Online universities are increasingly popular these days, With families often having both spouses working full-time just to make ends meet, the cost of traditional university educations, and even the cost of transportation and fuel, more and more people are turning to an online university in order to complete or supplement their undergraduate degree.

There are as many different sorts of online university programs as there are different online universities, and it can be a big daunting trying to figure out which sort of program, and which online university, is right for you.

The very first thing which you want to consider is whether the online university is accredited, or unaccredited, and whether that distinction is important to you.

An accredited institution has met the requirements of the accrediting organization, and so credits and degrees which you receive from that institution will be recognized and accepted by other institutions should you wish to transfer or apply to one of their programs. By contrast, an unaccredited institution has either chosen not to receive accreditation, or has not met the standards required for the accrediting organization, and so other institutions will often not give you credit for work done at the unaccredited institution.

For example, if you take courses at University A, but then want to transfer those credits to University B, if University A is not accredited, University B may require you to take those same courses all over again. Similarly, if you graduate and receive an undergraduate degree from unaccredited University A, and then wish to apply to a graduate program elsewhere, you may find that many graduate programs will not consider that you have an undergraduate degree at all!

Generally, it’s wiser to take credits and degrees from an accredited institution. The primary exception to that rule would be if you are taking individual courses just for personal fulfillment, such as a photography, art, or writing course which you may take just because you wish to hone your skills or because you find the subject interesting.

Once you have determined whether or not accreditation is important to you, you will want to review the offerings and credentials of several online universities before you select the one or ones to which you will apply. Some criteria which you will want to consider include their reputation, their course offerings, their education model their admissions requirements, and any other requirement which may affect your ability to successfully complete the program (for example, some online universities require you to spend some period of time physically present at their campus).

There are dozens of possible combinations of these different criteria. Some programs have you collaborate online with fellow students in a sort of virtual study group. Some let you work at your own pace, others put you on a schedule with deadlines. Some require you to take exams in-person at their facilities. Some have rigid set curriculum, others let you plan your own curriculum with an advisor.

While so many choices may seem bewildering, it is this very broad range of possible learning experiences which makes online distance learning such an exciting world of possibilities. If you are willing to do a bit of research, and to put in the time, there is no reason that you cannot attain the education which you want, while having the learning experience you desire.