Types of Online Courses: Choosing The Right Program
Online classes aren’t just for college students. There are many different online programs out there—from single non-credit classes to entire degree programs. If you’re considering online education, here are your most common options.
Online degree programs
You can find online degree programs on offer at hundreds of colleges around the country. While some colleges operate exclusively online, like Kaplan and Capella, some traditional colleges, such as the University of Massachusetts and Drexel University, also offer degree programs entirely online. The line between traditional and online schools is starting to blur.
You can find the same types of degrees online that you can find at a traditional school. Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and even Ph.D programs are available online. These programs generally take about as long to complete as a traditional degree program. Tuition is usually comparable to that of a brick-and-mortar college, although online degree programs don’t include room and board and can be a bit cheaper.
Online certification classes are offered at colleges, educational programs, nonprofits, and even businesses. Some examples of online certification programs include Information Technology, medical billing, online teaching, workplace safety, and more.
Online certification programs can take as little as a few weeks or as much as a year to complete. Some programs include certification test fees in their tuition bill, and they’ll test you as part of the program. Others only prepare you for the test—you’ll need to sign up and pay for the exam separately.
Single non-credit classes
Non-credit online classes can be found online through many different organizations. People take these classes for personal enrichment, to pick up a useful skill, to help them land a job, and for many other reasons. Colleges generally won’t award credit for these courses unless you took one through an accredited university, but they do have their benefits—both in the workplace and at home.
Open Courseware is a program in which universities post all of the texts and assignments, lectures, tests and quizzes, and other materials from a traditional class—or even an entire degree program—online for all to access. Open Courseware is free, and it’s offered by dozens of top-tier traditional universities including MIT, Johns Hopkins, and Tufts. You can’t earn a degree from Open Courseware, but you can learn a lot from some of the top schools in the U.S.
Online high schools
Some states allow high school students to take classes toward a high school degree at accredited online high schools. Some simply allow online learning as a catch-up alternative to summer school, while others go farther—Michigan, for example, recently passed a state bill requiring all students to take an online class before graduating.
Online tutoring and test prep
Private companies offer online tutoring help for everyone from K-12 students to college-age and adult learners. Programs such as Princeton Review and College Review offer online one-on-one tutoring for post-graduate entry tests such as the LSAT’s, MCAT’s, and GRE’s. These programs are usually not free; they can cost anywhere from $15-$20 per hour or per month for a grade school tutoring program to thousands for advanced test-prep.
Hybrid or “blended” classes combine online and face-to-face learning. They’re typically seen in traditional colleges, but online schools may also offer these classes for programs that require some clinical hours or in-person lab time. Hybrid classes usually involve a mix of in-person lectures and labs with online discussions and assignments. Classes may rely heavily on the online component and require participation, or they may simply offer optional supplemental materials on the web—these are sometimes called “web-enhanced” classes.
There are online courses and programs to meet the needs of just about anyone—from full-blown degrees to single courses for personal enrichment. No matter what you’re looking for, there’s a class that fits your goals and budget online.
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