Derick de Souza
Written By - Derick de Souza

Check MarkEdited By Arlene Ward

Check MarkReview & Contribution By Tracy C. Eidson

Traditional classrooms with blackboards or whiteboards and uncomfortable chairs and desks were the norm for many years. Students of all ages and backgrounds can now access education through the internet, software, and electronic devices. Online education has become increasingly relevant and popular and continues to extend its reach with each passing year. Before the coronavirus pandemic, more than 30% of college students took online courses[1]; today, that percentage is much higher. And most colleges and universities offer some form of distance learning, even if they did not do so before. This abundance of courses offers prospective students so many options to choose from and opens the doors to countless possibilities.

Online Courses

Table Of Contents

The Benefits of Learning Online

Online learning has many benefits. With access to education over the internet becoming cheaper and easily accessible, students are making good use of their time, money, and resources to get educated and be employed faster. Here are some of the top ten reasons why learning online is a huge plus: 

  1. Work while studying
  2. Reduce educational expenses 
  3. Do away with commutes 
  4. Learn from where you want to
  5. Add convenience and flexibility to your student life 
  6. Learn anything you want 
  7. Study at your own pace and learning style 
  8. Interact with teachers easily and more frequently 
  9. Increase your professional network 
  10. improve concentration ability

Furthermore, online courses can be less expensive per credit hour than traditional on-campus courses, but fees vary widely by institution and program. Students can save money on gas, parking, eating outside, and living away from home by studying online. Some online programs also allow out-of-state students to pay in-state tuition for courses, which can be a huge cost-saving. 

For students already in the workforce and/or raising families, online courses allow the flexibility needed to maintain their work schedule to preserve their paycheck.

Are Online Courses Accredited?

A higher education institution’s compliance with acceptable quality standards is aided by accreditation. It guarantees that a college or university meets or exceeds established quality standards. Most reputed institutions are regionally or nationally accreditedand many offer programmatically accredited programs. To ensure that your course is valid and recognized by other institutions and potential employers, you must always opt for accredited colleges or programs. You can check a university’s accreditation status on the U.S. Department of Education (USDE)[2] and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)[3] websites.

What Can You Expect From Online Courses

Online courses only require internet access, so users from different educational and geographical backgrounds can enroll in them easily. The courses can be as difficult or as easy as in-person courses. An online class may be more challenging than a traditional class in three ways: 

  1. Online courses may require more self-discipline because they are not set to regular class schedules. 
  2. All communication with the instructor and other students is online, so there may be delays in response times. 
  3. Online courses can involve more individual reading or study time than traditional classroom courses.

Some degree programs have lab, clinical, or field requirements that cannot be met by online college courses alone. This includes some in the medical, education, or social work fields. However, hybrid degree programs that combine online college courses with classroom training and/or fieldwork may be offered. 

You need regular and reliable access to a computer with internet access to complete assignments and communicate with your instructor or other students. Many online schools offer apps that allow access to course materials from smartphones or tablets, which can help stream video lessons, read course content, or contribute to discussion boards. Also, typing an essay or research paper on your smartphone could be incredibly tedious and time-consuming.

Do Employers Like Online Degrees?

Yes. The modern workplace is going online. According to Network Depot[4], LinkedIn has seen an astounding 350% increase in remote job postings since 2021, and 82% of business owners intend to let workers work from home occasionally, while 47% will let them be entirely remote. Therefore, it is evident that online education aids in preparing professionals for this transition to online employment.

5 Types of Online College Courses

Understandably, each student’s motivation to pursue a degree differs. Some want credit towards a degree, others may want to gain experience and grow within their current career path, and some may want to learn a new skill in the interest of self-improvement. Whatever the reason, online college courses come in various forms, suitable for a wide audience:

1. Courses for College Credit

Online college courses for credit are geared toward students looking to earn an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree. A minimum number of credit hours required for courses and prerequisites may be necessary. 

2. Certification and Licensing

Certification and licensing programs typically focus their curriculum on subjects relevant to the field of study. General education requirements are usually not necessary. Various online certification and licensing programs are available, including: 

  • HVACR Certification 
  • Real Estate License Courses 
  • Six Sigma Certification (Management Training) 
3. Skill Enhancement

Some working professionals use online college courses to develop additional skills to boost their résumé. They also take courses to increase their employability or push for a raise or promotion. A few in-demand skills that can be obtained through online classes include: 

  • Business Writing
  • Coding, e.g., JavaScript or Python 
  • Microsoft Excel 
  • Project Management 
4. Career Change

Online college courses can be invaluable for someone considering a career change, whether within the same industry (such as a registered nurse looking to transition to nursing management) or a different industry (an accountant seeking to become a computer programmer). In these cases, online college courses help someone already in the workforce pursue a career change while remaining employed in their current role.

5. General Knowledge or Interest

From all educational backgrounds, many adults have found that online college courses can help them learn more in-depth about a specific subject or learn new skills for personal development. Popular courses for general learning include: 

  • Art History 
  • Foreign Languages 
  • Photography
Important! – For-Credit vs. Not-for-Credit Courses

Taking an online course for-credit allows you to receive a letter grade and apply the credit hours toward a chosen degree program. If you take a course for no credit, you may forego a letter grade and progress toward the credit quota for your degree. But that does not mean a no-credit course holds no value. Non-credit courses can help you with personal, educational, and workforce development while keeping costs in check because non-for-credit courses are usually very affordable.

Online College Courses: What Do You Need to Apply

Enrolling in online courses sometimes does not require any eligibility criteria to be fulfilled. You can simply register and pay for the course and start. However, universities and educational institutions offering online courses often have admission requirements, which vary by course and college. Some of these include: 

Where Can You Find Online College Courses

Every institution offering online courses will be different. But they can be classified into: 

  1. Private Non-Profit Colleges & Universities – Private nonprofit schools are funded by private organizations (as well as the tuition and fees students pay) rather than taxpayers. These include well-known universities such as Harvard and Yale. The school may require the student to undergo an admission process before enrolling in an online course, degree, or certificate program. 
  2. Public Colleges & Universities – Most public colleges and universities, which are state-funded institutions, offer online courses to enrolled students as part of their degree programs. 
  3. Online Schools – Several schools, such as the University of Phoenix and Capella University, are completely online and do not have a physical campus. Online schools offer vocational, certificate, undergraduate, and/or graduate degree programs. These online schools don’t always follow a traditional semester or quarter-based schedule, so students can complete courses acceleratedly. Admission requirements depend on the school and program. 
  4. Free Providers – A recent development in online learning is called Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)These are designed to accommodate dozens, hundreds, and sometimes thousands of online students. A growing number of top colleges, universities, and industry experts partner with online course providers, such as CourseraUdemy, and edX, to deliver these courses, often for free.  

Courses cover many topics, including traditional college subjects, tech skills, and personal development. While participating in the online course is often free, the provider may charge a fee for a certificate of completion or grading papers and exams.

Programs Without a GRE or GMAT Requirement

The GRE and GMAT are standardized tests students often take to fulfill admissions requirements at most universities. However, one does have the option to pursue master’s programs without having to take these tests. Select colleges waive the requirement under certain conditions, and some have done away with it, offering online programs that do not require the GRE.

How to Choose the Best University and Program for You

Choosing a good university is always a priority for any student. However, the best universities for you are those that fit your requirements, professional and personal. Here are a few steps to shortlist your preferred universities or zero in on one. Do note that these steps need not be followed in the set order:

1. Ask yourself what you want to study

The first step is to know and understand your interests and what you want to study. Do you prefer the sciences, humanities, business, or another stream? Also, consider your strengths and weaknesses when deciding which line of study you want to pursue.

2. Research career opportunities and growth 

Based on your choice of subject, find out what career opportunities it presents, how easy it would be to get a job, how much you can earn, and your growth potential.

3. Find the right type of degree

Finding the right type of degree can be tricky because you have to pair your chosen discipline with a university and consider other factors as well. Apart from “standard” master’s degrees that take two years to complete, one may also be able to choose from the easiest programs6-month programs, ivy-league programs, or highest-paying programs

4. Check the admission requirements and timelines

Find out what the admission requirements are and any prerequisites you may have to complete before entering the program. Keep an eye out for deadlines, intakes, and program duration.

5. Consider the costs and your budget 

Affordability is a critical deciding factor, so consider the program’s cost and see whether it is within your budget. Do not forget that online courses also have cost-incurring components, such as a computer or mobile device, webcam, printer, networking equipment, etc. If you are not too specific about a university or discipline, consider opting for a free master’s degree. 

6. Short-list and check the background and credentials of each option

By now, you should have found at least a few institutions that tick most boxes. The next thing to do is filter them further, checking for their background, accreditation status, graduation rates, availability of student support services, etc. 

7. Seek advice and opinions

Ask your mentors, family members, co-workers, or anyone you trust for advice on your preferred choices. There could be something you may have overlooked, which they can point out to you. 

It is always advisable to have more than one choice and apply to at least two, three, or more programs to factor in delays, competition, and contingencies.

How to Pay for Online College Courses

Financial Aid

To check whether you can get financial aid from the federal government, you must fill out the FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. As the name suggests, the FAFSA is not financial aid but an application one fills out to determine if one is eligible for federal student aid.


The most common and popular means of funding higher education is scholarships. Because they do not have to be repaid, scholarships are considered “free money.” They are frequently awarded based on one’s academic performance and merit. Applying for a scholarship is often straightforward, with only some supporting documents and an essay to be submitted.

Grants and Fellowships

Grants and fellowships are also popular means of funding higher education. While grants are typically given out based on a student’s economic strength and background, fellowships are given for research or specific purposes.

How to Transfer Schools

Transferring college courses for credit to a degree program depends entirely on the school accepting the transfer credit. Each college and university has specific guidelines for transferring credit that must be followed. It is important to confirm course transferability with your target school’s admissions office or registrar before you enroll to ensure the course will transfer to both the institution and degree program you intend to pursue.

Additional Resources

With the internet at everyone’s fingertips, people can choose online courses from tens of thousands of places spanning small-time online learning platforms to some of the best universities worldwide. Here are a few options you to choose from: 

  1. Coursera – Coursera is a leading online learning platform for higher education, where 113+ million learners worldwide come to learn skills of the future. More than 275 of the world’s top universities and industry educators partner with Coursera to offer courses, specializations, certificates, and degree programs. 
  2. edX – The edX portal allows access to some of today’s greatest minds in various fields. It is a trusted platform for education and learning and is home to more than 42 million learners, collaborating with top-ranked universities worldwide and industry-leading companies. 
  3. Online Learning Consortium (OLC) – The Online Learning Consortium (OLC) is a collaborative community of higher education leaders and innovators. OLC is dedicated to advancing quality digital teaching and learning experiences designed to reach and engage the modern learner- anyone, anywhere, and anytime. 
  4. – On, there are more than 500 accredited free college courses available online that give you a chance to use academic resources based on research from some of the top universities in the world. These resources can help you deepen your understanding of various academic subjects. 
  5. Udemy – Udemy is another popular online learning platform that hosts over 200,000 online video courses and adds more every month. From simple 1 hour courses and certificate programs to more in-depth and advanced courses, Udemy caters to beginners, intermediates, and professionals.
  6. FloridaShines – FloridaShines is Florida’s “Student Hub of Innovative Educational Services”. Using the state’s online course catalog, you can look up online courses offered at colleges and universities all over Florida. Additionally, Florida makes it simple for students to enroll in a course at another college or university without worrying about whether or not the credit will transfer. 
  7. Straighterline – StraighterLine offers online college courses that allow students to receive college credit and acquire the prerequisite knowledge and skills required to finish their degrees. Students can conveniently earn college credits at their own pace and finish online college courses in 4 to 6 weeks or less.