Online College Classes and Courses

September 15, 2021

Online College Classes and Courses

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Online college classes provide convenient educational options. A2020 study by EducationDynamics surveyed students who took both in-person and online college courses. Of the respondents, 78% reported that online learning was similar to or better than in-person classes. Additionally, 79% of students agreed that their online degree was worth the cost.

Virtual learners often save on commuting and living expenses. Many online learners enjoy more free time for family or work.

Not all online courses compare in quality. Learners should ensure each prospective school holds accreditation. Students should also consider which learning format would best meet their needs. Synchronous courses require students to attend class sessions at specific times. While synchronous options provide more accountability, asynchronous courses offer more flexibility. Working students often prefer asynchronous classes.

This guide explores these and other factors to consider when choosing an online college. The following sections cover online college courses and schools that offer distance programs.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online College Courses

true Q. Are Online College Classes Cheaper?

Most schools offer reduced tuition rates for online learners. Many institutions charge all online students in-state tuition rates. For example, as of May 2021, Missouri State University charges out-of-state learners $550 per credit. Online learners and in-state students pay $257 per credit.

Since virtual learners rarely use campus resources, they may not pay campus maintenance or student activity fees.

true Q. Are Online Courses Transferable?

Most accredited schools accept transfer credits from other accredited institutions. Colleges often limit the number of transfer credits allowed. Some transfer credits fulfill degree requirements, while others transfer as electives. Academic advisors may assist students with the transfer process.

true Q. How Do I Know If an Online Course is Credible?

Before enrolling in online college courses, students should know the prospective school's accreditation status. The accreditation process involves quality assessments from a third-party agency. The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation oversee accreditation agencies. Schools can earn regional or national accreditation. Programs can earn field-specific accreditation.

true Q. Can You Get Financial Aid for Online Courses?

Students in online college classes can qualify for most types of financial aid. Learners at any accredited school can qualify for federal grants and subsidized loans. Some private and institutional scholarships require in-person enrollment. Students should understand scholarship terms before enrolling in online college courses.

AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Featured Online Programs

Find a program that meets your affordability, flexibility, and education needs through an accredited, online school.

Where Can I Take Online Courses?

The following list highlights the types of colleges, universities, and organizations that offer virtual learning. Learners can use this information to determine which type of provider fits their needs.

Types of Online College Courses

Learners can choose from several types of online college courses. Virtual classes may run on synchronous or asynchronous formats. Some online college courses are free and do not award credit. Others lead to certification. The following table compares various types of online college classes.

Learners can take asynchronous or synchronous classes through a college or university for degree credit. These courses usually require a fee. Some schools allow enrolled students to take free Massive Open Online Courses for credit. Learners may transfer previous online credits to fulfill degree requirements. People with this goal should enroll in an online certificate program. Learners should consider in-person requirements for the credential. Some licenses require continuing education courses, which often take place online. Other online classes prepare students to take a certification or licensing exam. Learners can take online classes to enhance their resume rather than earn a degree. Individuals may also complete online certificate programs for this reason. Taking extra online courses can help professionals specialize or qualify for a raise. Employers may pay for employees' online college classes. Taking MOOCs can help professionals change careers. Online college courses can help individuals earn a necessary degree or enhance their resume. Employers view online courses from accredited universities as the most legitimate. Taking free classes from professionals can help learners gain knowledge in new areas. Some universities allow alumni to audit online courses. These students do not receive credit and may not need to complete assignments.

Online College Courses: For Credit vs. Not for Credit

Students can take online courses that do not award credit. Noncredit online college courses are often free. These classes help learners improve their resumes and explore new interests. But some colleges charge for noncredit courses. Students cannot apply federal aid toward noncredit college courses.

Noncredit courses may be less stressful since they do not impact students' transcripts. These online college classes can also help students learn job skills. For example, learners may improve their math abilities or practice their English skills.

For-credit courses teach students accountability. These classes cost money and assign a letter grade. Many jobs also require a degree. Earning a degree can lead to raises and promotions.

Additional Resources

This page provides information to help students choose a quality school. The page links to resources on the importance of accreditation. Users can also look up their school's accreditation status. This tool can help learners avoid scams when enrolling in online college classes. Coursera partners with more than 200 schools to offer online courses and degrees. Anyone can enroll, regardless of location. Many classes are free. Learners can try paid courses with a free trial. The education platform works with more than 160 schools. The free audit track does not lead to a degree or certificate. For-credit classes cost $50-$300 each. With about 4,000 student participants, the Online Learning Consortium works with institutions across the U.S. to provide accessible education. The Online Learning Consortium also partners with schools in Asia and Europe. The website provides information on MOOCs. Many reputable schools offer MOOCs. Students enrolled at participating schools may take MOOCs for college credit.

Tessa Cooper is a freelance writer and editor who regularly contributes to international and regional publications focused on education and lifestyle topics. She earned a bachelor’s in public relations from Missouri State University and is passionate about helping learners avoid high student loan debt while pursuing their dream major. Tessa loves writing about travel and food topics and is always planning her next meal or vacation.

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AffordableCollegesOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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