Online College Courses

    September 30, 2021 | bestvalue

    Choosing an online college or university might be the best option for many people, depending on various reasons. Work schedule, family demands, geographical location, and convenience are among some of the many factors for taking an online class. 

    Whatever the reason, distance education offers incredible flexibility, which explains its increasing popularity in recent times. But how do you choose the best online program for a degree level or graduate program?

    Read on to discover how to find some of the best online course platforms that provide excellent online learning experiences, whether you are looking to pursue a master’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or any of the many certificate programs.

    Choosing the Best Online College Courses For You

    Finding the right online course for you is crucial if the degree must be relevant to you. Your zeal to learn can quickly take a nose dive if you choose a course and later discover that it doesn’t suit you.

    But how do you sift through the countless online courses to pick just one? Follow the simple advice below to figure that out. 

    How Do You Choose the Best Online College Courses for You?

    You may be looking to sign up for an online bachelor’s degree program. Or you are simply hoping to get an idea of the best online college course that will suit you when you are ready for college. Whatever the case, here are the steps to help you choose what works best for you.

    1. Determine Your Criteria

    The first step is to get clear on exactly what you want from a course. Do you want to study a course endorsed by a professional body, perhaps because you plan to obtain a professional certification? Maybe you want to choose an online college course to improve your skills for work? You may or may not even know what topic you want to study. 

    In any case, providing answers to the following questions can make it easier for you to choose what suits you best. 

    • What specific topics hold your interest the most?
    • Do you plan to develop a specific skill? If that’s the case, what is it?
    • How much time can you devote to online learning per week as an online learner?
    • Are you studying for work or fun?

    2. Explore Different Courses

    Now that you are clear on what you want from an online course, you should spend some time exploring courses. Look through different online degree programs that match the criteria you set in step one. 

    It is possible to find a handful of courses that meet your criteria, and that’s okay. Simply follow through with step three.

    3. Read the Course Descriptions

    Every course is different, regardless of how similar they may appear at first blush. Take time to thoroughly read and understand each course description and make sure you understand what the content is – the syllabus and who the course is meant for. 

    The worst thing that can happen to you when choosing online college courses and classes is to apply for a topic that doesn’t fit your experience. Therefore, it is best to be thorough about the course description before choosing one. 

    4. Narrow Your Choices 

    Check each course description against your criteria to narrow down your choices. Considering the different syllabuses and who the courses are designed for, which meets your needs the most?

    It’s okay if you have difficulty choosing between two equally matched topics, especially if you have a high interest in both subjects. You can go for combined honors or a Major/Minor online degree program. This type of online bachelor program allows the student to combine two (and sometimes more) subjects into a single qualification. 

    How Do You Know Which Online College Courses You Should Avoid?

    Not all online college courses are created equal. While some offer award-winning online programs, others are best left alone. Keep your eyes open for the following red flags when searching for a degree program or even online certificate programs.

    No Recognized Accreditation 

    Accreditation agencies will vary depending on the country of your preferred institution. For this reason, it is crucial to do some digging to learn about the recognized accreditation bodies in a specific region. 

    If you plan to take an online class in any program, first consider checking out the institution’s website to link to their accreditation status. An accredited online college will display this information on the front page of its website. 

    Alternatively, if you are enrolling in a US online college program, consider looking up the institution’s accreditation status on the websites of the following accreditation bodies:

    You can check the following websites for online college programs in Europe:

    Researching an online school’s accreditation status can be tricky and taxing, but it is worth all the effort. You don’t want to spend time chasing a degree program as an online student only to end up with a bachelor’s or master’s degree that would be of no use.

    Very Similar Name to Famous Institutions

    A scam online school will copy the name of a well-known institution in a bid to confuse unsuspecting online learners. Ask around, and you will find that most people, schools, and even employers in the same region are not likely to have heard of the online school. 

    Insufficient Contact Details

    You should be wary of enrolling in an online school if its website lacks basic contact information, such as a verifiable physical address and a phone number. These types of online learning programs are usually diploma mills, regardless of whether they offer certificate programs, bachelor programs, master’s degree courses, or any other graduate program.

    Schools running genuine online academic programs will typically display their full contact information to enable any prospective student to easily get in touch for possible further inquiries. 

    Too Simple Admission Criteria 

    Be careful of any distance education program that claims anyone can earn a degree, irrespective of their educational background. Indeed, there are some genuine online learning programs with few admission requirements or where professionals can use their work experience to speed up their graduation. However, you should take it as a red flag if an institution places more emphasis on experiences without much regard for competence in online academic programs.

    They Ask for Full Tuition Upfront 

    A genuine university or college does not require you to pay lump-sum tuition upfront to study an online degree program. The decision to do that is purely optional for those who can afford a full tuition payment upfront. The usual mode of paying tuition fees is in installments every semester or year. 

    Why Should You Carefully Consider Which Online College Courses To Take?

    If there is consideration prospective students should take very seriously when choosing online college courses, it is the institution’s accreditation status. A student who attends a non-accredited or scam online school will graduate with a certificate, diploma, or degree that is practically worthless. 

    Here are some of the consequences of not carefully considering an online program before signing up to pursue a master’s degree, bachelor’s degree, certificate, or associate degree program:

    • You won’t be eligible to receive scholarships or any state or federal financial aid, such as loans and grants, if you graduate from a non-accredited school
    • You may end up studying an online course that won’t add any value to you, especially if you are already working and looking to improve your career prospects 
    • Other institutions may likely reject academic credits earned from non-accredited school if you want to transfer or apply for admission
    • You might not be able to cope with the course requirements if you didn’t do proper research before starting the program
    • There is a high chance of being turned down by employers after graduation
    • Certain online course platforms might not be suitable for every student, and you would have wasted your time and money enrolling in the program

    Best College Courses to Take Online

    As you already know, there are a plethora of online courses offered by thousands of colleges. However, some college courses are easier to take online than others. Some excellent courses offered by renowned online learning institutions are particularly suitable for individuals with a lot of free time and resources to cope with the demands of those courses. 

    Which Classes Are Usually the Easiest to Take Online?

    Although some online courses are considered “easy,” many of them still have reading workloads. Therefore, an online class may be pretty straightforward without too many requirements but still requires plenty of reading and studying. 

    Here is a small list of some of the courses that offer greater flexibility and are considered easier to take online than core subjects:

    • Art/Music Appreciation
    • Basic History
    • General Education Courses
    • Health Education
    • Social Science

    Nowadays, you can even find free online education to add to your resume to boost your employment prospects. But just because they are free online courses doesn’t make them any less valuable. In fact, many popular and well-established higher education institutions offer free online courses. Some of these include: 

    • Harvard University: This prestigious higher education institution offers more than 600 free online courses, a few of which are Justice, Shakespeare’s Life Work, and The Health Effects of Climate Change.
    • Michigan State University: As one of the largest universities in the US, Michigan State University boasts of some free online courses on topics covering game art production, the impact of journalism on social issues and trends, and how to write feature-length screenplays for television or film. 
    • University of California, Irvine: This University offers a wide variety of courses covering a vast range of subjects to choose from, including Introduction to Electronics, Better Business Writing in English, and Games without Chance: Combinational Game Theory. 
    • University College London (UCL):  This is one of the top-ranking higher education institutions in the UK, with many free online courses, such as Citizen Science and Scientific Crowdsourcing: An Introduction, Anthropology of Social Media: Why We Post, and Culture, Health, and Wellbeing: An Introduction. 
    • Hong Kong University of Science and Technology: With a focus on advancing research in science, technology, and related subjects, this university offers a selection of free online courses that cover the many innovations in technology, essential economic concepts, identifying reliable news reports, and more.

    Earning a degree in an online bachelor‘s program is no longer the exception, thanks to the proliferation of online course platforms. Some of the popular college courses offered online that might interest you include:

    1. Business Administration: Arguably the most popular online degree program with the highest number of student enrollment, Business Administration is a versatile course relevant to nearly all careers. Completing the program leads to an award of a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration or Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA). 
    2. Criminal Justice: An online college course in Criminal Justice is a great choice for students looking to work as forensic scientists, crime scene investigators, probation officers, and legal analysts. At completion, students are awarded a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice (BSCJ) or a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice (BACJ), depending on the specific degree program they studied. 
    3. Computer Science: In a world where computerization is constantly growing, it makes sense that Computer Science features as one of the less-demanding courses to take online. The course has a low unemployment rating with high earning potential and is excellent for students who want to pursue a career in fields such as programming. To graduate with a Bachelor of Computer Science, you need to take online courses, such as programming, database management, data structures and algorithms, and operating systems.  
    4. Accounting: With a curriculum that concentrates heavily on income taxation, micro and macro-economics, internal auditing, fundamentals of accounting, and other straightforward subjects, online accounting degrees provide a less-taxing learning experience for online learners. Students earn a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Accounting or Bachelor of Science (BS) in Accounting upon graduation. However, you need to pass the necessary exams to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
    5. Engineering: Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Engineering (BE or B.Eng.) gives you the advantage of earning one of the highest starting salaries for fresh college graduates, whether your degree is from an online or traditional institution. The subjects involved in the course are pretty straightforward. They include math, computer science, chemistry, science, and similar subjects. 

    Other popular online college courses include degree programs in Education, Human Services, Psychology, Nursing, and Health Care Administration.

    How Can You Decide What Courses You Can and Cannot Take Online?

    You probably already guessed that not all academic programs are ideal for studying in a distance education format. Of course, online course platforms may offer several excellent online courses, but some might be extra challenging.

    Before you choose an online college degree or an online certificate program, it is best to provide honest answers to the following questions, regardless of whether it is an accredited online college or university:

    • What are the credit hours required to complete the online course?
    • Can you juggle your other responsibilities (family, work, etc.) with the course requirements?
    • To what extent do you need extra guidance and support from a professor?
    • Do you have the resources to be in frequent touch with a professor if you choose to take a specific online class that demands plenty of virtual face-to-face time?

    While you may like to take on some not-too-easy courses offered by a reputable online college or university, you should consider skipping them, even if you can afford to pay the tuition in full upfront. Some of these courses are offered at various levels, including associate degree and undergraduate degree level. Here are a few examples:

    • Core History Courses: Gone are the days when you can pass history courses relying heavily on memorizing and reciting. This topic emphasizes considerable reading, writing, collaborative analysis, and class discussions, which may not be feasible in an online format. The extensive workload of online history courses is best suited for the academically diligent online learner.
    • English: College-level English courses involve a lot of discussions, and that requires plenty of video chats. You are also expected to do a significant amount of essay writing. These things are not the easiest to manage on online course platforms. 
    • Some Social Science Courses: Anthropology, sociology, and a few other social science courses concentrate on research methodologies, discussions, and a ton of reading about the workings of past and present societies. Becoming competent on many of these topics requires considerable support and attention from professors. 

    Online College Courses and Accredited Degree Programs

    Whether you are looking to pursue an online master’s degree program or hope to earn one of the many online college degrees, such as teacher certification degrees, it is important first to understand how online college courses work.

    As mentioned earlier (and worth reemphasizing), accreditation is of the utmost importance when deciding on an online college course. Online degrees are available in hundreds of popular subjects with qualifications for doctoral, master’s, bachelors, associates, and certificate levels but make sure the degree-offering institution is accredited before you enroll.

    How Online College Courses Work

    Typically, an online class offers a mix of live lectures or pre-recorded video lectures with assignments (assessments and readings) that students can do in their own free time. When considering an online class, the first thing you need is a computer with an internet connection and an up-to-date web browser. You may also need to buy some textbooks to help you understand your subjects better.

    Keep in mind that all online degree courses may not work in the same fashion. Some online colleges provide online course platforms or portals that allow students to have individual accounts and manage their courses. Portals usually include several sections, such as coursework, grades, class listings, and support services. The platform may also have discussion boards for communication between students and professors. 

    As you probably already know, online courses are scheduled differently than what is obtainable in traditional colleges. Students can log in to the platform and complete online assignments at their own pace (of course, within a deadline). Also, there may be weekly timing of courses (the amount of work required to be completed each week).

    Depending on the specific online college, students may start a program at any time of the year. In contrast, some other online institutions stick to specific dates for commencing and ending courses. 

    In most cases, online colleges offer virtual resources that help students have a complete learning experience. There is really no need to be worried or concerned about possibly missing out on the resources available to traditional on-campus students. While virtual resources vary from between online colleges, some of the common ones include:

    • Academic advising
    • Access to alumni networks
    • Online libraries
    • Online student advising
    • Online writing centers
    • Tech support
    • Tutoring services
    • Virtual bookstores
    • Virtual career counseling

    It is important to make certain that you will get all the support you need to excel if you plan to pursue an online course. Therefore, when researching and comparing online programs, be sure to inquire about virtual support upfront.

    Public Colleges Offering Online Courses

    Prospective students thinking of taking online programs have the option of choosing public colleges offering online courses. However, there are a few key important things to note if you want to take this route. 

    Advantages of Taking Online Courses from Public Colleges

    Some of the benefits of taking online courses at public universities and colleges include:

    • Longer-term commitment: Online programs offered by public universities are less likely to fizzle out all of a sudden because the institution has well-established programs and adequate resources to keep them running. This makes it a more attractive proposition for many online learners. For example, working professionals looking to take online doctoral degrees would prefer to choose large public universities over private institutions because they won’t want to risk losing everything they have worked for due to an abrupt termination of the program.
    • Funding: Public institutions running online programs typically have a larger budget to fund online education. That’s because a large chunk of the funding comes from the government. On the other hand, privately owned higher learning institutions rely heavily on tuition and endowments to fund their programs.
    • Course delivery schedule: Public colleges offer flexible course delivery schedules and have various modes for teaching online classes. 

    Drawbacks of Taking Online Classes from Public Colleges and Universities

    Taking an online class in a public institution comes with some disadvantages, too. The number of students enrolling for the courses is usually higher than in private schools, typically because of the higher tuition. This can make it challenging for a professor to provide adequate support and guidance to each student. Also, because of the flexibility of online courses, the temptation to procrastinate is higher. Students with poor time-management skills are likely to find it difficult to cope. 

    Top Public Colleges Offering Online Courses

    If you are serious about studying an online course in a nonprofit institution, we recommend choosing from this list of the top-ranking public colleges. 

    1. West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia
      • Graduation Rate: 57%
      • Distance Education: 25%
      • Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the Higher Learning Commission
      • Tuition: $10,814 
    2. Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona 
      • Graduation Rate: 53%
      • Distance Education: 40%
      • Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the Higher Learning Commission 
      • Tuition: $14,678
    3. East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina
      • Graduation Rate: 61%
      • Distance Education: 35%
      • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
      • Tuition: $12,817 
    4. The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
      • Graduation Rate: 72%
      • Distance Education: 27%
      • Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the Higher Learning Commission 
      • Tuition: $14,161
    5. Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida
      • Graduation Rate: 50%
      • Distance Education: 40%
      • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
      • Tuition: $11,303 
    6. The University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida 
      • Graduation Rate: 67%
      • Distance Education: 56%
      • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
      • Tuition: $11,398 
    7. Kent State University, Kent, Ohio
      • Graduation Rate: 55%
      • Distance Education: 51%
      • Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the Higher Learning Commission 
      • Tuition: $18,180 
    8. The University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
      • Graduation Rate: 87%
      • Distance Education: 67%
      • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
      • Tuition: $14,761
    9. Florida International University, Miami, Florida
      • Graduation Rate: 56%
      • Distance Education: 58%
      • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
      • Tuition: $12,966 
    10. Utah State University, Logan, Utah
      • Graduation Rate: 47%
      • Distance Education: 46%
      • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
      • Tuition: $13,037

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