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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
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

Keiser University
Keiser is a very unusual case of a school that changed from for-profit to non-profit status in 2011. Established in Florida in 1977, the school has 14 campuses around the world and a very large and well-known online degree program. It has regional accreditation (the best kind) from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and has long pursued a goal of preparing students for real careers. Keiser offers a vast array of online associates and bachelors degrees in these areas:
- Accounting
- Paralegal
- Criminal Justice
- Sports Medicine
- Video Game Design
- Psychology
- Biomedical Sciences
- Elementary Education
- Information Technology
- Business Administration
- Social Media Communication
Get free info about Keiser's degree programs

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)
- Electrical Engineering
Learn more about Colorado Tech'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, www.wascsenior.org.) 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

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