The Ultimate Online Colleges Guide

College Degree Finder


What You’ll Learn About Online Colleges

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Meet The Experts

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Andrew Selepak
Ph.D., Lecturer in Department of Telecommunication, Director of the Social Media Online Graduate Program at the University of Florida
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Jordyne Carmack
M.S., Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of the Cumberlands (on-campus and online courses)

With the growth of internet technology over the last couple of decades, students are finding online colleges to be an attractive alternative to a traditional on-campus education. In fact, in 2016, over 6.4 million students (31% of all students) took at least one online course through an online college program. There are also many benefits that online college students enjoy, including more flexibility and the ability to work and fulfill other responsibilities while getting a college education.

This Online Colleges Guide will assist you as you research online degree programs, schools, costs, and application information. We recommend that you use this guide to determine whether or not online colleges are right for you and to answer any questions.

Please note that some online college programs may require prerequisites or in-person requirements. Be sure to consult this guide as well as look at the website of the college you are interested in so you can have all of the materials you need and required tasks completed before applying to colleges.

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What Is An Online College and How Does It Work?

An online college is a school that allows you to take classes either entirely or partly online (also known as hybrid courses) to complete a degree. All curriculum, including lectures, readings, and exams are completed in a virtual learning environment.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), online colleges use technology to deliver instruction and support regular interaction between students and the instructor, who are in separate locations. While students are still taught by instructors and interact with classmates, they may never meet face-to-face (unless there is an on-campus requirement).

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Who’s Going to Online Colleges?

Demand for online colleges, also known as distance learning, has grown significantly over the past several years. According to the Online Learning Consortium, the number of online college degree programs has outpaced the growth of traditional higher education.

Research by the Babson Survey Research Group shows higher education enrollments dropped by 3.8% from 2012 to 2016. Alternatively, the survey also reveals that the number of students taking at least one distance education course sharply increased by 17.2 percent over the same period.

“The trend of increasing distance education enrollments in the face of declining overall higher ed enrollments suggests an important shift in the American higher education landscape, with contemporary learners leaning in to online options.”
– Kathleen S. Ives, CEO and Executive Director of the Online Learning Consortium

Take a look at these facts about online colleges and courses from 2012-2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

  • Almost 6.4 million college students (31%) took at least one distance education course in 2016. That is a 17.1% increase from 2012 (5.4 million).
  • Of those 6.4 million students, 14.6% students took all of their college courses online and 16.4% took at least one online course.
  • Graduate students were more than twice as likely to take all of their courses online than undergraduate students (27.4% vs. 12.4%).
  • Online colleges are not just for students that live out-of-state from their college. In fact, slightly more than 56% of all students who took all of their classes online live in the same state as their online college.
  • Undergraduate students are more likely than graduate students to live in the same state as their online college. About 61% of the undergraduate students who took all of their classes online (1.3 million) live in the same state as their online college. Alternatively, 54% of graduate students who took all of their classes online live in a different state as their online college.

All Students, Online Learning Growth

All students, online learning growth chart

Undergraduate Students, Online Learning Growth

Undergraduate students - online learning growth chart

Graduate Students, Online Learning Growth

Graduate students - online learning growth chart

The Growth of Online Colleges in the U.S.

Just as there has been a growth in the number of online students, there’s also an increase in the number of colleges offering online courses. Offering classes and programs online has quickly become a priority for many colleges and universities.

The following statistics from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) show just how prevalent online colleges are today:

  • 56 U.S. online colleges offer 100% of their classes exclusively online
  • 2,512 U.S. colleges offer over 29,000 online degree programs
  • There are 1,011 different types of online certificate and degree programs within 38 different study areas

Colleges That Offer The Most Online Certificate and Degree Programs (all degree levels)

The following ranking lists from show the colleges in the United States that offer the most online certificate and degree programs.

Best Colleges for Online Certificates

Mitchell Community College Statesville, NC 42 $2,432 $8,576
Georgia Piedmont Technical College Clarkston, GA 40 $2,136 $4,272
Rasmussen College-Florida Ocala, FL 39 $9,360 $9,360
Madison Area Technical College Madison, WI 42 $3,911 $5,866
Rasmussen College-Minnesota St. Cloud, MN 38 $9,360 $9,360

Best Colleges for Associate Degrees

Holmes Community College Goodman, MS 70 $2,230 $4,810
Allen County Community College Iola, KS 55 $1,800 $1,800
Garden City Community College Garden City, KS 39 $1,824 $2,432
San Joaquin Delta College Stockton, CA 37 $1,104 $6,168
Copiah-Lincoln Community College Wesson, MS 29 $2,390 $4,390

Best Colleges for Bachelor’s Degrees

Ashford University San Diego, CA 53 $10,632 $10,632
Bellevue University Bellevue, NE 51 $6,840 $6,840
American Public University System Charles Town, WV 45 $6,480 $6,480
Arizona State University-Skysong Scottsdale, AZ 35 $7,885 $14,946
Kaplan University-Davenport Campus Davenport, IA 34 $13,356 $13,356

Best Colleges for Master’s Degrees

Capella University Minneapolis, MN 75 $14,526 $14,526
Walden University Minneapolis, MN 40 $12,844 $12,844
Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL 38 $18,373 $18,373
University of Florida Gainesville, FL 36 $10,770 $27,335
North Carolina State University at Raleigh Raleigh, NC 35 $8,088 $22,610

Most Popular Online Colleges

The following online colleges had the highest number of students taking at least one distance course in 2015:

University of Phoenix Tempe, AZ 162,003 $9,690
Liberty University Lynchburg, VA 72,519 $21,292
Western Governors University Salt Lake City, UT 70,504 $6,070
Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH 56,371 $31,136
Grand Canyon University Phoenix, AZ 54,543 $17,050
Walden University Minneapolis, MN 52,799 $12,075
American Public University System Charles Town, WV 52,361 $6,880
University of Maryland-University College Adelphi, MD 48,268 $14,325
Kaplan University – Davenport Campus Omaha, NE 45,268 $14,325
Excelsior College Albany, NY 43,123

Most Popular Online Colleges Source: IPEDS; Estimated Tuition and Fees for Academic Year; National Center for Education Statistics, College Navigator.

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Types of Online College Degrees

Online colleges offer degrees at the four main educational levels – associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate. Each degree level is designed to provide you with educational training and particular skills that will prepare you for a job in your field of interest.

In addition, some online colleges also offer continuing education courses, such as certificates and professional development programs. These help you stay updated on changing trends within your industry.

Click on each of the degrees below to learn more.

Online Associate Degree

  • 1,279 schools offer 6,146 online associate degree programs.
  • As many community colleges have embraced online learning, several are offering two-year academic programs as well as vocational, career-oriented programs to distance learners.
  • An online associate degree normally requires at least two years of full-time equivalent college work – the same amount of time as a traditional, on-campus associate degree.

Online Bachelor’s Degree

  • An online bachelor’s degree is one of the most common online degrees available – there are 7,300 online bachelor’s degree programs offered by 1,249 schools in the U.S.
  • Most online bachelor’s degree programs take students an average of about four years to complete.
  • With a variety of majors, an online bachelor’s degree often serves as the minimum education requirement for many professions. In fact, in 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that approximately 21.3% of the jobs listed in their occupation handbook require a bachelor’s degree.
  • An online bachelor’s degree focuses on a specific field of study, providing you with the knowledge and skills needed to move forward in your career and increase your earning potential.

Online Master’s Degree

  • 1,253 schools offer 7,274 online master’s degree programs.
  • An online master’s degree is often key to professional advancement. If you are a busy professional, in the midst of your career, you will need flexibility in course formats and accessibility. Because of this, the online learning format is especially convenient because it allows for coursework to be completed around work schedules (evenings and weekends).
  • While some online master’s degrees will still require you to complete a traditional thesis, other graduate programs may opt for alternative final projects, such as comprehensive exams, practicums, presentations, and capstone projects. These final projects, required for graduation, assess what you have learned while enrolled in the online program.
  • This high-level degree typically takes about two years of academic work beyond the bachelor’s degree.

Online Doctorate/Ph.D. Degree

  • The doctorate degree or Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy), is among the highest academic degrees available.
  • 206 schools offer 1,735 online doctorate degree programs.
  • An online doctorate degree specializes in a field of study, yet, may vary in requirements or format. Doctorate and PhD degrees can require on average 8.2 years to complete. This includes study, research, and a dissertation. The exact amount of time you may spend on a doctorate or PhD, however, will largely depend on the program you are pursuing as well as your research and professional interests.
  • A postgraduate degree is especially critical if you who want an added advantage in your career, or if you are interested in teaching at the postsecondary level or plan to engage in high-level research.

Continuing Education Options

  • Certificate Programs allow you to develop specialized career skills. Taking continuing education courses in a specific area of study can help you stay current in your industry and attract new job opportunities. Online certificate programs offer a condensed learning experience and serve as an alternative academic credential to degree programs. Nationally, 719 schools offer 5,058 online certificate programs.
  • Professional Development is required in many career fields. Industries such as real estate, insurance, social work, accounting, law, healthcare, etc. require a license or professional certification to do business. To renew a professional license, you must regularly complete continuing education units (or CEUs) to maintain competence and develop further knowledge and skills.

Credits Required To Complete An Online Degree

The number of credit hours required to graduate with an online college degree can vary depending on the school and the degree you plan to take. The following are the average credits required for each online college degree:

Types Of Online Learning Formats

There are several different types of online learning formats offered at colleges and universities. Some of these programs are delivered completely online, while others require some on-campus class attendance and/or live course participation in addition to online learning. These are known as hybrid programs.

The following are five different online learning formats:

In-person requirements vary depending on the online college. It is important to research whether attendance on-campus is required for an online degree program prior to application and enrollment. While many online schools are exclusively online, others require attending some class sessions or professional conferences hosted by the school in order to graduate.

Popular Online College Programs/Majors

Below is a list of the most popular online college programs and majors. These majors can be found at most online colleges.

  • Art
  • Biology
  • Business Management
  • Communications
  • Computer Science
  • Counseling
  • Criminal Justice
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • English And Humanities
  • English
  • Finance
  • Graphic Design
  • History
  • Healthcare
  • Human Resources
  • Information Technology
  • Law
  • Liberal Arts
  • Marketing
  • Mathematics
  • Nursing
  • Nutrition
  • Political Science
  • Psychology
  • Public Health
  • Public Administration
  • Social work
  • Sociology
  • Special Education
  • Statistics
  • Social Work

Pros and Cons of Online Colleges

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Flexibility for students. You will be able to complete coursework on your own schedule. This is an added advantage if you have a full-time job, family responsibilities, or a disability.
Career advancement opportunities. You can develop new skills and apply them directly to your career, which may increase your earning potential and provide opportunities for advancement.
Affordable tuition and fees. You will not have to pay for transportation, athletics, and student activities, since you won’t use those amenities as an online student.
No commute or hassle of campus parking. As an online student, you can work on your degree anywhere as long as you have internet access. For most programs, you will not have to travel to a physical campus location.
The quality of learning and academic rigor is comparable to an on-campus education. According to LearningHouse, almost 90% of online students surveyed report that online study was equal to or better than classroom study.
Variety of choice in specialization. Online colleges currently offer 13,500 different undergraduate degree programs and around 9,000 graduate programs.
Diversity of student body. By attending an online college, you will interact with classmates from all over the U.S. – and possibly the world – via discussion boards, virtual group projects, or other online networking opportunities.

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Limited classroom interaction with the instructor and classmates. A lack of face-to-face communication may make it more challenging for you to get enough personalized attention or feedback from the instructor.
Requires more discipline. You need to have good time management skills, be aware of project and test deadlines, and be able to stay on top of the coursework to be successful.
Online learning isn’t for everyone. You should consider what your preferred learning style is before signing up for online college courses or programs.
Limited social interaction. While you can connect with classmates via email, chat rooms, and discussion groups as an online student, getting together outside of class may not be possible. You will also not benefit from the social opportunities or extracurricular activities offered at an on-campus colleges.
Technology costs and challenges. Online learning requires a reliable computer, access to the internet, and basic computer programs, all of which come at an additional cost. Some companies, however, offer student discount rates on computers and software.
It’s decreasing, yet, some employers still lack trust in online degrees. Some employers still believe that online colleges lack credibility and brand recognition, which may lead to a negative view of a degree from an online institution.
Beware of online college scams that don’t offer accredited degrees. Avoid online colleges that offer quick degrees with little effort. These are most likely scam programs and schools that lack legitimate accreditation.

7 FAQs About Online Colleges

When deciding on an online college, ask yourself the following questions to ensure you make an informed decision:

Are online colleges accredited?

Accreditation is a crucial factor to consider when making a decision on an online college program. Accreditation is when a college undergoes a rigorous evaluation process by a recognized accrediting agency to ensure that their academics meet high-quality standards. It is also a good measure of whether or not a college will adequately prepare you for the career in which you are studying.

Learn more about online college accreditation here.

Do employers accept online degrees?

Most employers will accept online degrees similarly to on-campus college degrees as long as the online degree program meets a couple of expectations: 1) the online school you attended and the program you graduated from are accredited by a legitimate and recognized regional or national accreditation agency, 2) the online school has a positive reputation that speaks to the quality of the degree program and its graduates; can be verified by other alumni, employers, or online research.

In addition to verifying the quality of your online degree program, employers will also be interested to learn more about why you chose to go to school online, how you performed in class projects and assignments (want to know if you can collaborate with and work well in a team), your GPA, your leadership experience, additional certificates or licenses, work experience, and learned skills.

How much does online college cost?

Cost is one of the most important determining factors when choosing a college or degree program. Just like other types of degree programs, an online college degree program can also vary in cost. The cost of your degree will depend on a variety of factors, including:

  • Type of online school you choose: For example, the cost of attending a public online college may be less expensive than a private or for-profit online school).
  • Degree level and area of study (major): Degree program costs can vary quite dramatically from associate to bachelor’s and even more from undergraduate to graduate; degree costs can also vary slightly according to the area of study you choose.
  • Whether you live in-state or out-of-state from the school you choose: Some online colleges have different tuition rates depending on your state of residence.

In order to encourage you to graduate in less time, some online colleges will also give incentives and discounts for taking multiple courses at the same time. They do this by offering a lower tuition cost per credit if you meet a minimum credit amount in a semester.

Overall, online colleges may cost less, as you will NOT have to pay for:

  • Building or campus maintenance fees
  • Room and board costs
  • Transportation costs
  • Parking fees

Waivers on certain fees may vary by institution. Most online colleges, however, require you to pay a technology fee in addition to tuition. The fee, which can range anywhere from $40 to around $200 (based on data from multiple online colleges) covers the costs of information technology such as the college’s online learning management system, technical support, and other tech improvements. This fee may be assessed by credit hour or semester, depending on the institution. According to the program costs from IPEDS, here are the average costs of online college programs by degree level. This list shows tuition for in-state and out-of-state students for full-time and per credit hour:

Associate $8,550 $290 $11,087 $387
Bachelor’s $15,052 $512 $18,551 $660
MASTER’S $13,237 $624 $16,333 $776

You can look up the cost and compare the value of online colleges using the College Scorecard from the U.S. Department of Education.

Can you get financial aid for college?

Federal and state financial aid is available for students who enroll in an online college—as long as it is accredited by an approved accreditation agency. Some online colleges also offer scholarships, so be sure to check with your school’s financial aid department to see what options are available.

To learn more about financial aid options for online colleges, see the How to Pay for Online College section in this guide as well as the Financial Aid for Online Colleges article.

What do online colleges require to apply?

Many online college degree programs require you to fulfill prerequisites prior to admission. The following are common ones for many online colleges:

Online Degree Type Prerequisite or In-Person Requirement
Associate High School Diploma or equivalent
Bachelor High School Diploma or equivalent ACT or SAT test scores GPA
Graduate GRE or GMAT GPA

How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree online?

The length of time it takes to earn an online bachelor’s degree or an online degree is often similar to the length of time it takes to earn a traditional degree of the same level. The variance in time to graduation for any degree level may be shortened or lengthened, depending on the number of credits you take each semester and how if you take any time off between semesters.

Below are the possible degrees you can earn along with the average amount of time you will need to invest to earn that specific degree level:

  • Online Associate Degree: 2 years
  • Online Bachelor’s Degree: 3-4 years
  • Online Master’s Degree: 2 years
  • Online Doctorate/PhD Degree: 8 years on average

The exact amount of time an online college degree will take you will depend on the types of online classes you are enrolled in, the school you attend, as well as your work ethic. For example, some programs will allow you to earn your degree in less time if you are willing and able to take multiple classes at a time.

How much time should I expect to spend on coursework each week?

Online students should expect to spend approximately three hours per week per credit hour to watch lectures and complete coursework. This will vary based on the difficulty of your chosen field of study, your school, and program. The time required for each online course is comparable to its on-campus counterpart course.

Accreditation for Online Colleges

What is Accreditation and Why Does it Matter?

Accreditation is a system used in the United States to evaluate colleges and universities to ensure you are receiving a quality education that meets standards for faculty, curriculum, and support resources. When choosing an online college, this is one of the most important factors in ensuring the academic integrity and value of your degree.

Accreditation assures that your school is a credible institution that is qualified to grant a degree in your field of study.

Universities and colleges must pass a rigorous review by the accreditation agency that grants the accreditation status. This ensures that you are receiving the level of higher learning that is required to help you qualify to get a job in your field of study after graduation.

Types of Online College Accreditation to Look For

Colleges can be nationally or regionally accredited by a number of accrediting bodies. Any legitimate accrediting agency will be recognized and verified by the United States Department of Education. Click here to find out whether or not your desired online college is accredited.

Regional Accreditation

Most colleges and universities undergo accreditation from regional agencies, which are considered to be more rigorous and also more widely accepted.

National Accreditation

Trade schools offering vocational or technical training primarily receive national accreditation.

It is important to research to find out if your prospective online college is accredited. Online colleges must publish their accreditation status on their website. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education maintains a Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs. To view a full list published by the U.S. Department of Education of nationally recognized accrediting agencies, or to research the accreditation status of an online college, click here.

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How to Apply to Online Colleges and What to Expect

Application Process

The application process for an online college is similar to applying for a traditional college program. Here are the steps to successfully apply to an online college:

  1. Research schools. Search for programs that fit your education and career goals, match your learning style, and are within your budget.
  2. Visit the college’s website and read reviews from other students and alumni. Check reviews on Google and the school’s Facebook page too.
  3. Research application requirements for your online colleges of interest and pay attention to application deadlines.
  4. Request letters of recommendation from teachers and mentors.
  5. Gather all other application materials including essays, transcripts, letters of recommendations, and test scores.
  6. Complete the college application form for the schools you are interested in attending.
  7. Apply for scholarships and look into your financial aid options.
  8. Await admission decisions from the schools you applied for. Evaluate and weigh all acceptance letters and submit your reply.
  9. Once you are accepted, talk with a guidance counselor as you register for online classes and prepare for the next steps.
  10. Develop a plan on how you will pay for your tuition with financial aid, scholarships, student loans, or paying out of pocket.

Weekly Requirements

Online colleges will provide a web platform for you to log onto from the internet (also called a Learning Management System or LMS for short, such as Blackboard or Canvas). Typically, each week you will be required to review lecture material, read required articles and/or textbook chapters, complete quizzes or other assignments, and/or engage in a class or group discussion (often on a discussion board or group chat). The format and deadlines will vary depending on the school and program.


You will be expected to do the following at an online college:

  • Take responsibility for your learning: In online college courses, you will be expected to come prepared to give meaningful contributions to class discussions and teach your peers what you have learned. You will also need to be organized and set a schedule for yourself to complete assignments on time.
  • Contribute regularly in the virtual classroom: Online instructors try to create an engaging virtual classroom that invites meaningful and thoughtful study and learning. They will encourage critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity and empower you and the other students to express your ideas and opinions. The instructor will expect contributions from each individual student and will provide feedback.
  • Apply what you learn: Online course curriculum enables you to develop practical skills through class discussions and assignments. These course materials are organized to give you the opportunity to practice real-life applications of the concepts you learn.
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How to Pay for Online College

Affordability is often a critical factor to consider when selecting a college. It is important to search the online college’s website for annual tuition rates, fees, and to learn about any financial aid options the school offers.

The following federal financial assistance programs are available from the U.S. Department of Education as long as your online college is accredited. Click on each of the options to learn more.

Federal pell grants

If you qualify, Pell Grants can provide up to $6,095 per semester. These funds can be directly applied to online college tuition. Unlike loans, these needs-based grants are provided if you are a low-income undergraduate student to promote access to postsecondary education, and do not need to be repaid. Learn more about the $6,095 college grant.

Federal student loans

These loans are also available, if needed, and do not have to be repaid until after you finish your degree. You’ll be required to participate in loan counseling to understand the terms of repayment and interest rates prior to taking out student loans. Private loans are also available from private lending institutions.


Scholarships are given to qualified students that meet certain criteria and are offered through colleges, private donors, organizations, and federal and state government. To apply for and receive a scholarship, you need to meet a set of criteria that may be academic, athletic, artistic or aspirational.

There are hundreds of scholarships available annually. To learn more about open scholarship opportunities in 2017-18, visit You should also consider applying to schools that offer merit-based assistance to students.

State, local, institution financial assistance

These kinds of assistance may also provide you with a way to pay for college. Check with the financial aid office at your state or local institution to learn more about options that may be available to you.

To secure federal grants and student loans, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which determines your eligibility for both federal grants and federal student loans.

Be mindful of student aid deadlines and give yourself plenty of time to submit your application before the start of the academic year. For more information on student financial assistance programs or to apply for aid via the web, visit Learn more about financial aid for online colleges, here.

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Expert Advice On Online Colleges

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Interview with Andrew Selepak, PhD

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Andrew Selepak, PhD, is a lecturer in the department of telecommunication and the director of the online graduate program in social media at the University of Florida. He has taught several online courses at UF, including Social Media and Society (undergraduate) as well as Messaging Methodologies and the Practice of Conversion Optimization and Messaging Strategy and the Centrality of the Value Proposition (graduate).

Selepak holds a BA in American History from the University of Virginia, an MA in Communications from George Mason University, and a PhD in Mass Communications from the University of Florida. He has conducted research on political communication, media effects, and online and social media including video games, music, television, and websites. He has been interviewed and/or quoted on CNBC, NBC News, Prevention Magazine, USA Today, ESPN, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and more.

What made you decide to teach online?
“Online teaching, for me, happened naturally after I completed my PhD at the University of Florida. I was teaching in-residence courses when I was asked to teach research methods in our graduate online web design program. I taught this course live in the online web design program for two semesters, and then in the summer of 2013, I was asked to teach the course asynchronously in our social media program. That same semester, I became the director of the social media program. Since then, I have recorded online lectures for my in-residence courses as well as a way to supplement the course with more material.”
Do you like teaching in an online college format?
“I like how online learning offers 24/7 interaction between the teacher and student as well as the student and their classmates. In an in-residence course, you will have about three hours of interaction during the week. In an online course, you can engage with the instructor and students just about anytime via discussion boards, which allows the opportunity for more interaction. In an online learning environment, instructors are able to get to know the students better and the students get to know each better as well because there are more opportunities to engage in discussion.”
What personality characteristics are most common in your successful online students?
“The students that are really passionate about the topic tend to participate more and are more engaged in the class. They want to discuss the topic and they want to engage on the different topic ideas. It makes it easier to do this in the online environment because you are not limited to lecture times. Instead, the conversation can go on and is not limited by time or space.”
What are the positives of online college programs and classes?
“An online program allows for greater diversity of thought and experience. Students are taking online courses from all over the world and can provide different perspectives on what they are learning and the topics being discussed. I had a student who lived in Lebanon and she had to meet at 7 p.m. ET in the class when it was 2 a.m. her time. She had different perspectives to add than the other students in my course and it really enriched the classroom experience. One of the other advantages of an online education is you can live where you work. If you have a job on one side of the country, you can still get your education and not have to pick up and move your family to the college. Online education also offers you more educational opportunities. You can learn any topic, get the education, and get the knowledge that interests you and is the most valuable to you regardless of where you live or what programs are offered at the school near you”
Why would a student consider earning their degree from an online college instead of a traditional program?
“When you are part of an online program, it allows you to stay at home rather than traveling to a college campus or moving away from home. For some, this means the cost of living is cheaper. It can also help you continue growing in your career since you wouldn’t have to leave your current job to pursue a degree. And you don’t have to choose between pursuing more education or work and family obligations, such as taking care of a sick relative.”
What are the negatives of online college programs and classes?
“It takes a certain type of professor to teach online. Everyone who has gone to college has had a professor that wasn’t really interesting. Trying to be engaging online is difficult. It’s hard for some to record a lecture and talk to an empty room with no one there. That is a skill that not everyone possesses. There also can be technology issues. Some classes have an instructor voice-over and this is not engaging and is not going to motivate a student as much to learn. Also, just because it is an online environment, does not mean there are not opportunities for real-time engagement. Not all online instructors provide these opportunities, however, through live office hours or live lessons, which can also be a negative.”
What type of student would prefer an online college?
“Some people are not extroverts. Some people do not like to speak up. For these people, the barriers to engage are decreased in an online environment. An online course gives these students a means to participate that is beneficial to them because they don’t feel on the spot and can instead engage in a way that is more deliberate and comfortable for them. This is important because by being engaged, you end up learning more.”
What type of student may not like an online college?
“An online environment places more personal responsibility on the individual. It requires time management skills. Some people may need more structure. For those people, on-campus schools are more helpful because they will give them the structure that they need.”
What does teaching in an online learning platform allow you to do with your students that on-campus courses do not?
“Students in an in-residence course submit assignments at the same time when the class meets. Students in an online course, however, can do their assignment early if it better fits their schedule to allow them to work ahead. Getting assignments back early can allow the instructor the opportunity to do real-time course corrections or offer early feedback to the rest of the class to help them improve their own work. Students also typically feel less restricted by time and space. This means questions can get answered at any time during the week and sometimes even by other students through a discussion board. This quick feedback can be really beneficial and makes the course more engaging for the professor too.”
Do you feel like online college students can get jobs post-graduation as easily as students who earn traditional on-campus degrees?
“I think part of that is dependent on the school they attend. In-residence schools have more opportunities for networking, such as career fairs. When you pursue an online school, you need to make sure the school offers the same advantages as you would get at an on-campus school. At the University of Florida, we offer virtual career fairs. The services that we offer to on-campus students are available to online students as well. It is important for schools to offer the same type of services to both kinds of students to make sure they have the same opportunities when it comes to getting finding a new career. What is also interesting is that because the students have to engage with one another online in the classroom environment, they are also often more motivated to connect with their classmates in other online environments like social media. This can create even more opportunities for networking.”
Is there anything else you feel would be valuable for someone to know if they are considering attending an online college or taking an online class?
“There are numerous websites out there that offer rankings of online programs. What it really comes down to, though, is what programs and courses the colleges offer, who the instructors are, and where the graduates end up working after graduation. Successful programs help create successful students, and successful programs come from engaged professors who create learning environments where the students gain the knowledge and skills to succeed and go on to achieve their dream careers.”

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Interview with Jordyne Carmack, MS

picture of Jordyne Carmack Jordyne Carmack is an Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of the Cumberlands. She teaches courses in advertising strategy, social media, introduction to strategic communication, audience insight, careers in communication, digital media in ministry, and public speaking. She earned her BS in Communication Arts and Theatre Arts at the University of the Cumberlands in 2008 and an MS in Integrated Marketing Communications at West Virginia University (an online master’s degree program) in 2014. Carmack joined the faculty of University of the Cumberlands in 2015, after teaching adjunct for two years. Her specialties and passions include strategic communication, social media, print marketing, graphic design, and advertising. She currently teaches in both the online and on-campus format at the university.

What made you decide to teach online?
“I have been an online student since 2012 in some form or another. I knew I enjoyed teaching in-seat and being an online student, so I was interested in taking it the next step forward. It’s also apparent that online education is exceptionally valuable to the contemporary student, and I wanted to assist them in that process.”
Do you like teaching in an online college format?
“While online teaching has its drawbacks and unique challenges, I generally enjoy teaching online.”
What personality characteristics are most common in your successful online students?
“Successful online students are organized, involved, and motivated. They have a sufficient system for keeping up with assignments and submitting them on time. They are motivated and complete all readings and supplemental resources as given (even though they may have the appearance of being “extra”). Finally, they are involved in online “life” by actively participating in discussion boards (beyond the requirement) and other course activities and proactively email the instructor with questions, concerns, feedback, or simple responses to content. I love to receive emails from students about specific course concepts – even if they are simply mentioning how interesting they found the concept or responding to a comment from the recorded lecture.”
What are the positives of online college programs and classes?
“Flexibility is the first and foremost advantage. A second advantage is the ability to develop online learning skills. Many industries expect their employees to be continuous, proactive learners through online methods instead of traditional continuing education and online students develop these skills early.”
Why would a student consider earning their degree from an online college instead of a traditional program?
“Students may consider an online program so they can continue working in their field and support their family.”
What are the negatives of online college programs and classes?
“The negatives of online college programs are decreased classroom relationships and the potential for procrastination. Unlike an in-seat course where students attempt to “learn by osmosis” by just being present, online students must be more proactive with their learning. It’s much more difficult to “wing” an online class, even with the assistance of Google.”
What type of student would prefer an online college?
“The type of student who is already working in their field or wants to make a slight adjustment into a connected field would likely prefer an online program. This would allow them to expand their knowledge or cross-train into something related while not removing them away from their current responsibilities.”
What type of student may not like an online college?
“A relationship-driven student is unlikely to thrive in an online program. While virtual meetings can simulate these relationships, there are many elements of communication that cannot at this point be replicated completely.”
What does teaching in an online learning platform allow you to do with your students that on-campus courses do not?
“The recorded lecture element is very helpful. Most in-seat students can’t revisit an entire lecture if they want to brush up on a concept. They have to trust their notes instead.”
Do you feel like online college students can get jobs post-graduation as easily as students who earn traditional on-campus degrees?
“This depends. Networking is still key to job placement and some programs carry more weight than others. Relationships are equally important in online and in-seat programs.”
Is there anything else you feel would be valuable for someone to know if they are considering attending an online college or taking an online class?
“Treat an online course like an in-seat class. Chat with your classmates beyond required discussion boards – add them on Facebook, LinkedIn … anything! Communicate with your online instructor even when you don’t have a question or a problem. Remember, their only knowledge of you are those emails or calls, so you have limited opportunities to build that relationship! Do the supplemental assignments or readings (they aren’t there for the instructor’s health).”

Online College Resources

The following list of resources will be helpful as you prepare for an online college program:

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