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 degrees in:
- Criminal Justice
- Education
- Health Care
- Nursing
- Computer Technology
- Information Systems
- Legal Studies
Learn more about Kaplan's degree programs

Keiser University
Keiser is a Florida-based school with a large online program. It’s a non-profit school with top quality accreditation. It’s nursing and computer science programs in particular have received high rankings and U.S. News & World Report has named it as a quality school for veterans. Kaiser offers a very wide variety of associates, bachelors and master’s programs in areas including:
- Criminal Justice
- Accounting
- Psychology
- Software Engineering
- Nursing
- Social Media Communication
- Graphic Arts
- Homeland Security
- Fire Science
Get information on Keiser University

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

Colorado Technical University
CTU is a large institution based on Colorado Springs with over 25,000 students. It has solid regional accreditation (the best kind) and has been ranked #1 Best for Vets in the category for online and non-traditional universities by Military Times Magazine. Offers associate's and bachelor's degrees online in
- Criminal Justice (multiple specialties)
- Business
- Accounting
- Project Management
- Information Systems (multiple specialties)
- Logistics
- Psychology
Learn more about Colorado Tech's degree programs

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