What Is a Distance Learning College?

Students who are unable to commit to on-campus study may be interested in distance learning colleges. Read on to find out more about distance learning colleges and how they work.

An Overview of Distance Learning Colleges

Distance learning colleges allow students to receive educational instruction without being physically present in the classroom. Because Internet connections are more widely and easily available today than ever before, the number of distance education programs in the U.S. has significantly increased. Although some distance learning colleges do not have physical locations, most offer both on-campus and distance education opportunities. The majority of educational institutions in the U.S. now offer some form of online or distance education coursework.

Important Facts About Distance Learning

Degree Levels Certificates, Bachelors, Masters
Online Availability Fully online with some on-campus options
Top Schools for Bachelors Programs (2015) Penn State University (World Campus), Daytona State College, University of Illinois (Chicago)
Degree Fields MBA, Education, IT, Engineering, Criminal Justice

Online Coursework

Most distance learning colleges deliver coursework electronically. This means that students receive and complete their courses online, which requires a computer with Internet access. Students are generally free to work at their own pace and do not have to be online at particular times. Although less common, some distance learning colleges deliver class materials through the mail; this is sometimes referred to as a correspondence course. Distance learning colleges offer students the chance to study a range of subjects, such as English composition, medical coding and accounting, without having to attend class at a physical location.

Online Interaction

Students enrolled in distance learning programs usually have the chance to interact with fellow students and professors. Utilizing online chat rooms and message forums, students have the ability to ask questions and participate in class discussions; this interaction allows students to remain actively engaged in class dialogue without having to physically attend class. Some distance learning college programs may require students to participate in one or more on-campus residencies during their study.


Because of the wide variety of online courses offered, it is important to verify that a distance learning college has been properly accredited. Accrediting bodies work to ensure that an educational institution is providing a certain quality of education. Some questionable distance learning colleges, called 'diploma mills', may falsely claim to provide high-level education, so it's important to verify any claims by checking accreditation status.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

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