| COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT ONLINE COLLEGES
| Online colleges in all states of the USA are comparable in terms of how they are run. The information given below is therefore a general guide for students researching online colleges in the US, and has applicability to colleges in each state. For the most current and specific details, students should also refer to individual state higher education agencies, as well as individual universities and colleges.
How do online colleges, universities and programs work?
Content may be delivered via virtual classroom courses, lectures, streaming videos, podcasts, discussion boards, chat rooms, students buying or downloading materials, and other methods. Fully web-based virtual classrooms offer the convenience of working remotely, and are not simply an email exchange. Learning is interactive, participatory and collaborative. Resources typically include an always-available online library, 24/7 technical support and instructors who are accessible by phone, e-mail or online chats.
What are some of the benefits of American online college programs for international students?
Taking an online program at an American online school means international students get to collaborate with peers from across the United States and around the world. There is also no worry that courses will close due to low enrollment, or that they will fill up before you get in. The flexible format of online programs means you can complete your degree in as much or as little time as you have available. Cost is also a big benefit for international students: usually there are no textbooks to buy, and online programs have lower tuition than regular universities and colleges. There is also the added benefit of a reduced carbon footprint, since there is no travel involved.
How affordable are American online college programs for international students compared to traditional campus programs?
Online college programs allow international students to save on the following: the cost of textbooks and facility fees (most online US programs mean students download materials including lectures, assignments and additional notes); the cost of travelling to and living in a new country; and the cost of daily commuting to campus. Some online degree programs can cost as much as traditional programs. However, others are very affordable and on average they will cost a student far less. As a result, the amount of student debt for international students taking online programs is usually less than for international students at campus-based institutions.
What is the difference between online courses and online programs?
Online programs are complete, multi-course programs at the undergraduate or graduate level leading to an academic credential (a degree, diploma or certificate). Examples would be an online Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts.
Online courses are one-off, single courses usually taken for personal interest, to fulfill a program pre-requisite or upgrade knowledge and skills. Students do not receive any credential for having taken a single course. Examples would be an online course in drawing techniques or statistics.
How is the quality of online college programs in the US controlled/ ensured?
Most online programs are delivered by public universities and colleges that have been given authority to grant degrees, diplomas and certificates by the government, and which are therefore "recognized." As well, any school offering academic programs--including online colleges in the USA--should be accredited by a government-recognized accrediting agency. Two of the most common accreditations for online colleges are from the national Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) and the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools (ACICS). See our section on accreditation of online programs for more information.
What kinds of online credentials can you get in the USA? And how long do they take?
Some of the possible degrees you can pursue are Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Applied Science (AAS), Associate of Science (AS), Associate of Occupational Studies (AOS), Bachelor of Science (BS), Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). You can also take shorter certificates and diploma programs (as little as 9 months) in a wide variety of the above fields of study. Specialization options are also available within a degree: for example, you can earn an Associate of Science in accounting, business administration, general studies, or paralegal studies.
How long they take depends on the program and the school offering the program. Some online colleges impose a similar time schedule as regular campuses for a bachelor's degree, for example, while others may simply give a maximum time frame (for instance no more than 7 years) to complete the degree. Each school maintains its own online program regulations.
Are international student scholarships and financial aid available for online study in the USA?
Yes. Students taking a program in the online division of a regular university or college qualify for the same kinds of scholarships and financial aid as other students. Fully-online colleges may also offer scholarships (although generally smaller amounts), and federal and state financial aid is available to students at recognized online schools as well.
Is there a language requirement for online study?
Proficiency in the language of instruction (English) is required. Students whose first language is not English may be asked to provide proof of English proficiency. This does not necessarily mean standardized test scores; some online programs will administer their own application questionnaire or language exam.
Are credentials/credits earned online transferable to traditional colleges in the USA? Are online programs recognized internationally?
Within the United States, transfer of online credits is often possible. Elsewhere in the world, it depends. American college credentials--including online programs--are accepted and recognized around the world; however, you should still ask about recognition of any foreign college credits and credentials in your country of origin. Smaller schools like community colleges and career colleges may not have the same level of recognition internationally. It's a good idea to check with universities and potential employers in your home country before you leave (if that's where you plan to work or continue your education) to confirm acceptance of any US credits or credentials you are thinking of taking. If you are taking a course as part of a program in your home country, you may be required to obtain a Letter of Permission from your home institution indicating it will accept the US course in your program.
Do international students need to get a student visa/study authorization for online courses and programs in the USA?
No. Programs which are completed entirely online and do not involve physical residency in the US do not require a visa. If you are taking your online program while living in the US, then yes, you will need a valid study authorization to enroll.