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What Makes The Best Online Colleges: 10 Characteristics To Look For

There are thousands of online colleges to choose from—and the numbers only continue to grow. From traditional universities expanding their online offering to online-only colleges, there are many options for online education. You may find yourself asking: Does it really matter what online college I attend? Is there that big of a difference in programs? 

The online college you choose will determine your learning experience, the skills you develop and the value you get for your investment. You need to know what to look for to separate the best from the rest.

Let’s look at the 10 characteristics that define a best-in-class online college.

An Education Model Designed For Working Students

Many people choose online college because they want to complete their degree while maintaining their career trajectory. However, not every online college is designed to meet the needs of working professionals.

When comparing online colleges, the best ones for working students will offer:

  • Variable course lengths, making it easy to build your courses around your busy schedule. 
  • Multiple start dates, where courses are offered approximately every 6 weeks. 
  • A nontraditional academic calendar with staggered courses to help you start and finish faster.

If you’re a working professional getting your degree online, these qualities should be considered standard for a best online college. 

What makes Franklin University rise to the top? Franklin’s signature balanced learning approach ensures courses are structured to equally allocate workload throughout the course. This approach provides consistency and helps you plan ahead, helping you effectively manage your study time with your other commitments.

Relevant and Current Curriculum

The foundational sign of quality for an online college is regional accreditation. An online college that is regionally accredited is regularly and independently verified to adhere to the highest standards for its programs, its faculty, and its students’ success. Individual programs at an online college may also be accredited, showing that the program adheres to industry best practices.


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Outside of accreditation, are there other ways to ensure you will receive a high-quality and highly-relevant education? Franklin University stands out because it employs a three-prong approach to developing best-in-class online curriculum:

  • Engaging industry advisory boards made up of top professionals and employers to develop a curriculum that teaches the most in-demand skills. 
  • Faculty with extensive professional experience in the field provide subject matter expertise to develop content for each program.
  • Instructional designers provide expertise in online learning methods, designing learning experiences that use proven methods engaging students and facilitating success.
  • Real-world content helps students apply theories to practical applications by using case studies and industry tools to ensure relevant, pragmatic and of-the-moment learnings and experiences.
  • Industry reputation for producing workforce-ready graduates who stand out because they can apply their knowledge and skills to complex business problems.

Engaged Faculty with Extensive Industry Experience

There are two different types of online college instruction methods—instructor-led and self-paced. Self-paced learning models put the responsibility of learning content on the student independently taking course modules. There may be instructors who provide assistance, but they do not actively teach the courses and regularly engage with students. 

Many of the best online colleges are instructor-led. These programs have dedicated faculty who teach courses and are available outside of the virtual classroom to provide student support.

Franklin University takes faculty expertise and engagement a step further. Faculty are industry experts who are held to high standards for student engagement—providing practical advice, quality mentoring and insider insight on hiring and advancement.

Interactive Learning Environment

A top online college should offer the same—if not better—learning experience as a traditional college. The best online colleges will offer the ability to connect, collaborate and learn from faculty, peers, advisors and college staff. By building these connections you will never feel alone and will always have someone you can lean on for support.

Franklin University is designed on a foundation of 360-degree learning. At Franklin, we believe every student brings unique value to the classroom. You’re immediately connected to a built-in network of professionals at the faculty, peer and staff levels; each ready to share what they know, help you stay the course and finish your degree.

Career Development Resources

One of the primary reasons to get a degree is to advance your career. The best online colleges don’t just help you inside the classroom. Look for an online college that goes above and beyond—preparing you with additional resources to help put your best foot forward as you build your career.

Franklin University takes a holistic approach to career development—from resume and interview preparation to job boards and networking opportunities. Whether you are getting your degree to start, change or advance your career, Franklin offers the tools and support you need to make it happen.

Financial Transparency & Tuition Assistance

At the best online colleges, the cost of your degree will never come as a surprise. They will be open and honest about cost per credit hour, required credits hours, necessary fees, and how those costs add up to your total cost of attendance. Their financial aid department should also be supportive of your unique financial circumstances, helping you find the resources you need to pay for your education. 

Franklin University is committed to making college more affordable. At $398 per credit hour for bachelor’s degree programs, Franklin University’s tuition rate is 66% lower than the national average for private, nonprofit four-year colleges. Combined with a unique financial aid promise and over 50 scholarship opportunities, Franklin’s financial aid department will work with you one-on-one to help you navigate the cost of earning your degree.

Transfer Credit Friendly

Many students choose to attend online college to finish their degree. If you’re exploring your options for degree completion, transfer credit can make a huge difference in time and cost. The best online colleges will work with you to maximize transfer credits so you don’t have to repeat courses and can finish faster.

How transfer credit friendly is Franklin University? Franklin accepts up to 94 credits hours toward a bachelor’s degree—approximately 75% of the credits needed to graduate. The transfer credit department offers one-on-one transfer support to translate your previous college credit, professional credentials, military experience and more into maximum credit toward your degree.

Commitment to Student Support

Some online colleges, especially those that use a competency-based model, may leave students feeling isolated as they complete their education. These self-paced programs are heavily reliant on the individual to navigate challenges they face.

On the other hand, the best online colleges, regardless of educational model, offer comprehensive support services designed for busy, working students. It should never be difficult to find the support you need—whether that’s from an instructor, an advisor or staff at the online college. 

At Franklin University, student support comes in many forms—free tools and resources, dedicated advising, tutoring, and writing and research help. We make it easy to build connections and from your first class through graduation, you’re never alone at Franklin. We are just as committed to your success as you are.

Highly Regarded in the Job Market

An online college’s reputation with employers is critical for helping students turn their education into career success. The best online colleges have a large alumni network that work at top companies and organizations. They should also facilitate networking and mentorship opportunities so you can build connections with alumni, employers and professional organizations.

Franklin University is preferred by top employers. Not only do top companies hire Franklin’s graduates, but they also trust Franklin to educate their workforce. Due to Franklin’s reputation for improving access to relevant, high-quality academic programs for working adults, Franklin partners with top employers to create tailored on-the-job and for-the-job learning programs.

Streamlined Enrollment Process

The best online colleges will make it simple to apply. There should be a clear list of application requirements and straightforward online application, as well as contact information for support should you need it. Top online colleges will offer rolling admissions to mirror their flexible course schedule. 

Franklin University puts everything you need to know to apply in one place. But the support doesn’t stop there. From the minute you submit your free online application, Franklin makes it easy to transition to online college by offering:

  • Transfer credit support 
  • Course registration guidance
  • Virtual orientation sessions
  • Dedicated academic advisors for continued support


Is Franklin University the Best Online College For You?

The best online college is the one that will help you achieve your goals. Franklin University offers the support, resources and high-quality education that can help you earn your degree. Explore Franklin University’s full list of online degree programs to find the right fit for you.

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