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As online colleges gain respect, the number of people enrolling in them is on the rise. According to the NCES, over 6.6 million students took web based courses in 2018. Of them, more than 3.1 million chose to earn their college degree entirely online!
A college, university or trade school that is ‘online’ offers distance education. That means courses take place in a digital classroom contained in a Learning Management System. Like Blackboard or Canvas. Students access their courses online at any time and from anywhere through a web browser or mobile app.
The learning platform allows users to access course materials, assignments, discussions, and team projects online. Zoom is another online meeting tool that provides real-time & interactions. Some online schools use it for lectures, discussion, office hours, and group collaboration.
While many universities offer quality distance education, it can be hard to sift through all the options. We created a list of online programs by major to help make things a little easier for you. If you know the field of study you’d like to pursue, then click the link below and view top online programs at bachelor’s, masters and doctorate levels within that field.
Early Childhood Education
Medical Billing & Coding
RN to BSN
Supply Chain Management
Traditional Colleges with campus programs may refer to themselves as having a ‘global campus’. These schools typically have a menu of programs online. In some cases, with the same curriculum and faculty. Studying at one of these schools connects you to their resources and buildings. Not to mention the sports teams which you might want to cheer on.
There are also fully online universities which are distance only. These may not have a regular campus at all. Only a head office. They may use a different format than a traditional school as well. And may come with access to a different kind of student success tools and resources.
Just because you want to attend college online does not mean you should expect to do so without help. Many colleges invest in technology and staff that keep students feeling connected and supported in their journey. Here are some of the ways colleges deliver this support to students enrolled in online degree programs.
Support in Real Time
Digital Support Tools
An admission specialist’s role is to answer questions. These can be about admission requirements, orientations, course registration, costs, transfer credits and more. They should also know about the school’s accreditation status and be helpful when it comes making an informed choice about courses or be able to steer you to the correct department.
Financial Aid Advisors
These services aim to help you understand funding, eligibility for scholarships and grants. There may also be online tools such as interactive budget worksheets and links to state and federal aid programs.
Dedicated Military Services
Active military service members, Veterans and their families have specific needs when it comes to understanding benefits. Many military friendly schools offer dedicated advising and services to members learning via web.
These advisors are there to help you choose a major, minor, focus tracks, and courses. They may also help you set goals and a path to reach them. Some schools make use of virtual office hours, one-on-one tutoring, and Web based writing centers.
As technical problems are not an online learner’s friend, relying on support is really important. Many colleges do publish tutorials and troubleshooting guides. But knowing there is live support by phone or web chat is a feature to look for.
Many schools with campuses offer a range of online library services including access to digital journals, research tools and e-books. Some also have online librarians who help remote learners through consultations, chats, emails and phone. If a school does not have a campus, they may have a reciprocity agreement with a college in your area as well as offer a large online database.
Internship, Apprenticeships, Placement Services Field or Clinical
Many programs of all levels have a practical side that requires some hands on learning. Teaching, nursing, counseling and social work are a few. A remote learner may be able to fulfill these requirements in an approved local site. To facilitate the process, a school may have an internship or career database. If you expect to need on site training, you might contact an admission advisor so they can explain the process.
These services may help a learner figure out and look into potential careers. Sometimes, a school also offers help to build a resume, prepare for interviews or craft an online portfolio. There may also be job assessments, virtual job fairs and career planning guides.
Some colleges offer social platforms and networking tools for alumni. They might also offer post graduate support. Like job boards, discounts, digital portfolios and access to mentors.
Some colleges and universities use social media to keep students engaged. There may also be specific groups for particular courses, programs, university departments and interest groups.
Health Services and Counseling
These types of services tend to be available from traditional colleges. They might include tele therapy sessions, health webinars, and crisis hotlines.
A kind of tutoring center to hone college and research writing skills. Where offered, the school might schedule synchronous appointments.
There are a few types of colleges that offer online education. When ready to choose, you may want to factor in budget, goals, learning style and time table. Here are a few options to know about.
Also called two year colleges. These schools tend to offer three kinds of programs. Diplomas, certificate programs and associate degrees.
One of the reasons to consider a community college is affordability. The average tuition and required fees at an in state public two year institution was $3,243 in 2017/18.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics found 99 career paths where the entry level education is less than a bachelor’s degree. Most, they say, need an associate’s degree or certificate. A few entail some college course work and middle skills.
These colleges may offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree options online.
The average tuition and required fees at an in state public 4 year college was $9,037 in 2017/18. Average out of state tuition and fees were $25,667.
Any of these programs may mix online classes with hands on experiences. Like clinical labs, supervised teaching, or an internship. As a rule, online students take part in any practical courses in an approved site in their community. Make sure you know what these extras are and what school support is available.
Online bachelor’s degrees, master’s, and doctorate options may be available at private colleges.
Private colleges don’t receive funds from the state government like public ones do. That means they are likely to cost more. The average tuition and required fees for a private four-year college was$30,731 in 2017/18.
These schools tend to offer a smaller range of programs than public ones. But, often have a particular academic focus such as liberal arts. Or, will teach through the lens of a certain religious affiliation.
When going for a degree online, the process may run more or less as a traditional class would. Same course work, due dates, and credit hours. But instead of walking to a campus building, you log into a portal. This is your access point to lectures, assignments, feedback and more.
How often you have to log in, delivery, format and tools vary from one college to the next. Many programs kick off with a tutorial to walk new students through the process. Here are a few things prospective students should keep in mind when choosing a school or program.
This format enables you to study at your own pace and time frame. As a result, you and your instructor are not ‘in class’ in real time together. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask questions. You may send an email or request one to one virtual meetings with their instructor during scheduled course dates.
The self paced format may be the perfect learning style for someone with these traits and needs.
This format schedules classes at specific times. You attend these classes along with other students and your instructor in real time. The difference is that you are on your computer from wherever you happen to be.
The real time format may be the ideal learning style for someone with these traits and needs.
A hybrid program is mixed. It blends online and in person classes, labs, workshops, intensives or residencies. The ratio varies. But often allows you to meet and network with campus students and instructors. Other reasons may include practical training for hands on skills, assessment and mentoring.
The hybrid format may be perfect for someone with these traits and learning styles.
CBE is different that the typical model in the United States which is based on seat time (credit hours). In that model, students have a set time to pass a course. And, tend to pay a cost per credit rate (plus fees).
In contrast, a CBE model focuses on mastery, rather than time. As a rule, schools that use this model charge a subscription fee or flat fee for let’s say 6 months. During that period, students have the flexibility to set their pace. And, after they master one module, they may go onto another. Taking as many as time allows.
A CBE format may suit someone with these traits and learning styles.
Many students want to know “is online college legit? In short, a reputable school (online or campus based) is an accredited institution. To gain this status, a school submits to a review by an outside agency. As a rule, the status lasts for a period of time. Say 3 to 5 years. Then the school must re apply. This ensures the college programs it offers stays timely and keeps up its quality.
The U.S. Department of Education approves six regional boards to review schools in their area. One is the Higher Learning Commission. The review process looks at the quality of education. It is voluntary and a status that lasts for a period of time before the school has to re apply.
Accredited schools tend to:
Checking a school’s accreditation is faster and easier than you might think. The USDE keeps a Database of Accredited Post-Secondary Institutions and Programs. Type in the school name to find out its status. Current, pending review, or expired.
This type is most often for online only and religious schools. It is also for trade, career and technical programs. One of the main accreditors is the DEAC.
The Distance Education Accrediting Commission also keeps a data base. It lists online high schools, postsecondary schools, colleges and universities.
There are a few reasons why online college is popular. You often set your pace, get to forgo the commute and there’s no need to give up your job.
In fact, most online students are working adults aged 24 and above. They have busy schedules and many do study full time, but a larger share pursue their online degree part time.
The flexible format and easy access to higher education may be very useful. Perhaps you want to switch careers, hone marketable skills, or climb the ladder.
A College Degree May Boost Earning Potential
Recent stats show that a college degree often boosts lifetime earnings too. So, with a bachelor’s degree, you may earn $2,700 more per month than with a high school diploma. Additionally, an online degree may help you jump start your career path. Check out our list of fast growing careers.
There are many reasons to go for a degree online. Here are a few features that motivate students to take the leap into an online format.
Schedules That Adapt
Going for a college degree online may offer a flexible schedule. Study when you are able and from wherever you have decent Internet connection.
Balance Work and College
It may not be easy, but many adults continue working while they go for a degree. Without the added pressure of a commute or relocation.
Access Student Resources
Online students may access a range of support services. Like writing centers, online tutoring, and career services.
Potential To Save Money on Tuition
Many schools offer tuition discounts for online students. These may come in the form of in state tuition rates for out of state students. Military students may also have access to discounted tuition at some schools.
Accessibility Minus the Relocation
Students might attend a school very far away they otherwise would have found out of reach.
Rolling Start Dates
Many colleges with online education programs offer rolling admissions and start dates. That means you don’t have to put off starting until the following year.
Formats for Non Traditional Learners
Not everyone thrives in a traditional classroom. In the digital classroom, you may find it easier to focus. Some students have families, a disability or lots of personal duties. So, the traditional hours of campus classes may not be realistic.
Because distance learning can make education opportunities more available, with several options of learning styles, they can be a great way to beat adversity and earn your degree.
There’s No Commute
Instead of rushing to class, you may have extra time to devote to studies. This is another area that may help you cut costs.
Any student who wants to earn a college degree may be a good match for an online college. Whether you are a recent high school grad. Or, never had time to finish college due to work, family or military duties. Many students go back to finish what they started online.
These schools may welcome online students from all over. And may offer ways to reduce your costs through things like,
To help you narrow down your online school search results, we compiled a list of 23 colleges so you can compare their formats and programs. The data we used is from the& National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard.
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UNDERGRAD COST PER CREDIT
UNDERGRAD TUITION RATE & FEES
GRAD COST PER CREDIT
GRAD TUITION & FEES
MILITARY COST PER CREDIT
APU is a fully online 4 year private college. The mission of APU is to provide higher education, especially for the nation’s military and public service groups. They offer degrees at all levels. Associate, Bachelor, Masters and PhDs. Plus a range of certificate programs if you prefer a shorter program.
UNDERGRAD TUITION & FEES
CSU is a four year private college devoted only to online programs. Some of them are ones you’d find at a community college. Like associate degrees and certificate programs. There are also online Bachelor’s degrees, Master’s and PhDs. As a prospective student you can choose from a menu of college majors as well.
Capella is a 100% online university with 205 Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD and certificate programs on their menu. The 4 year private school uses the quarter credit hour system rather than semester college credits to help you move towards your goals. You can choose your format based on your study habits and preferences too. Flex Path is the self paced option and Guided Path, the more structured.
Grantham University is a four year distance learning only private college. They offer 45 online programs including undergraduate degrees at Associate and Bachelor levels. There are also certificates and Master’s degrees if that is your goal. The college also has support services such as advising geared toward student success.
PSU World Campus is a the fully online wing of this 4 year public university. They offer 147 online degree programs. Undergraduate programs include Associate and Bachelor degrees. There are also a range of Master’s and PhDs plus certificates. The choice of majors is extensive so think everything from engineering to social sciences.
At Purdue University Global, 99% of undergraduate students study exclusively online. Graduate students are online only. As a student you choose from 175 online degree programs at all levels. Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhDs and certificates. As an undergrad, you can try college classes for an introductory 3 week period free with the exception of your application fee.
Liberty University is a four year private Christian college that offers 196 programs via online learning which about 71% of students do. If you go for an Associate degree, the credits may satisfy the general education courses required in the school’s Bachelor’s programs. There are also a range of Master’s and PhD programs as well as certificates.
Excelsior College which is a 4 year private school offers all its 46 programs entirely online. Here you may go for an undergraduate degree (Associate, Bachelor) or a Master’s degree. The school also has certificates at both levels. And, there are many ways to get credit for prior learning and professional training to cut down on time and cost.
UoPX is the online wing of this four year private college. There are 131 majors to choose from and degrees from Associate to PhD. Some of the undergraduate programs allow you to jumpstart your Master’s by taking a few courses during your Bachelor’s curriculum. The school also has certificates which you might go for on their own or add as an extra credential.
WGU is a fully online 4 year private college that offers 60 programs split between Bachelor’s, Master’s and certificates. Instead of using credit hours, they have terms that begin the first of each month and you take as many courses as you can during the term. This ‘competency based model’ allows you to progress at your own pace. There’s also no in or out of state tuition, just a flat fee.
FIU is a 4 year public research university with R1 Carnegie ranking, located in Miami. They offer 130 online degrees, programs and certificates through FIU Online. Many of these degree programs are offered at various start times during the year. The online courses are not self paced. But the curriculum and faculty are the same for online students as they are for those on campus.
UCF Online is the distance study branch of the University whose main campus is in Orlando. A 4 year public college, they offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate programs online. Also, a range of over 40 graduate certificates. Many are fully online and others, mixed mode.
U of M is a public 4 year college with programs at all levels. Bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, and certificate. Many of these are available through U of M Online in fully remote, primarily online (short residency) or partially online (50-80% delivered online).
Walden is a 4 year private for profit college that offers distance only programs. These are available at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels as well as certificates. As a remote undergraduate student, you might want to look into their Accelerate Into Master’s (AIM) option. It enables one to earn credit towards a master’s while completing a bachelor’s degree. There are 22 fields of study at this level and many niche areas for grad students to choose from.
SNHU is a 4 year, private not for profit university with online and on campus programs. For online, there are associate, bachelor’s, master’s degrees and certificates. There are about 71 majors available. Bachelor’s and associate programs consist of six 8 week terms per year. While master’s programs consist of five 10 week terms. The school also offers a competency model with four start terms.
Drexel is a 4 year private not for profit university with a main campus in Philadelphia. They also offer 101 majors some of which include bachelor’s, master’s, doctorates and certificates online. These make use of a quarter system so classes tend to be 10 weeks long.
NYU is a 4 year private university with about 152 fields of study. Through NYU Online, the school offers online bachelor’s, master’s, doctorates, professional degrees as well as certificates. These make use of a cohort model (E.g. Doctor of Occupational Therapy) which means you enter the program as a group.
UMGC is a 4 year public university with about 90 online education programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate levels and certificates. Some are fully online, others in the hybrid format. The admission process doesn’t require SAT or GRE scores. Plus, the school offers several ways to earn credit for what you already know.
CTU is a private for profit university with both campus and online instruction. Many of the subject areas and tracks are fully online or taken as part of a hybrid program. With about 80 online options, they offer programs at every level from associate to doctorate.
ASU is a 4 year public research university with a global campus (ASU Online). They offer over 200 programs online at bachelor’s and master’s levels. As a rule, courses are 100% online and taught by the same faculty as on campus. According to school rankings it placed first for innovation.
UIS is a 4 year public university with about 52 online degree programs to choose from. Most of these are self paced. So, you decide when to enter your online classroom and do your work. Some courses may have meetings in real time that require all students to meet at the same time.
NAU is a 4 year public university. They offer range of online degree programs at both bachelor’s and graduate levels. As an NAU online student you choose the pace of your classes. Traditional online or competency based. For the traditional ones, you log in any time unless there is a set time to take part with a discussion. CB classes may be ideal for the self-driven.
Northcentral is a 4 year private not-for-profit university. As a distance only school, you may find programs at all levels. Bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate. The format they use is a one to one learning model with start dates every Monday. Instead of paying per credit, you pay per course. Some programs also come in a NCU FastForward Track. This is an option to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s in one accelerated program.
*Unemployment Earnings. Sources for school stats and data include the NCES and IPEDS.
Financial aid may be available to those who qualify. The information on this site is for informational and research purposes only and is not an assurance of financial aid.
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The sources for school statistics and data is the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.
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