Online courses can fill numerous educational niches, from giving high school students a head start as they prepare for college, to helping current college students stay on track to graduate in four years. According to data from the Evergreen Education Group, 30 states have fully online high schools that served an estimated 315,000 students in 2013-2014, while another 26 state virtual schools served more than 740,000 students. In higher education, the numbers are even bigger, with more than 2.6 million students enrolled in fully online degree programs, and another 5.5 million taking at least one online class, according to the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
With the boom in online learning technologies-and greater adoption rates by public and private school districts, as well as universities-online summer school has become an increasingly accessible and attractive option for students. The following guide serves as an overview of online classes, discussing the various types of programs available and how they work, identifying the institutions that offer online classes, and answering common questions.
Online Courses: Reasons & Resources
At the high school level, most students take summer school online for one of four reasons: credit recovery, original credit, beginning a technical career, or making the transition to college athletics. Here’s how each reason breaks down, as well as where and how to get started today:
REASON #1: Credit Recovery
Credit recovery was created as part of the No Child Left Behind initiative in an effort to help high school students stay in school. Students who have previously failed a course or who want to re-take a course to earn a better grade may enroll in credit recovery courses. These courses have the same rigorous content as the original class, but traditionally have accelerated timelines because students have been through the curriculum previously.
The best place to start for credit recovery is your own school district. It’s possible that your district or school may be partnered with an online school provider. Call your school or check its website to see if this is the case. You’ll also want to see what online summer school courses will satisfy the requirements of the class or classes you’re recovering credit for, and you’ll need to verify this with your school as well. If you have an online school or course in mind, contact your school to make sure it accepts credit from that institution. Below are two examples of how school districts are assisting their students with credit recovery:
Sacramento Accelerated Academy (SAA): The Sacramento Unified School District offers this online credit recovery program for its students.
Virginia Beach City Public Schools: This school district offers high school students the opportunity to take online summer classes through the Virtual Virginia Beach e-learning platform.
- Other credit recovery resources include:
K12: A for-profit technology-based education company, K12 provides educational services, curricula and software systems for students in grades K-12. By partnering with public schools, school districts, private schools and charter schools, K12 offers wide-ranging educational options for students taking classes during the summer, including credit recovery.
Reason #2:Original Credit
Original credit courses allow students to take classes they have not previously taken for credit. These classes can be used to satisfy graduation requirements or accelerate graduation from high school. They may also be used to fulfill college course requirements.
There are a multitude of nonprofit and for-profit online high school programs offering summer school, including those offered by local school districts.
High school students looking to take high school credit that will go towards graduation should first check with their school to see if there’s an online summer school provider they’re partnered with. These students may be able to select their own summer school provider as well, but they should still check with their school district to make sure the credits they take will go towards graduation.
For students looking to get a jump on college, some colleges and universities offer early entry to high school students who’ve met admission requirements to the school. Other colleges have high school programs that enable students to finish high school and start working on college all within one program. Below are a few examples of the various types of schools that offer original credit opportunities to high school students:
TMCC High School: Truckee Meadows Community College High School is a high school program offered on-campus, with online course available, which enables students in grades 10-12 to work towards receiving a high school diploma and associate degree concurrently upon graduation. Students are able to take summer school courses online.
BYU High School Programs, Independent Study: Offers full high school programs or individual classes, including online summer school.
Connections Academy: Connections Academy operates online schools for students in grades K-12 in 26 states. Through their online summer school programs, students can complete either original credit courses or high school credit recovery courses.
Reason #3:Career and Technical Education
CTE students are motivated to start preparing for life while they’re still in high school. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the high school graduation rate for students in CTE programs is 90 percent, while the average national graduation rate as a whole is around 75 Percent. Some online summer programs offer students the opportunity to develop career-specific, technical skills in professional areas of employment.
Some online summer programs offer students the opportunity to develop career-specific, technical skills in professional areas of employment. A student considering enrolling in CTE online summer school classes should ensure that any courses they take are part of their overall education plan. Students should speak to an advisor at their school or the school offering online summer school courses to ensure any courses they take fit in with their overall goals. Below are some organizations and schools offering CTE online summer school opportunities:
Apex Learning: A provider of educational resources to school districts. Its career and technical education program meets state, industry and national standards and enables students to learn industry-specific skills via hands-on learning and individualized support.
Connections Academy: This online school provider offers dozens of CTE courses via its International Connections Academy Summer School Program.
Sioux Falls School District CTE Program: Online summer school courses are available to students in the school district who have spoken to a counselor and have been cleared to participate in the program. Several school districts throughout the country offer similar programs.
Reason #4: NCAA Coursework
NCAA Coursework for prospective college athletes, completing credits necessary for high school graduation can be done through approved online classes.
If you’re a student with an interest in participating in NCAA sports, your very first step should be visiting the NCAA Eligibility Center website. Eligibility rules for NCAA sports are stringent and detailed, and you need to make sure you meet the requirements to participate. You will need to register with the NCAA Clearinghouse on the website, so any schools interested in you can see your academic and athletic eligibility information here. This is the place to be sure that the courses you’ve taken so far in high school meet eligibility requirements. If not, you have the opportunity to take these courses at your school or through an online program.. While you’ll want to check with your school to learn your options for taking these courses, below are some organizations that offer online classes for prospective college athletes:
Connections Academy: Along with credit recovery and original credits, Connections Academy also offers NCAA-approved courses.
National High School: This online school offers several programs, including NCAA-approved coursework. Courses are offered in math, English, history and more.
Advanced Placement (AP) Courses & Exams
AP Courses Advanced Placement courses are a way for high-achieving high school students, who often require more challenging classes than the average student, to gain college credit while still in high school. Students take AP classes at school, and at the end of the class take the AP examination in that subject. If they pass, they receive college credit and may be able to bypass some required introductory classes in college.
AP Subjects & Specializations
Whether available in school or online, AP classes have a variety of course options. Find the right classes for you below.
History & Social Science
- AP Comparative Government and Politics
- AP European History
- AP Human Geography
- AP Macroeconomics
- AP Microeconomics
- AP Psychology
- AP United States Government and Politics
- AP United States History
- AP World History
Math & Computer Science
- AP Calculus AB
- AP Calculus BC
- AP Computer Science A
- AP Computer Science Principles
- AP Statistics
- AP Biology
- AP Chemistry
- AP Environmental Science
- AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism
- AP Physics C: Mechanics
- AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based
- AP Physics 2: Algebra-Based
- AP Art History
- AP Music Theory
- AP Studio Art: 2-D Design
- AP Studio Art: 3-D Design
- AP Studio Art: Drawing
World Languages & Cultures
- AP Chinese Language and Culture
- AP French Language and Culture
- AP German Language and Culture
- AP Italian Language and Culture
- AP Japanese Language and Culture
- AP Latin
- AP Spanish Language and Culture
- AP Spanish Literature and Culture
History & Social Science
- AP Comparative Government and Politics
- AP European History
- AP Human Geography
- AP Macroeconomics
- AP Microeconomics
- AP Psychology
- AP United States Government and Politics
- AP United States History
- AP World History
- AP English Language and Composition
- AP English Literature and Composition
AP Classes: Myth vs Reality
Sometimes there is so much misinformation being shared about AP classes that it becomes confusing to know whether taking them is a good idea. Instead of relying on secondhand information, we aim to clear up some of the most common misconceptions. Here are eight myths debunked about AP classes:
Myth 1: AP classes are too stressful.
Reality: Although it's true that AP classes can be quite challenging, that does not necessarily mean they are too stressful. If students work collaboratively in subjects that motivate them, the experience can be quite positive. When your teacher sees how motivated you are he or she can be a tremendous support helping you to adjust to the new demands. It's simply a matter of making it clear that you are committed to the learning process.
Myth 2: AP classes are only for "smart" kids.
Reality: AP classes aren't just for students who excel in academics. In most situations, anyone who is motivated to take on a college-level class can do so. Some high schools require students to take honors classes first, but that is not always the case. There is no minimum grade point for enrolling in AP classes either. You will have to work hard, but as you connect to the coursework, it will be worthwhile.
Myth 3: You can't take an AP class if no one recommended you for it.
Reality: You know your capabilities better than anyone else and can be your biggest advocate. If you are confident in your ability to take an AP course, schedule a time to speak with a teacher or counselor. Discuss the classes you have enjoyed and share your interest in further study. Be prepared to talk about your plans for your college and how taking AP courses now will be an important step in that direction.
Myth 4: AP exams are too expensive.
Reality: If you are worried that you cannot afford to take an AP exam after completing the course, you’ll be happy to hear there is help available. The College Board offers a fee reduction for each exam taken by eligible students with financial need. There are also state and federal subsidies available to students who qualify. Ask your counselor about how you can apply for financial assistance.
Myth 5: Homeschooled students cannot take AP classes.
Reality: Homeschooled students can still participate in AP classes through independent study and follow along through online tutorials. It's true that parents and students cannot order AP exams directly from the College Board. However, homeschoolers can take AP exams at their local high school. Parents should make arrangements well in advance to ensure their students meet all requirements before the exam.
Myth 6: A low score on an AP exam can hurt your GPA.
Reality: As long as you earn a C- or higher, you will receive an extra GPA point. Also, by tackling AP classwork it shows colleges you are willing to challenge yourself academically. Many colleges prefer to see a student score a 'B' in an AP class rather than an 'A' in a regular-level course. The fact that the student made the effort shows he or she won't turn away from a difficult situation.
Myth 7: It's not worth taking an AP class if you don't score high enough on the exam to get college credit.
Reality: You don't need to score a 5 to get college credit. Many colleges grant credit to students who score at least a 3. Also, many institutions offer you can the opportunity to place out of a course without scoring a 5.
That being said, even if you don't score high enough on an AP exam to get college credit, it doesn't mean taking the course was a waste of time. Students still get a certain degree of college prep by participating in AP classes. It helps them to build a foundation that they can access in college on their path to success.
Myth 8: I can't take an AP course because the one I am interested in isn't offered at my high school.
Reality: You are not limited to taking AP courses at your high school. First ask your counselor if the class is offered at your school. If the class you want to take is unavailable, you may be able to take it at a different high school or as an online course.
Most states have virtual academies that offer a variety of online courses, including AP. Some universities also offer online AP courses for state residents. Just like a traditional AP class, you would have a teacher and syllabus and need to complete reading and homework assignments. The difference is that you would take the class online either at school or home. Your counselor can help you explore your options.
How AP Classes Save You Money & Time
There's no question that taking AP classes in high school saves students money in college. From allowing students to opt out of certain college courses to reducing student loan amounts, the monetary there are many financial benefits to AP classes. Here are some of the ways in which enrolling in AP classes makes sound financial sense.
Research shows that students can save as much as $19,000 by taking AP courses.
AP classes are offered for free at most schools. (In some cases students may be required to purchase textbooks and study materials.) Although the cost of an AP exam is $91, some school districts pay the fee, so the students do not have to. Financial assistance is also an option. Based on the average college cost at a four-year public institution as $7,662 for in-state students and $18,529 for out-of-state students, AP fees are not even close to a full semester's tuition.
Approximately 31% of colleges and universities look at AP experience when making scholarship decisions.
AP scores can help students earn academic scholarships at colleges and universities. When reviewing transcripts, financial aid officers take notice of AP classes. Their presence increases the likelihood that the student will receive assistance to pay for college.
AP classes can reduce future debt from student loans.
For students who pay for college with student loans, the less time they spend working towards their degree, the better. For example:
If a student borrows $15,000 per year for four years, the balance upon graduation will be $60,000. With an interest rate of 4.29% (the current Federal Stafford loan interest rate), the student will pay almost $14,000 in interest alone if paid off in ten years. If that student took four AP classes, they could reduce the student loan amount by $7200 (12 credit hours x an average $600 per credit hour), for an interest savings of almost $2000 over the life of the loan.
AP classes help students graduate faster, so they pay less for living expenses overall.
Over 1,400 institutions in the United States grant a full year’s credit to students who have enough credits from taking AP courses and exams.Students who are successful in AP courses often enter college as sophomores.According to the U.S. Department of Education, students start classes within a year of high school graduation often take longer than four years to complete their degree. Research shows students who take AP courses and exams are much more likely than their peers to complete a bachelor's degree in four years or less, thus spending less money on tuition, living expenses and room and board.
Students who graduate because of AP classes may have more opportunities than those who don’t.
Although it's tough to put a price on being a better job candidate, there's no mistaking the benefits of graduating from college early. If a high school student uses AP classes to save a semester of college credits, they can spend that time (and money) on improving their resume. They may decide to work towards a master's degree, take additional coursework, or even study abroad.
AP Questions for Your High School Counselor
What AP classes are offered at our school?
Currently, the College Board offers AP classes 37 subjects. They include traditional courses such as English Language and Composition, Biology, and Calculus, as well as specialized AP courses in German Language and Culture, Studio Art 3-D Design, and Psychology. Your counselor can tell you which AP classes your school offers.
Am I a good candidate for any of these classes?
You don't need a 4.0 GPA to take AP classes. The most important factor in deciding whether you are a good match for a class is whether you are motivated to do the work. Let your counselor know if there is a specific subject you are interested in. He or she can help you make a decision.
Will taking AP classes help me get into college? Will they help me be better prepared?
There are many great reasons for taking AP classes. When it comes to college admissions, they can help you by making your transcript stand out among the competition. Because AP courses are more challenging than traditional high school courses, they are a good indicator that you are ready to tackle college-level coursework and that you are serious about your academic aspirations.
How many AP classes should I take per semester?
Each student is unique. Although your counselor can help you decide how many AP classes you should take based on your college plans, remember there is no magic number. Some schools limit the number of AP classes a student can take per semester. No matter how ambitious you are, be cautious about taking on too much academic responsibility all at once.
What type of workload should I expect?
Most AP courses are more demanding than regular high school classes. They aren't easy. In fact, most AP courses are similar in workload to first-year college courses. But if you put in the time and effort you can succeed. Of course, each course is different. Your counselor can tell you what to expect if you take the courses that interest you.
How can I improve my chances of being successful in AP classes?
Many high schools offer classes to improve student study skills. Your school may also have a study group. These experiences can help you stay on top of your AP class workload. It's also important that you understand the expectations, complete all assignments and study for all of the tests. When it comes time to take the AP exam, your teacher or counselor can point you to support materials.
How will my AP scores affect my high school GPA?
It depends on the school district. If you are taking AP class, be sure to verify how the grades you earn in class and on the AP exams will affect your GPA. Regardless, the fact that you've decided to tackle AP coursework shows admission officers that you are serious about academics.
How much does it cost to take the AP Exam? Is financial assistance available?
AP classes are free and available as part of the high school curriculum. The AP exam for each subject is $91. Fee reductions are available by the College Board for students who qualify. There are also state and federal aid subsidy programs. Ask your counselor about how you can apply.
Are there any students I can speak to who have had successful experiences in AP classes?
It can be helpful to talk to a student who has already been through an AP class. Ask your counselor for the name and email address of someone who can share their personal experience and answer any additional questions you may have.
What if I do poorly? Will it affect my college acceptance chances?
By taking an AP class, you are showing colleges that you are willing to challenge yourself academically. Many institutions would rather see a student score a 'B' in an AP class than an 'A' in a regular class because it's clear that he or she is making an effort to excel.
How can my parent get more information?
Most high schools offer parents the opportunity to learn about AP classes by holding a meeting during the school year. Your counselor can give you more information. If you plan to take an AP class, find out the enrollment period and deadline so you can get signed up in time.
AP First Steps
The College Board is the examining body for Advanced Placement, so it’s good to start there when considering what AP courses to take for online classes. Students who wish to be on the AP track in high school should be highly motivated students with good grades. Beyond that, they should speak with their school counselor to see if they fit the criteria for becoming an AP student. Check out the resources below for further information on Advanced Placement:
The College Board: AP Students: The College Board offers a comprehensive section on AP studies, including a list of AP courses, reasons to take AP classes and a place where students who’ve taken the AP tests can get their results.
Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth: While most AP course offer a variety of online course options. Most are nine months long with some intensive 12-week spring and summer online courses available to AP students, including the ones offered by Johns Hopkins CTY. Individually paced course are also available, and students can sign up anytime during the year for those classes, including summer.
Postsecondary online courses. Such programs are broad in nature, designed with several purposes and prospective students in mind, including:
REASON #1: Stay on Track
Nowadays, it’s getting harder for college students to graduate in four years. Those who are successful in doing so have most likely taken summer term classes.
Both public and private four-year colleges offer various types of online programs. Major universities, such as Harvard University and the University of California, Los Angeles, both offer open enrollment programs. Students who’ve already been accepted into a school are eligible to attend summer school, even those who are accepted for fall. Before enrolling for an online summer school class, students should ensure the class fits into their overall graduation plan. Check out these online class options below:
Harvard offers online summer school courses to all students, not just those enrolled at the University. Course offerings vary each summer but include:
Art, Humanities & Social Sciences: Comparative Literature, Museum Studies, and Sociology
Foreign Languages and Literatures: French, Japanese
Writing & Journalism: Creative writing
Science: Astronomy, Chemistry, Biotechnology
Harvard also has an on-campus Secondary School Program that allows students to take college courses in 7-week increments during the summer. Most courses are open to any college student without application.
UCLA’s onlinecourses are open to students from not only UCLA and the UC system, but other schools around the country and world. Students may choose from more than two dozen different courses offered in the following subjects: sociology, philosophy, music industry, geography, history, linguistics, theater, environment, film and television, and English.
Reason #2:Save Money at Community College
Typically, community college courses are less expensive than those offered at four-year institutions.
Many college students choose to complete prerequisite coursework at a local community college in preparation for transferring into a bachelor’s degree program of study, and this could include online courses. Students usually are expected to apply for admittance but most community colleges make this easy to do online. Students should consult the school they wish to transfer to in order to ensure the courses they take at community college will transfer. Below are but a few of the community colleges offer online summer school:
Brookdale Community College: Located in Lincroft, New Jersey, Brookdale Community College offers high school students, enrolled students, and visiting students the opportunity to take online courses. . Whether working, parenting, or vacationing, students can schedule classes around all types of busy schedules all year long Courses span across multiple disciplines, including accounting, political science, psychology, and history. The college uses Canvas, a distance learning management system to deliver online courses, and runs a virtual and face-to-face orientation for students new to the program. Students can order textbooks or rent them online from the virtual bookstore.
Since 1998, Delaware County Community College has served students via their nine campuses and online learning division. Students looking to accelerate their degree completion time or learn new skills can select from more than 120 online courses across all academic disciplines. They can access learning materials and technical support 24/7 through WebStudy, the school's course management system.
Reason #3:Study in the U.S. (Int’l Students)
Many schools open their virtual doors to international students for summer school study. International students may be able to access specific courses via U.S. summer school programs at U.S. universities that they may not have access to in their own country.
While some international students may wish to take online summer school courses for the experience, they should still check with their school to see if and how credits transfer. If they’re only taking summer courses online and not on campus, it may be as simple as filling out a form online and signing up for a class. Below are only two of the many schools offering summer school courses for international students:
University of Phoenix: International students are invited to study at this private, for-profit school, but they must be enrolled in a degree-earning program in the U.S. in order to attend online summer school.
Oregon State University: International students currently in the U.S. on another school's I-20 may attend summer school at OSU during their vacation period only. These students must submit the online application for non-degree students.
Reason #4: Professional Development
Many schools offer online course options through their community outreach and continuing education programs.
Students should check with their local college to see what courses are offered to community members. Whether you decide to take classes through the regular university or through a continuing education program, you probably won’t need to go through the regular admissions process, though if you decide to pursue a degree later, you’ll need to still complete this step. Options available include:
University of Nevada Extended Studies: The University offers non-admitted and visiting students the opportunity to learn about a variety of subjects online without having to be formally admitted. Some classes are also offered for credit.
Coursera: Students interested in gaining knowledge online free of charge in a variety of fascinating subjects need look no further than Coursera. For example, a class on algorithms, offered in conjunction with Princeton University, was one of the many courses available during the most recent summer session. Most classes don’t offer college credit, though some may.
How to Register for Online Classes
The application and registration process for both high school and college online courses is generally straightforward, and completed online. Below are steps students usually take:
1. Review Registration Guidelines Students should review class eligibility, course prerequisites, and required placement tests to make sure they’re not missing any critical elements.
2. Create an Online Account Students create an account that includes their contact information and serves as the online portal for class registration, making payments and viewing grades.
3. Submit an Application (If Required) Some institutions may require students at the high school level to complete an application prior to enrolling for online courses. Other schools have open enrollment.
4. Register and Pay for Classes
These are usually handled through the school’s online portal.
Federal Student Financial Aid via FAFSA®: If you have unused federal aid funds, you may be able to use the money to pay for summer school. You may have even received a refund from your school for unused funds, which you can use to pay for summer school.
Payment Plan: Some online summer school providers, including K12, allow you to make a down payment and pay the rest of the tuition on a payment plan for some programs.
5. Order Class Materials and Textbooks The following links may help:
Chegg: etextbooks, study tools and more
Bigwords: A search tool on the site scans several booksellers to find the cheapest deal on individual books.
Abe Books: Students can search for the cheapest books and also sell books here.
DealOz: This book aggregator searches 200 online bookstores to find the best deal.Amazon.com: Amazon’s search and purchasing power can help you find great deals on textbooks and other learning materials.
6. Contact the Professor/Instructor Depending on the school or particular program of study, instructors and professors may contact students before the start of class to introduce themselves, share the syllabus and discuss required materials. Students should be encouraged to reach out to their professors to ensure they are comfortable with the learning management system and class expectations before the program begins.
7. Start School!
Top 10 Reasons for Taking Online Classes
Whatever their reasons for attending online courses- -to improve grades or prepare for college-a central theme is flexibility. Online classes afford students the opportunity to craft a program of study and take classes that fit their personal, academic and future professional needs. The list below includes the top ten reasons students choose to take online classes.
For many students, graduating is no easy task. Making up a failed class can be an inconvenience, but online courses provide a chance to complete that class outside of normal school hours and stay on track to graduate.
Get ahead academically.
In today’s competitive academic landscape, high school students preparing for college can complete college credits through online learning programs.
Access great institutions.
Most universities, including prestigious such as Harvard University, use open enrollment for many online courses. This allows students to broaden their educational experience and complete classes at nationally recognized universities.
Students can improve their GPA by scoring well in an original credit class or by taking a previously passed class to earn a better grade and replace the original grade on their transcripts.
Take classes not available during the year.
At the college level, students may find courses they need to complete for their major are not offered at convenient times during the school year, but may be offered during the summer.
Explore new subject matter.
For the community member, professional or interested high school/college student, online courses offer the chance to explore new topics of study and pursue studies in personal areas of interest.
Stay on track to graduate.
Graduating from college in four-years is a difficult feat at best, as demanding credit loads each semester can be tricky to balance. Completing courses online is one way to stack ahead of the game and graduate on-time.
Prepare for university applications.
As mentioned above, the hyper-competitive world of college applications is of concern for students around the country. Taking additional classes online at either the high school or college level is one way for students to stand out when they submit their applications.
Online Classes FAQs
Enrollment requirements, costs, and the overall experience of online classes will vary depending on whether students take advantage of a program offered by their local high school, a community or four-year college, or a fully online institution. Following are some common questions about how the different environments compare.
High School Online Classes
Who can take online high school classes?
Online high school classes are designed to meet the needs of students in a wide range of situations. Students who want to earn their high school diploma completely online should look for a full-time virtual program from an accredited institution. Even students already enrolled in a traditional high school program may decide to take one or more classes from an online high school. Whether students need to complete an AP course, retake a class for credit, or supplement a homeschool curriculum, online high school can be a valuable opportunity.
How much does it cost to take high school classes online?
Tuition for virtual high schools varies depending on the institution. For example, the tuition for a full year at Apex Learning School is $5400 and students can take a single course for $350. Courses at Keystone High School range from $399 to $799. Most institutions offer multi-course discounts and payment plans.
How do students register for classes?
Most online high school programs allow students to register online or by phone. Students will need to provide documentation at registration, such as a school transcript or homeschooling portfolio.
How do students get textbooks and other materials?
It varies. Online high schools either have a virtual bookstore to access materials or send textbooks through the mail.
How much time should students spend each day in an online high school program?
It depends on the course. However, students can expect the time commitment to be similar to what would be required at a local high school.
When are instructors available to answer questions?
Depending on the program, instructors are available during set office hours. Many programs have counselors or learning coaches who serve as mentors.
What if a student is sick?
Attendance in the online learning environment is just as important as in traditional classrooms. Students must adhere to the deadlines and due dates established by their instructors.
What type of financial aid is available?
Students have the option of paying for their tuition with scholarships, grants, student loans, and other financial aid sources. Federal aid in the form of grants, work-study and federal student loans is available to eligible students who have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA®.
Who can enroll in online classes?
Online classes at colleges and universities are open to registered students. Many online schools have programs open to international students who meet the specific guidelines and requirements. Additionally, in the summer, most colleges and universities allow students from other institutions, alumni, and even high school students to take courses.
Are transfer credits accepted?
Each online program has its own policies regarding transfer credit. Prospective students should investigate whether their transfer credit will apply toward program requirements before registering for classes.
How many classes may students take each session?
It varies. One of the biggest benefits of online learning is flexibility. Some students opt to take a full course load of 15-18 credit hours each semester. Other students prefer to attend classes online part-time so they can work around other family and work responsibilities.
Are all classes offered entirely online?
At the postsecondary level, there are three types of delivery formats: Asynchronous, Synchronous, and Hybrid.
- Asynchronous settings are 100% online, and students are not required to meet at scheduled times, instead working at their own pace.
- Synchronous settings offer a combination of virtual class meetings *at scheduled times) and real-time instruction with the instructor and their peers.
Hybrid settings combine traditional face-to-face instruction and virtual learning. Students work with a Learning Management System (LMS) to access and complete assignments. They can also communicate with the instructor and their peers through the LMS. Blackboard, Canvas, and Moodle are examples of LMS options.
Where do students take exams?
Each online program is different. Some online programs allow students to take exams from their home computer. But some institutions—even those that advertise as fully online–still require students to visit campus occasionally for face-to-face exams or lab sessions. It’s important to find out how a program works before enrolling.
What are the technology requirements?
It depends on the school. In addition to a computer and network connection, students may need specific software. In general, computers need to be updated with the appropriate hardware and software requirements.
How is attendance calculated?
Students earn attendance credit in online programs by posting to classroom discussion forums, submitting assignments, and taking exams.
Online Classes Dos and Don’ts
Whether a student is a sophomore in high school seeking college credit or a junior in college trying to finish degree requirements, online courses offer an opportunity to both catch up and get ahead. There are distinct advantages to online classes, but there can be pitfalls as well. Prospective students should take the time to research various schools, programs and course options. Here are some things to look for:
Choose an accredited institution. Accreditation shows that the school passed an independent quality review of its programs. There are different types of accreditation, but the most widely recognized in the U.S. comes from regionally accreditation boards. There are six regional accreditation boards, one in each of six geographic regions.
Check to see if you can apply financial aid. Current undergraduate students can pay tuition with student loans, grants, and scholarships. However, high school students may not have that option. Investigate your options well in advance.
Find out how long it will take to graduate. Although most undergraduate programs take four years to complete if you attend full-time, you may be able to graduate early. Accelerated programs can save you considerable time and money, so check out your options before making an enrollment decision.
Assume every program is equal. It’s important to do research and ask questions. What are the teaching credentials of the faculty and staff? How much experience do the instructors have teaching online? What is the ratio of students to teachers?
Forget to find out if credits will transfer. Whether you want to transfer credits from another institution to an online program or transfer an online course to another institution, check that they will be approved beforehand.
Neglect to make a financial plan. By the time you factor in tuition, technology and software fees, textbooks, and other expenses, the cost of an online education can add up quickly. Calculate the expenses before you enroll. You may decide to save money be enrolling in an online community college and then transferring to a four-year online institution.