Online College Classes and Courses
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
Some organizations offer free online courses. These classes often do not deliver college credit. However, certain universities offer Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Students enrolled at these schools may take free MOOCs for credit.
Although students not enrolled at these universities cannot receive credit for MOOCs, free online courses offer other benefits. These classes allow learners to explore new interests. They also provide foundational knowledge for advanced courses.
Public Colleges and Universities
Public colleges and universities use government funds to lower tuition costs for students. Many of these schools offer online courses at even lower rates. But public schools typically feature larger class sizes.
Independent learners often thrive in online classes at public schools. Large class sizes may lead to less one-on-one attention from professors. However, learners can form meaningful connections with classmates.
Private Nonprofit Colleges and Universities
Many private nonprofit colleges and universities offer online degrees. These institutions usually charge higher tuition rates than public schools, but they may offer discounts for online learners. Students may also qualify for institutional scholarships.
Private schools generally feature smaller class sizes. Private nonprofit schools may hold religious affiliations. Others focus on a certain topic, such as art.
Fully Online Schools: For-Profit or Nonprofit
Private companies own for-profit schools. These institutions do not usually invest revenue back into the school. Most profits go directly to company stakeholders. For-profit schools typically charge slightly higher tuition rates than nonprofit institutions. Like nonprofit private colleges, these schools do not receive government funding.
The University of Atlanta is an online, private, for-profit school. Based nearby, the Savannah College of Art and Design, a private nonprofit institution, also offers online programs. Comparing information from these two schools may reveal similarities and differences between for-profit and nonprofit institutions.
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.
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.
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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