 3rd is optional.
  • Four-day in-person orientation prior to the program.
  • Includes two hands-on residencies where you can interact with faculty and peers face-to-face for one week.
  • Residency for the doctoral program is satisfied by living on the campus during three Summer Institutes.
  • Optional 1 week intensives
  • A nine-day, on-campus residency period is required during the three summers of the student’s program.
  • Annual immersion weekend held on campus. Meet classmates and professors face-to-face and complete various collaborative learning exercises designed to build essential leadership skills.
  • Three In-Residence weekend workshops in Denver
  • Mandatory on-site residency each term on campus, typically held in the fifth week of the term. These on-site residencies are normally scheduled on Fridays and Saturdays and consist of two days of classroom instruction. Residency attendance is mandatory for the full two-day period each term.
  • Four residencies (Residency 2 may be virtual, Residency 4 may be virtual or a capstone intensive retreat
  • Three 4-day Dissertation Research Seminars required


Here are a few of the types of residencies that grad students need to understand.

Pre-Program Orientation

In this version students are invited to campus to meet instructors, fellow students and staff. These will be scheduled anywhere between a three day weekend to a full work week. This is particularly useful if you are in a cohort program, where a group of enrolled students will take the same classes in the same sequence. You’ll work on team projects together and collaborate throughout enrollment.

In addition, many of these orientation residencies will include some or all of a course, and in that case you will get course credit.

Bookend/Dual Residency

Along with the orientation at the beginning, some programs add a few days again at the end of the degree program. The latter will focus on a Capstone experience or a final comprehensive exam. It’s also a celebration for the group upon completion of the program.

Multi-stage Residency

Part of some Master’s programs but more common with PhD/Doctorate residencies, this is where there are 3-5 points (or more) throughout the program where students gather in person. In some programs this is also known as a colloquium. At the PhD/Doctorate level, these are critical times to prepare for the dissertation process and can last from a few days to a full week.

International Residency

Grad programs in international business, international relations or other global programs will have gatherings in locations throughout the world to immerse in the culture. Critical for first hand knowledge of local rules and customs and to meet with local experts in business, society and geopolitical issues.


At the Master’s level, a large minority of degree programs do have a residency requirement. At the PhD/Doctoral levels, most of the online programs we see do have a residency component of some sort, even if it’s voluntary. Some schools are doing online residencies via video sessions. Either way it’s important to understand the relevance, requirement and importance of residencies for our clients so that they can plan accordingly.

#onlinedegree #residency #onlineMBA #OnlinePhD