Self paced online courses are exactly what they sound like. You pace the classes yourself. That means you don't have to drive to a campus at a scheduled time, and you won't be asked to work on group projects with other students at your school. The timeline for finishing is usually very lenient. So if you run into busy seasons — at home, or at work — you don't need to worry about exam dates or overdue assignments.
Sounds great, right? In general, we think self paced accredited online colleges are really wonderful options. But procrastinators should beware. Even self paced schools won't wait forever. If you fall behind — going beyond the maximum time allowed for courses or semesters — you might have to pay an extension fee. Eventually, you might be dropped from a program for not making satisfactory progress.
But independent eLearners usually love their self paced online courses and programs. Those who do especially well are those who work can work unsupervised, remain motivated, and stay on task.
Formerly known as Education Direct, Penn Foster College offers a number of associate degrees in areas such as Business, Marketing, Criminal Justice, Graphic Design and Internet Technology, to name just a few. It also offers several career diplomas in fields ranging from Accounting to Wildlife Conservation.
Students can make low, interest-free monthly payments. Though Penn Foster College boasts an online library, and makes some of its study material available through its student portal, it's actually a correspondence program. Students are mailed their textbooks along with their study materials prior to each course, which are taken one at a time. While the courses are self paced, students have up to two years to complete each semester with approved extensions, and degree programs must be completed within six years. Students are required to find proctors for final exams and have them approved by Penn Foster College. Penn Foster College is accredited by the Distance Learning and Training Council (DETC).
How would you like to study at a university which has no specific courses, program lengths, or grades? Students who study at Western Governors University are evaluated not by exams and credit hours earned, but by "competencies." After enrolling at WGU, the student process manager and mentor develop an Academic Action Plan. The plan could includes courses, study modules, selected texts, etc.
Students work through the plan at their own pace, and can work through it as quickly or as slowly as they wish. There are no predetermined program lengths. When the student, process manager and mentor determine the student is ready, the student undergoes an assessment process to test the knowledge acquired. There are no grades. The result of the assessment is either "pass" or "not pass." There are no credits awarded, but the student's progress is measured in "credit equivalency."
Tuition is charged per six month term: $2,790 for undergraduates and $3,250 for graduate students. Western Governors University offers undergraduate and graduate programs in Business, Education, Information Technology and Health Professions. As for accreditation, WGU is accredited by the DETC and four regional accrediting agencies. Its teacher education program also earned accreditation through the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.
Accredited by the DETC since January 2005, California Coast University offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Business Administration, Management, Education and Psychology. CCU plans to begin offering doctoral degrees in the future.
Tuition rates are very affordable at $110 per unit for undergraduate courses, and $210 per unit for graduate courses. Each course is comprised of three units. Students may obtain credit for prior learning and transfer up to 93 semester units into CCU undergraduate programs. This may reduce the number of courses they need to take to complete their degree program.
Students are sent study guides for each course which are based on specific college textbooks, which students must purchase on their own, or they can rent them through CCU. Although courses are self paced, students must complete a minimum of two courses per year. The earliest they can receive a degree is nine months from the date of enrollment.
Charter Oak State College is truly a self paced, distance learning institution. The school gives credit for many kinds of college-level learning, including military training, standardized exams such as CLEP and credit for life/work experience through portfolio assessment. COSC will accept up to 90 semester credits from regionally accredited two-year institutions.
The courses are semester-based and run 15 weeks (accelerated courses run between five and eight weeks). COSC only charges per credit hour for their courses, otherwise students pay matriculation fees which cover the cost of academic advisement, an evaluation of a student's transcripts and maintaining a student's new transcript for a year.
The annual fees for associate degrees range from $685 to $965 for non-residents of Connecticut. COSC is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. There are numerous degree concentrations available and graduations occur every two months.
The Center for Distance and Independent Study offered through the University of Missouri-Columbia offers a regionally accredited option for students seeking a self paced program.
The Center for Distance and Independent Study offers an online Bachelor of General Studies degree completion program. Unlike MU Direct, courses start at any time, and students have up to nine months to complete each course. However, students cannot complete courses in less than six weeks. Courses are $235.90 per credit hour. The University of Missouri-Columbia is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
California National University offers self paced online degree programs in Business Administration, Engineering, Computer Science, Quality Assurance Science and Human Resources Management. Students work on online courses and interact with instructors, but they work at their own pace. However, there is a 15-week limit on each course, and CNU recommends students take two courses during each 15 week trimester.
Students are also given the opportunity to select their own start and end dates for their courses, which are always on a Friday. Tuition for undergraduate courses is $270 per unit, and graduate courses are $300 per unit. CNU is accredited by the DETC.
While self paced programs do offer the maximum flexibility and convenience, they can also be a double-edged sword. There are usually no instructors to ensure students are completing their course work in a timely manner.
If a student falls behind, going beyond the maximum time allowed for courses or semesters, they risk paying extension fees or being dropped from a program for not making satisfactory progress. Those who do especially well in self paced programs are those who work can work unsupervised, can stay self-motivated, and stay on task.