Online Colleges

The Basics of Studying Online

An online study takes place outside the university on a virtual campus on the Internet. As in the case of classical distance learning, this model also consists mainly of self-study at home. Some online degree programs combine online studies with some on-campus presence. The attendance times take place predominantly at the end of a semester, so that in this phase of the online study also the exam phase is integrated, which in some cases is not online.

Many degree programs can be completed at your own pace and most courses are asynchronous – meaning you don't have to attend online classes at a specific time. Usually, students use a combination of peer-to-peer interaction as well as self-study over an online learning network to facilitate instruction. Expect to be asked to complete weekly assignments, readings, discussions, and occasional group work, as well as exams and other activities – all at times that are most convenient to you.

As well as study books, you’ll learn through podcasts, downloads and the college's interactive virtual learning environment – which are designed with vaying degrees of sophistication.

Be aware that the experience you get by participating in online Bachelor's programs or online Master's programs can be very different than that of a traditional on-campus undergraduate and graduate program. Although you have online discussions with your peers, it can feel rather isolating.

If you’re the type of person who needs regular, in-person interaction to feel fulfilled, studying online will be challenging for you. If, on the other hand, you just want to learn at your own pace, on your own time, getting an online degree might be the thing for you.

Are online degrees recognized? Yes - as long as you are careful to obtain an accredited academic degree. Note that in the case of MOOCs you get a university certificate, which is not comparable to a Bachelor's degree or Master's degree.

There is a logical prerequisite for studying online: a fast internet connection and a decent computer. A tablet can be handy but is not a must. Otherwise, there are no prerequisites that apply to all providers.

Types of Online College Degrees

What can you study online?

A lot. Check our online college degree database where you can find thousands of programs across many fields.

The conceptual design of such offers requires a great deal of effort from universities. To produce all lectures as videos and to prepare and adapt the learning materials didactically. However, online studies in the coming years will certainly replace the classical distance learning program.

Trends in Online Education

According to the latest Digital Learning Compass: Distance Education Enrollment Report 2017 in the U.S. – the leader in online education – there are more than 6 million students taking at least one online course, having increased by 3.9% over the previous year. This growth rate was higher than seen in either of the two previous years.

In higher education, 29.7% of all students are taking at least one distance course. The total distance enrollments are composed of 14.3% of students (2,902,756) taking exclusively distance courses and 15.4% (3,119,349) who are taking hybrid programs, which are a mix of online and in-person courses. The vast majority (4,999,112, or 83.0%) of distance students are studying at the undergraduate level.

Public institutions continue to educate the largest proportion of online students (4,080,565, or 67.8%), while private non-profit institutions passed the private for-profit sector for the first time.

Year-to-year changes in distance enrollments have been very uneven, with continued steady growth for the public sector, greater levels of growth (albeit on a much smaller base) for the private non-profit sector, and continuation of the decline in total enrollments for the private for-profit sector for the third year in a row.

The large-scale trends show the growing importance of the private non-profits as a key player in providing online education. The top-level trends, however, do mask the wide variety of changes happening across all of higher education. Even though each of the three sectors grew at a different rate, the proportion of institutions within each sector reporting increases was very similar; two-thirds of the members of each sector reported more distance enrollments in 2015 than 2014. The large-scale declines in enrollments in the for-profit sector were driven by substantial decreases among a few of the largest institutions, not by an overall decline among most for-profit institutions.

Distance education enrollments remain highly concentrated in a relatively small number of institutions. Almost half of the distance education students are concentrated in just five percent of the institutions, while the top 47 institutions, only 1.0% of the total, enroll 23.0% (1,385,307) of all distance students.