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How Online Courses Work

The definition of online courses varies, depending on the education level you’re at and the type of course you’re taking. Obviously, at all levels, e-learning involves taking a course via a computer. An official definition would be a "network-enabled transfer of skills and knowledge using a computer." In reality, this is accomplished in a few different ways.

Master’s degree courses, particularly business and nursing programs are often set up in "cohorts." This means that you’re assigned to a team of students, who work together on papers or projects.

Webinars or webcasts form the definition of online courses at some schools. On a webinar, you generally watch a presentation by the teacher (or sometimes a group of teachers) in your computer browser. The sound may come either through your computer or through a phone line. Webinars are the preferred technology in most cases, because they allow students to interact with professors by typing in questions. Webcasts are a simpler type of presentation, where you watch and hear a class without the ability to respond while it’s in progress.

"Synchronous" courses are the closest thing online to traditional classes. They require students and teachers to go online together at specific times. But because teachers must keep in touch with all students via email, an online synchronous course will usually accept fewer students than a class at a bricks and mortar school.

Some schools, by the way, are not offering “blended” courses, which allow you to take some of your classes online and go to the school for others. (read more about synchronous and asynchronous class formats)

How to estimate online degree costs

Top Schools Specializing In Online Degrees:

Kaplan University
A very large and well-known school with over 40,000 students on 11 campuses and in a large online degree program, and top quality accreditation. Offers a very wide range of bachelor's, master's and associates degrees in:
- Criminal Justice
- Education
- Health Care
- Nursing
- Computer Technology
- Information Systems
- Legal Studies
Learn more about Kaplan's degree programs

Ashford University
Iowa-based school established in 1918, Ashford offers a vast array of online degrees online across the range from associate to bachelor and masters, in addition to it's campus-based programs. (Ashford University is accredited by WASC Senior College and University Commission, 985 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 100, Alameda, CA 94501, 510.748.9001, Degrees available in:
- Business Management - BA & MBA in 19 different specialties
- Early Childhood Education
- Marketing
- Health Care Studies
- Homeland Security
- Psychology
- Sports Managment
Get information on Ashford's online programs

DeVry University
DeVry is an Illinois-based school with solid accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools that has over 60,000 students on multiple campuses and enrolled in online degree programs. It was founded in 1931. The university has five colleges, and offers a vast array of online bachelors, associates and masters degrees in subjects including:
- Web Graphic Design
- Accounting
- Business Administration - 15 different specializations
- Computer Information Systems - 10 different specializations
- Communications - 5 specializations
- Criminal Justice Administration - 5 specializations
- Technical Administration
Get free info on DeVry University

Liberty University
Liberty is a private Christian school that has grown into a major provider of online degree programs. Tuition is moderate, and the school offers flexible payment plans. The school offers a very wide array of master's and doctorate degrees, as well as many professional certificate programs:
- Accounting
- Business (numerous specialties)
- Psychology
- Criminal Justice
- Teaching
- Sports Management
- Marketing
Get free info on Liberty University Online

Full Sail University
A Florida-based school with over 14,000 students, Full Sail grew from a music recording school to a larger institution focusing on both the creative and business elements of contemporary media. It was named FAPSC School/College of the Year by the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges (FAPSC) in 2008 and 2011. Full Sail's tuition is a bit less than the average state university in-state tuition level. It offers a variety of unique online degree programs with a focus on creativity and media:
Bachelors degrees:
- Creative Writing For Entertainment
- Computer Animation
- Graphic Design
- Game Design
- Mobile Development
- Music Production
- Sports Marketing
- Web Development
Master's degrees:
- Innovation and Entrepreneurship
- New Media Journalism
- Computer Science
- Internet Marketing
Get free info on Full Sail University


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