The short answer is to this question is YES. However, you need to primarily consider the policies on pausing, interruption, or temporary discontinuance that apply to your online program.
Typically, you obtain approval from your online college or university. You will be reminded of the time frame within which you can go back and complete your classes and perhaps earn your degree without affecting your academic standing. For how long you can put attendance on your online classes on hold varies from one online school to another. They have their own set of rules indicating when you will be marked as incomplete or your chances for resumption will be forfeited.
Completing the program typically means passing the examinations and meeting the minimum required credits, which could be in the form of hours spent or sessions attended. However, you have to remember that each online school factors in different rules on what constitutes a completed unit.
One of the good things about distance learning, particularly in higher education, is that your college may not even ask you to state your reason for pausing school. But common courtesy dictates that you inform your professors and plan ahead so they know what to expect. It is also much more convenient to file a temporary pause in online programs wherein you can readily reach out to your school administration. In a conventional college, you may have to adhere to standard formalities and procedures.
Online schools are generally lenient, especially with graduate students. They are likely to grant your request. However, depending on the duration of your absence, they may suggest that you postpone your graduation. If the administration thinks you easily catch up to get back on track, they may ask that you earn your credits ahead of time, usually around two weeks before the graduation rites, so you can comply with graduation requirements.
That said, be sure to check your the online school’s accreditation–particularly if you are a transfer student. Certain rules may or may not apply to you and affect your chances of completing school when you put it on hold. Also, check for accreditation, as it also dictates the rules on temporary discontinuance. Some colleges own numerous campuses and not all of their certifications are awarded by the same accrediting body or originating from the state.
Taking a leave of absence is not the end of your academic life; a lot of graduate students and even faculty members take a sabbatical, a leave from their academic work, to either pursue further studies or focus on their research. For online students, the best chance of success lies in consistent attendance to classes. However, certain situations call for them to put their attendance on hold for an extended period of time. If you plan on pausing your online schooling, you need to look at your academic calendar. Chances are, you can always come back to school and earn your college degree. Ultimately, the question is not “if” you will complete your degree but “when” you can.