Welcome to Top 5 Online Colleges

Online colleges have grown in popularity in recent years, as many adult students need to balance school with work and family obligations. Distance learning provides a convenient and cost-efficient alternative to commuting to a physical campus. To learn more, you can follow the links below to access useful information about online education and degrees.

If you’re a current student, feel free to browse our “mega list” of educational resources and learning tools. If you have a moment, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: @top5online, and like us on Facebook.

Lastly, if you’re interested in learning more about specific schools or programs, you can click on the school links in the list below to request information from a particular college. While there are certainly no official rankings for online colleges, the following five are the most popular accredited online colleges according to our user data.

Five Best Online Colleges

Liberty University — At Liberty University, students can chose from approximately 70 majors and specializations including aeronautics, philosophy, religion, English, worship and music ministry, business, and criminal justice. Online degrees can be found from the associates to doctoral level. Students may also choose to attend courses on campus.

Walden University — At Walden University, prospective students have more than 15 online bachelor degree programs and 55 different concentrations from which to choose. Advisors are ready to help you select the degree that will allow you to achieve your career and personal goals. Walden understands the rigors of working full time while earning a degree. Learn more about Walden University here.

Ashford University — Ashford University offers degrees at the associates, bachelor's, and master's level. Like traditional universities, students at Ashford usually complete their bachelors in four years. Programs can be found in the College of Business and Professional Studies, College of Education, College of Health, Human Services, and Science, and the College of Liberal Arts. Ashford is accredited by WASC Senior College and University Commission, 985 Atlantic Avenue, Ste 100, Alameda, CA 94501, 5107489001, www.wascsenior.org.

Kaplan University — Kaplan University offers online degree programs in the fields of Arts, Sciences, Business, Criminal Justice, Education, Health Sciences, Information Systems, Technology, Legal Studies, Nursing, and Law. Degree programs are designed with the working professional in mind, and afford you the flexibility to work while earning your degree. Learn more about Kaplan University here.

DeVry University — DeVry University offers online degrees in accounting, electronics and computer technology, health information technology, network systems administration, and web graphic design fields. DeVry is one of the oldest, most recognized names in non-traditional education and is a leader in the industry. Programs are designed for working Americans and enable them to earn their degree without putting their lives on hold.

Click here to learn about more online colleges.

Are online degrees respected by employers?

Online degrees are quickly becoming acceptable in nearly every field. There are many fields that were not accepting of online degrees when they first appeared, but time and proper accreditation has made even the most discerning employers welcome them.

Online degrees are acceptable in many work places and some employers offer tuition reimbursement for employees who go back to school. The focus is a quality education from an accredited learning institution. To learn more about online degrees in various subjects, click on the links below:

How are top online colleges determined?

The top online colleges are usually determined through the same means as traditional schools, along with a few extra categories that pertain to the online learning medium. The first area of critique is years of accreditation, followed by how qualified the instructors are and what resources a school offers its students. Other factors include career placement and number of accredited programs offered. One major concern for ranking top online colleges is graduation rate. Students want to know how many students graduate from a program and are able to obtain better jobs because of their degrees. Student retention rate is an area that all schools, both traditional and online, are always looking to improve because it is a major draw for new students. High retention and graduation rates reflect a hands-on staff that understands how to help students succeed.

How are online colleges different from traditional colleges?

Online colleges offer students flexibility. Before online colleges, students hoping to finish a degree while working had to create a schedule that coincided with both classes and work. This can be difficult for students who work full time or have family commitments. The online college experience is very different from that of a traditional school, but it allows students to carry on their activities and finish school at their own pace. Students can enroll in full time or part time programs. Many students can complete courses from home. Degrees like business and education are completed almost entirely online. Some programs require internships, or in the case of the medical field, clinicals. All of these are essential parts of training for the career you want to have upon graduating.

Online colleges are now offering a quality education that competes with traditional schools. A decade ago there were a select few accredited online programs. Now students have many to choose from, no matter what their chosen field.

How are online classes structured?

Online classes cover the same material as traditional classes. At the beginning of the course, students receive an orientation packet and syllabus explaining how the class works, due dates, how to contact the professor and how to participate in any online chats or message boards. Although students do not have to physically show up to class each day, many instructors require participation in online message boards. This counts as a participation grade and requires students to contribute a certain number of posts per week. These discussions revolve around the material covered each week, so students have to keep up with readings and studying.

Exams are usually available online for a window of one to three days, allowing students to take the test when it fits their schedule. Most online classes only have one or two exams per semester, with the rest of the course comprised of papers and class work. You are not attending classes, but the time commitment and dedication are the same as taking regular college courses.

As online and traditional schools compete for students, the resources becoming available to students grow. Many online colleges now offer financial aid, grants and scholarships much like traditional schools. Traditional schools are offering online programs that come with the perks of being a traditional student at those schools, such as access to the gym, alumni organizations and career placement programs. These are important resources that prepare students for networking, interviews, and finding a new job.

What is accreditation?

Accreditation as it pertains to colleges and universities is what gives the institution the proper credentials. Accreditation is done by several regional organizations for most schools. Specific programs within the medical community are also accredited by national organizations. Accreditation ensures the program is valid in the academic world and by employers. Schools without this accreditation typically do not have well-developed programs and are lacking in integral areas. Programs must meet certain requirements in order to be accredited. Finding an accredited program is the first thing you should look for when researching online schools.

There are many websites that promise a degree with little or no admissions process. For master’s and PhD degrees these are usually diploma mills and are not credible. There are many online colleges to choose from so take your time researching programs to find the right fit for you.

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