What You Need to Know About Online Colleges

Learn about online colleges and degree programs, what they offer, what advantages they provide, how they're structured, and how they compare to a traditional college.
A student taking an online course

Once a small segment of the college industry, online colleges (and colleges offering certain degree programs online) have grown significantly over the past ten years. As digital information delivery continues to grow, so too will the availability of degrees through an online format. Read more about some ins and outs associated with online colleges.

What are online colleges?

Online colleges offer students the ability to obtain their degree without (or rarely) setting foot on a physical campus. The learning takes place through virtual classrooms, discussion boards, collaborating (virtually, of course) with classmates, submitting assignments, and taking tests online. Depending on the college, students may be able to obtain an associate, bachelor's, or even master's degree online.

Are all online colleges structured the same way?

No. Some of these programs are structured like a traditional college course. Others are competency-based, which means you progress to the next course once you have demonstrated mastery of a topic.

Online colleges are exclusively online, meaning you only take courses online to complete your degree and never set foot on a physical campus. However, many colleges and universities are starting to offer some courses or entire programs online.

Can you tell me more about these online courses and programs?

Online programs and courses that aren't part of an online college are offered through a "traditional" college or university, and may be one part of a larger degree program. Depending on the program/major, you might have the option to take classes both in person (on campus) and online to complete your degree. These are sometimes called "hybrid" programs, because students are completing courses both in person and online. This option is great for students who are seeking an on-campus college experience but would also like the flexibility offered online.

What are some advantages of online colleges?

Flexibility is one advantage. Online colleges offer the opportunity for students to learn on their own time while also working, taking care of family, etc. Another advantage is cost. In most cases (not all), online colleges and online course offerings will be less expensive than their on-campus counterparts.

If you're considering an online college or program, be sure to research all the details in full before you commit. It's a good idea to talk to school administrators or current and former students to get an idea of how the program works and if it's best for you. And as always, if you have any questions, do not hesitate reaching out to our college planning team at MEFA. We can be reached at (800) 449-MEFA (6332) and