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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.