It used to be that if you wanted to take college or university courses to boost your career, you either found a school near your home (if there were any) or you took correspondence classes by mail. No more. Nowadays you can take online college courses at your dining room table, as long as you’ve got a computer and a modem.
See a list of good, low-cost online bachelor and associate degree programs.
And the payoff from an online education is getting better. Students who take accredited online college courses get more respect from from employers today than they did just a few years ago. Carolina State University researcher Thomas Russell recently told U.S. News & World Report that an in-depth study of the full range of online college credit courses showed that there is “no significant difference” between the quality of learning in traditional classrooms and distance learning. Some schools even report that their online college course students are scoring higher on tests than the ones who attend live classes.
Today, the choices in online career development college courses are tremendous. Over 2,000 different schools now offer bachelor online college courses, and give everything from associate degrees to graduate and even Ph.D. degrees to e-learners. And your opportunities go far beyond Phoenix College online college courses and the other well-known web-based schools. You can take classes online from top schools like Lehigh, the University of California at Berkely and even Harvard University.
But some of the prestigious “big name” colleges have only recently started offering college degree online courses. A number of lesser-known schools have actually spent more time working out the “kinks” in their online accredited college courses, and perfecting the online training they offer adult elearners.
Here are the key questions to ask when you’re comparing online distance education degrees:
- Can you get the full range of college courses online? Students who physically attend college usually get to choose from a wide range of subjects covered in each major. That’s not always true with online degree programs and online college courses.
- Does the school fit your learning style? Some e-learning courses “meet” at the same time each day or week. Other online courses for college credit allow you to pursue your studies on your own schedule, taking tests and handing in assignments when it works best for you.
( Top advantages and disadvantages of online courses to know about.)
- Will you get support from professors? If you’re the kind of student who likes to discuss (or argue) things with the professor, look for bachelor online college courses that give you that direct contact. Be aware that college online courses where there’s little direct interaction with professors have a high dropout rate. (On the other hand, find out why being a “shy learner who doesn’t like the classroom situation can actually be one of the key advantages of online classes.)
- What about interacting with other students? The ability to communicate with other students varies too. Some schools allow you to speak with other students on discussion boards, and actually grade your contributions to these boards.
- Is it purely online? Some schools make a visit to some live classes a requirement for any online degree. Depending on your schedule how close you live to the school, this may be a plus or a minus for you. (Read our article on Current definitions of online training, including hybrid online-offline courses, flex courses and others).
Comment: Some commentators have criticized online college credit courses, saying that schools don’t have their “star” professors teach them but give the work instead to graduate students or “adjuncts.” It’s a weak criticism. Even the nation’s top colleges have adjuncts teaching classes, both online and in lecture halls.