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College Classes Online: How To Get Started
by Judith M. Levinton
Link-Up Digital
November 15, 2002


Have you considered going to college via the Internet? Of course, you have. Why wouldn’t you want to cozily sip a cup of coffee, bathrobe tied loosely around your waist, while earning higher-education credits for business or pleasure? This article will show you how to get started.

There are a few points you should keep in mind when you begin your search. One is whether you want to take classes that are accredited or not. If they aren’t accredited, they can still be fun and informative learning experiences. But they won’t count in the pursuit of a degree.

Also keep in mind is that a college can offer online classes but not offer a degree solely through the computer. Some schools require some on-campus time. So if your desire is to obtain a strictly online degree, make sure the college and program you pick will take you all the way. 

Next, take a good look at all the Web sites mentioned here. I find it amazing that each of the sites below offers a good listing of programs from various colleges and universities that often were not duplicated at other sites. The selections keep getting bigger and bigger, which means more choices for us but a more difficult job to keep track of. Also, each site tends to package the information differently, so different kinds of information about the programs are given.

While it may sound obvious, make sure your computer system is compatible and that you have the necessary software to connect before signing up. There is nothing more frustrating than beginning a class and facing a screen with annoying little red “x’s” over a graphic you need to see. 
Lastly—and this is one of those cautionary warnings—check them out! Don’t let the word “college” or “university” make you trust everything you read at their site. As with everything else you do in your life, do your homework here to see if they are legitimate. Unfortunately, diploma mills do exist.

Is all of this generating more questions? Good. Questions like, What is accreditation? Why might accreditation be important? What is a diploma mill? and more can be found at The Virtual University Gazette’s frequently asked questions (FAQ) at http://www.geteducated.com/articles/dlfaq.htm, created by Get Educated. This site also offers a number of good services, such as a directory of Internet universities and training institutes, with categories such as graduate and professional programs, undergraduate programs, and training opportunities and portals. Each list contains brief information about the school and a link to its Web site. Additionally, the site offers free downloadable guidebooks in .pdf format, such as the Best Distance Learning Graduate Schools: Education and Library Science 2003, which is 50 pages long.

Mind Edge at http://www.newpromise.com/home/index.phtml presents a great overall look at colleges that offer online classes in a variety of areas, such as Business & Management, Colleges & Universities, Continuing Education, and Graduate Studies, among others. In the Colleges & Universities category, there are 47 offerings for online degrees, which is further broken down into listing the degree, which college or university is offering it, and whether the program is currently open. There is also a subcategory called Preparation, so if you need certain skills before attending college, this is covered too (those classes fill quickly).

eLearners at http://www.elearners.com/ allows you to browse for degrees, certificates, and diplomas and separates the categories so that you can look for continuing education or non-accredited programs. Following the link to Diploma Mills provided a terrific checklist on how to spot such a program. eLearners is also partnered with Educaid, which claims to be the sixth-largest student loan originator in the country.

On-Line College Degrees at http://www.online-college-degree.com/ has four categories for online degree programs: graduate, undergraduate, design programs, and IT schools. The site also cites interesting statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce showing that holding a bachelor’s degree can enhance your earning power in the workforce.

An intriguing site is Distance Education in Criminal Justice Megalinks at http://faculty.ncwc.edu/toconnor/disted.htm. It is a very straightforward listing of each school and what they offer in the field of criminal justice. The list also briefly describes what format of online education is offered. For instance, North Carolina AT&T University uses a compressed video technique while the New York New School Cyberspace Campus uses asynchronous classrooms, which they call one-way teleconferencing. Asynchronous usually means that students and instructors can access their Web page at any time and interact by leaving messages for each other. They are not required to log on at the same time.

Classes at USA at http://www.classesusa.com/ provide online and telephone assistance to help you decide which classes are right for you. This site allows you to search by category or by its list of online schools. One category is Liberal Arts & Sciences, which breaks down into law and justice, social sciences, and literature. Clicking on the law and justice link takes you to listings of classes. The class information includes price and the instructor’s name as well as the college providing it but does not immediately show if it is part of a complete online degree. Still, I find it refreshing to see how reasonably priced the classes are. Browsing in the degree or program section allows you to find what you’re looking for within their choices, with links to individual colleges for more information.

University Alliance at http://info.bisk.com/ features the option of having a representative call you to help you decide on a program. The site features six universities, including the U.S. Army, and offer program information from each, along with online applications.

College Lookup at http://online-education.collegelookup.com/ features online education schools and correspondence courses. It offers fewer universities than other sites that offer online degrees but provides detailed information on each program. Clicking on the online nursing school program at the University of Phoenix took me to their short questionnaire designed to save time. I was puzzled at a statement I needed to answer yes or no to: will I be at least 23 years old at the time of enrollment? However, not answering did not prevent me from browsing and checking out their programs. I went to their FAQ and they listed “23 years of age” as one of the undergraduate admission requirements for a business degree but provided no explanation as to why.

And finally, remember that these sites are not complete. While looking at individual colleges, I saw that more and more of them are offering at least partial online study. You may not be able to obtain a full degree from them but you can earn credits for some of it and attend campus classes another time. If the college or university is near you, contact them to see this option is offered.

So, what are you waiting for? College is only a click away.


Judith M. Levinton is a freelance writer who’s currently studying to become a hospital chaplain. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her e-mail address is jlevinton@aol.com.

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