Do These Online Schools Make the Grade?

A point-by-point look at five institutions that offer programs entirely on the Web.

There are hundreds of colleges, universities, and other schools that offer distance-learning programs — but there aren’t many institutions that offer continuing-education and degree programs entirely on the Web. Fast Company researched five online schools to find out which ones pass the test.

School Baker College On-line
City University
The Open University of the United Kingdom
University of Phoenix Online Campus
Walden University
Course Catalog Online courses counting toward an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, or a master’s degree in business. Criminal justice, organizational and human-systems design, educational technology — and lots more. Postgraduate certificates, diplomas, and master’s degrees in open and distance education. A range of bachelor’s and master’s degrees — from business to project management to global management. Graduate degrees only, including a wide range of PhD programs.
Channels Online students get access to libraries, a campus network, advisers, tutoring, and career guidance. Courses are offered via videotape, PC software, online conferencing, the Web, and email. Courses are delivered via print, video, and audio, with support coming via the Web and CD-ROM. Courses are offered via online conferencing. Students get access to libraries, advisers, and an online bookstore. Classes are delivered via print, email, and the Web. Students and teachers also gather at various actual locations.
Cost Undergraduate tuition costs $140 per quarter hour. Graduate tuition costs $215 per quarter hour. Undergraduate tuition costs $157 per credit. Graduate tuition costs $280 per credit. Basic tuition: $3,700 per year. Certificate tuition: $7,400 per year. Master’s tuition: $11,000 total. Undergraduate tuition costs $365 per credit hour. Graduate tuition costs $460 per credit hour. Individual credits cost $230 or $300, and PhD programs cost $3,125 per quarter. Noncredit courses cost $75 each.
Pass None of Baker’s online courses require real-time class sessions. But they do have tight deadlines and schedules. The online offerings are so Web-savvy that they incorporate JavaScript, Shockwave, QuickTime, and Java-based chat. Open University is one of the largest distance-learning schools in the world, with about 150,000 graduates. Classes are limited to 13 students each, so online students get lots of access to their professors. Walden offers an online student union, with a student “lounge” (featuring message boards) and forums.
Fail Baker’s choice of software — Convene by Convene International — is compatible with both Macs and PCs but it isn’t as rich as other Web tools. City’s university bookstore doesn’t support online ordering. Students need to call to order required texts. Master’s students don’t learn about teaching and learning online until the second year. So be ready to stick around. Students can order books and access schedules online, but they can’t enroll or apply for loans online. Fast Company is hard-pressed to give Walden any demerits.
Final Grade C+ A- B B A