Choosing to pursue an education beyond high school is a smart choice when it comes to consistent employment and earning a higher wage. In addition, your options for how to continue your education become increasingly flexible when you take online courses.
Whether you’re just starting your college career or a professional continuing your education, here are some frequently asked questions about taking online courses that can help you decide if they are right for you.
Who Can Take Online Courses?
Anyone! Online courses are usually open to anyone ages 18 and up and while some courses have prerequisites, other courses are available to people with varying education levels. It’s imperative to find an online college with a program that fits your goals and lifestyle. Whether you’re still in high school, just starting college, returning to your education after an absence, or advancing your career, there are online college courses that are right for you and your goals and interests.
What Are the Advantages of Taking Online College Courses?
Flexibility is one of the biggest advantages of online college courses. In many online courses, you can also create your own schedule and study at your own pace so you can work and care for family while you go to school. Additionally, your classroom is wherever you have your computer, so you don’t have to spend the time or money to travel between classes, group meetings, and teacher meetings. Check out some other reasons why students love online learning here.
How Much Do Online Courses Cost?
The answer to this question varies widely depending on your goals. If you want to gauge your interest in a topic or learn for learning’s sake, you can find many free online courses on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) resources. On the other hand, if you want to earn a degree or obtain a certificate, you’ll need to pay for courses.
The good news is usually you will pay less per credit hour for online college courses than for on-campus courses. According to The College Board, the average annual tuition rate for online schools ranges from $3,400 to $8,400, compared to $33,480 for private colleges or anywhere between $9,650 (in-state residents) to $24,930 for public colleges.
In addition, many online schools offer pre-paid discounts that lock in prices to avoid annual tuition raises as well as pay-as-you go plans so you can take classes as your wallet and schedule allow.
There are many factors, however, besides money that will affect your choice of college. This list will help you navigate your choice.
Is Financial Aid Available for Online Schools?
There are a few options to explore when considering financial aid for online degrees:
- Federal Aid: Reputable and accredited online colleges accept grants, loans, and military tuition assistance offered by the federal government.
- Company Aid: If you already have a career, some companies will fund your continuing education in part or in full, especially if your desired degree relates to your current work.
- Scholarships: There are some scholarships available specifically for distance learning and online degrees. With a little research, you can also find scholarships based on your declared major as well as background factors such as sex, race, socioeconomic status, and past academic performance.
- School Discounts: Ask your online college of choice if they offer prepaid discounts that will lock in prices to avoid annual tuition rate hikes or pay-per-class plans that allow you to take classes as your budget and schedule allow.
How Do Online Classes Work?
Most online classes are set up like classroom learning, but with more electronic tools and resources. There are four possible learning formats for online courses, including:
- Independent Study Courses: You’ll watch pre-recorded lectures and you can complete your courses anytime within a year or more.
- Asynchronous courses: You will review course materials and lectures on your own time, but complete assignments, tests, and projects according to set course deadlines in a regular semester calendar.
- Synchronous courses: You and the professor will connect online at set dates and times using live web conferencing technology.
- Hybrid Courses: In some cases — such as online nursing degrees — you’ll likely have a hybrid of online and classroom learning. You will still complete most of your degree online, but you may have to spend a short amount of time on a campus or in other educational training environments.
Whichever type of online class you have, the work you do to complete the course will be similar to on-campus classroom learning in many ways. You may have quizzes, homework, group projects, labs, finals, and grades. As a bonus, most online classes make it easy for you to revisit lectures and resources as needed.
Common Online Courses in General Education
The following are some of the most common online courses in general education offered at most online colleges and universities. The name for each of these courses will vary from school to school, but the subject matter will be comparable.
- Introduction to Communication
- Public Relations
- Organizational Communication
- Academic Writing
- Creative Writing
- Advanced Creative Writing
- Advanced Composition
- U.S. Constitution
- American History
- State History
- Introduction to Humanities
- Introduction to Visual and Performing Arts
- Pop Culture and the Arts
- College Algebra
- Quantitative Reasoning
- Principles of Biology
- General Biology
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Organic Chemistry