Studying Online at SPS

left hand on trackpad of mac, notebook and cup of coffee

Studying Online at SPS

Whether pursuing courses online or in person, School of Professional Studies students follow a rigorous Columbia University curriculum taught by world-class scholar-practitioner faculty, and develop knowledge and skills they can apply immediately in the workplace.

To offer maximum flexibility, students may select from a range of online course options and, on a case-by-case basis, may switch between on-campus and online study.

Several of our master’s and certification programs can be completed fully online, and several of our master’s programs can be completed in a hybrid format combining in-person and online study. Click here for a full list of options.

Canvas: Columbia’s Online Learning Platform

Studying online, SPS students attend lectures; receive and submit assignments; interact with faculty and students; and build their academic and professional networks through Canvas, Columbia’s learning management system.

Canvas directs students through a course and provides assistance with time management and focused study.

Readings, videos, and other multimedia elements hosted on Canvas feature a rich network of University scholars and industry practitioners, lively discussion forums, and interactive activities including case studies, simulations, and group projects.

screenshot of the Canvas system
screenshot of the Canvas system

Three online formats

icon depicting synchronous study


Real-Time Study

Meets regularly for live class sessions through HD videoconferencing. Students interact in real-time with the content, faculty, and their peers.

icon depicting hybrid study


Part In-Person Study

Meets in-person for at least half of the class-time and online for the remainder. Students and faculty interact in a classroom and online.

icon depicting asynchronous study


Flexible Study

Features prerecorded lectures that students access within a set time frame. Students and faculty interact online through forums and activities.

Our Online Offerings

To see if a specific course may be offered online, and in what format, please refer to the Program Details and Courses webpages for the program you're interested in. In addition, you may also want to check the Columbia University Directory of Classes; course listings there specify if a course is offered online in the optional Location field.

How to Be a Successful Student Online

Completion of an online course depends on mastering technology, your environment, time management, and interaction. These skills and traits will enable your success.


  • access to a computer with a webcam and microphone
  • high-speed, reliable internet access that will support streaming, interactive video
  • ability to navigate a learning management system and other online tools
  • knowledge of how to install plug-ins and course-specific software on your computer
  • ability to troubleshoot basic technology problems

Time Management

  • excellent time-management skills
  • ability to work within a firm deadline structure
  • self-discipline to complete your work without frequent reminders
  • willingness to advocate for yourself and “speak up” if problems arise
  • time to dedicate at least 10 hours per week per online course

Learning Environment

  • dedicated, distraction-free place in which to study
  • well-lit workspace appropriate for interacting with faculty and fellow students on camera
  • access to your computer on a daily basis


  • comfort with a wide range of online interactions
  • effective written communication skills
  • ability to collaborate with others in an online environment
  • schedule that permits you to connect with your fellow students online at different times during the week

your resources at columbia

Online students receive ongoing course technology and instructional support, as well as access to resources open to all SPS students, including:

  • Student Affairs >
  • Learn more about advising, registration, policies and procedures, and University resources.
  • Student Life >
  • Engage with SPS and Columbia through the University senate, SPS Student Government, and student organizations.
  • Career Design Lab >
  • Explore career options and strategically connect to the real world of work.
  • The Hub >
  • Powered by PeopleGrove, this online career networking system makes it simple to schedule appointments with Career Design Lab coaches, engage in career discussions, apply for jobs and internships, network, and request a mentor.
  • Alumni Relations >
  • Take advantage of full alumni benefits upon successful completion of our master’s and certificate programs.
  • Disability Services >
  • Gain equal access through accommodations and support services including Learning Specialists, Assistive Technology and Alternate Format Materials, and Testing Accommodations.