Technological difficulties. Difficulty mobilizing students. Teachers struggling to adapt to online teaching formats. The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on classrooms across the country and around the world, introducing many people to online learning with mixed and often unsatisfactory results.

However, not all schools had to struggle to adapt to the times. For online-only colleges, the transition to virtual school was not a transition at all: it was already a reality that worked well. At online colleges and universities, faculty are trained specifically in online teaching, lesson plans are created to fit the format, and students are equipped to succeed in a virtual environment.

Since the University of Phoenix offered the first-ever online college program in 1989, millions of students had enrolled in online college courses and programs before the pandemic began. These schools have gained popularity due to their flexibility in class schedules, geographic location, and part-time or full-time commitment.

EDsmart cited 2020 data from the Department of Education’s College Scorecard to examine five factors to consider when evaluating online post-secondary schools. The statistics for the analysis were calculated from the 53 schools that the Ministry of Education has identified as online-only. Other colleges offer online learning programs in addition to on-campus degrees, but these are not included in the analysis.

Online colleges and universities have often been confused with massive open online courses, or MOOCs, such as edX, which enroll hundreds of thousands of students but do not award degrees, souring public opinion for online only accredited colleges. On the contrary, many online-only colleges offer specialized programs and even accept transferable credits. Selecting the right online college, including enrollment numbers and types of degrees offered, is a similar process to choosing any other traditional in-person school.

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