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The Most Popular Online Degrees for 2018

The popularity of online degrees and programs continues to grow, and for good reason: distance learning allows students to enroll in a program or class they may not be able to take otherwise. Flexible scheduling, a wide variety of program options, and the ability to attend class from anywhere are main reasons why online learning is so popular.

But what about specific programs? What makes tens of thousands of students flock to them each year? Some online programs typically have greater enrollment numbers thanks to job prospects, how easily they translate to online education and of course, and the convenience of learning options. Let’s discuss some of the more popular online degrees and touch on why so many students are taking advantage of online learning.

Popular Online Colleges

School rankings make it easy to compare schools. How a school ranks based on popularity depends on a variety of factors, such as types of degrees offered, name recognition, cost of attendance and method of course delivery. See how this breaks down in the following college rankings.

What Makes an Online College Popular?

Online learning is popular for college students for a number of reasons. Here are just a few of them.

1. Flexible class attendance

At a traditional college, students attend class on-campus at a particular time and place. But with an online college, students can usually attend class from wherever and whenever they want. This is an example of asynchronous learning. If students must abide by some schedule, such as attending the class at a particular time, this is an example of synchronous learning. Even with synchronous learning or regular deadlines, online learning offers flexibility that is unparalleled by traditional on-campus coursework.

In addition to flexibility in terms of when a student attends class, the vast majority of online programs offer flexibility for completion as well. Online courses make it easier for students to complete courses as quickly or as slowly (within certain limitations) as they choose. Students can take one course at a time and take several months to complete it or take several courses at once and get them all done in a few weeks or months.

In many situations, online learning is cheaper than on-campus education. There are no commuting or moving costs; students can stay at home and attend a school across the country or avoid commuting to class across town. There is also no room and board expense, since students will not be living on campus. The tuition per credit hour can be cheaper, since many schools charge online students the in-state rate, no matter where in the world they are. Besides that, it’s typically cheaper for schools to provide an education through the internet. There are no buildings to construct or maintain, no additional instructors to hire and no extra costs of managing a high concentration of students in a campus setting.

Before accreditation standards and top universities entered online education, many providers focused more on profit and less on product. Yet today, that stigma is gone, and the number of high-quality online programs reflects this change. In 2006, approximately 3.5 million students took at least one online course in the fall semester. Ten years later, than number rose to 6.3 million students. Now, even the elite Ivy League schools have hundreds of online courses and programs available.

With the greater flexibility of an online program, college students have the ability to meet obligations outside of school, whether it’s working full-time or taking care of a household or loved one. This makes online learning perfect for busy parents, those working their way up the career ladder, or those with unusual circumstances, such as dealing with a chronic illness that makes sitting in a traditional classroom impossible.

With traditional courses, not every course will be available to every student each semester. There only so many classrooms and professors available to teach the courses. But there is no such limitation with online classes, where the only thing holding back the learning is the bandwidth of the school’s network and servers.

Additional Resources

  • 1. Bureau of Labor Statistics – Occupational Outlook Handbook

    An excellent resource where anyone can look up information about specific professions, including median income, educational requirements and future job outlook.

  • 2. O*Net OnLine

    Sponsored by the US Department of Labor, O*Net OnLine serves as an online resource for those interested in specific careers, including how to find work in those professions and industries.

  • 3. Peterson’s – How to Choose an Online School

    Provides various articles on getting an online degree, including how to choose the right program and how to make the most of an online education.

  • 4. US Department of Education – Accreditation

    A degree isn’t worth getting unless it’s accredited. Before enrolling in a school, prospective students can learn more about the different types of accreditation, how it works, what it means and how to find out if a particular school is accredited.