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What are the Different Types of Online Schools?

By Josie Myers
Updated: Mar 02, 2024

Since the advent of the internet, online schools have been a growing sector of online commerce. Potential students can receive certificates, diplomas, and degrees entirely through an online classroom. The lessons are usually run via e-mail, chat rooms, bulletin boards or remote classrooms. Online schools are sometimes also called distance learning institutions.

Some online schools are real world brick and mortar structures that offer a variety of courses online. Other schools exist entirely through a web presence. The decision about what type of school to choose depends more on the accreditation and reputation of the school than on whether they are real structures or not.

When many people think of online schools, they think only of colleges but higher learning is only a small portion of the training that goes on over the internet. Those wishing to obtain a General Education Degree (GED) can find online schools that offer GED test training. A full high school diploma can also be obtained online through various private online high schools. Certificate programs, such as real estate or accounting, can also be found from accredited schools that provide the necessary coursework to be state licensed. Additionally, there are religious organization that provide degrees in ministry and various specializations such as Bible study.

Online colleges offer everything from Associate's to Doctorate degrees. It is perhaps even easier to find online schools that offer advanced degrees than those that offer bachelor's degrees, since the variety of courses required for a bachelor's makes it necessary to have more teachers and resources available. Some common degrees offered entirely online are advanced education, health administration and business.

Online schools generally work through a combination of several resources. Classrooms can be chat rooms or bulletin boards with mandatory discussions. Documents are transferred through a classroom specific website or e-mail. Books and tests can be online or hard copy. Those schools that have pen and paper tests usually require an unbiased source, such as a library, to proctor the tests. Some states require hands on experience in particular fields for full certification, so it is a good idea for anyone taking coursework online to be sure that their state's requirements are met by the program they attend.

There are also sources online that offer classes more for entertainment value than for career building. They are much like the non-credit adult education classes that many community colleges offer locally. These websites do not offer degrees or certificates, but provide classes in a variety of fun subjects like writing, arts and crafts, or baking.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By icecream17 — On Jan 23, 2011

Cupcake15-I have heard of those schools. I think that it is great. I know that online graduate schools are great for working people and stay at home moms that need a more flexible arrangement in order to successfully complete the degree program.

Online education schools offer Masters Degrees in many educational disciplines provided that you have a teacher’s certification.

This reason is simple. The online school cannot offer an internship that is required with an initial Bachelor’s degree or with a temporary certification.

Most of these programs are designed for teachers currently working in the profession. There is a great Masters Degree program with the University of South Florida online that offers a Masters degree in Gifted Education.

There are many traditional universities that now offer online degree programs. Florida International University offers a Bachelors Degree in business administration totally online as well.

I think that this is a trend in which more and more traditional universities will want to compete for the online education market.

By cupcake15 — On Jan 21, 2011

Cripety- There are a lot of online public schools that are cropping up all over the country. For example, in Florida we have the Florida Virtual School that offers students from Kindergarten to twelfth grade a public school education.

It is a great option for a lot of parents that were considering homeschooling but were overwhelmed or wanted to pull their child out due to safety issues or bad influences in school.

The student registers online and receives all of the information free of charge. This is also a good option for students that need more time completing assignments or have trouble focusing.

Children with ADHD benefit from a program like this because they can work in smaller intervals and can achieve better results. In a traditional classroom there are time constraints that do not allow a child to work as they please because the teacher has a schedule to follow and has certain objections to meet.

By Crispety — On Jan 19, 2011

SauteePan-There are many online career schools but you have to weigh the costs of attending, as well as the support that is offered for questions and problems that you may have with your courses.

You also might ask about placement assistance and what percentage of the graduates found jobs after graduation.

All schools have this information which is really important to note. After you find out if the school is accredited then you can proceed. If you find out that the school is not accredited or is in the process of accreditation, I would run the other way because your degree will be worthless.

By SauteePan — On Jan 18, 2011

Lokilove-The best thing to do is to check the accreditation with the United States Department of Education website.

There you can check the accreditation board for each type of online school. Most accredited online schools have been around a while because the initial accreditation process can take about five years.

So if you are considering an online education school that you have never heard of chances are that they are not accredited. Many traditional colleges and universities now offer online programs for many degrees.

That is a better option instead of taking the risk with online degree schools that you are not sure of.

By lokilove — On Jan 30, 2010

How do you know whether or not an online school is legitimate? I've heard stories about how people pay all this money for a degree that turns out to be a worthless piece of paper.

They can pretty much say anything they want on their website, but is it possible to actually verify their accreditation?

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