It used to be that education by way of online learning or what is called distance learning or distance education was implemented as a supplement to the brick-and-mortar classroom (or conference room) teaching and learning methods and materials. But technology as it is progressive and multi-beneficial--online high school and online college courses have become sometimes viable sources of learning, without the student having to ever step foot in a classroom.
Contemporary learners taking online college courses can benefit in a number of ways that they otherwise could not, having no way to get to school, for example, or having no desire to attend an institution of higher learning. They might have children, a home, and one or more jobs that keep them from physically enrolling in or attending classes at a campus that might be too far away.
These individuals can make use of online college courses that feature lectures, video, audio, email, IMs, instant messages, bulletin boards and chat rooms, and online study and research sources that all comprise the online college courses rather than serve as supplements to them.
For the home-schooled, the advanced placement high school student, for instance, who is now into levels that reach online college courses levels, the benefits of choice, segregation, or integration are available to those who prefer a particular curriculum that is religiously oriented or carefully monitored.
And for anyone, online college courses are equal opportunity for anyone of any race, creed, color, religion, location, learning ability or disability, or mindset can find the materials, sources, and lessons he or she needs or wants, many times accredited and transferable.
In the same respect, before applying, signing up, and paying, the learner who seeks legitimate online college courses should do a little background checking to protect him or herself from the beguiling and conniving that does sometimes happen. Some offering online college courses and other online courses are not qualified to do so. Some are not accredited. That is, if you are looking to use the online learning experience as credited coursework (to transfer, to get a job, to get a degree), be sure that the online college is one which meets the standards set by the states, provinces, or countries accreditation body, agency, or board. In the U.S., for instance, the Department of Education (the DOE) oversees and regulates American universities, though each state is responsible for its own higher learning authorization standards.
This can be an arduous task by itself: unscrupulous and greedy money mongers can be "licensed" to run a business (in this case, the business of running a degree mill, a fake college)--because every state has different ways of regulating standards, and because con artists and scammers claiming to be legitimate e-universities will link their pages to the real sites of DOE or of the Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), so when you are looking for an online degree you might be tricked.
You might read the website's claim of being accredited or will infer from the official links or the way the text is worded, in lies, or implications, that the institution is accredited when it is not will pay unreasonably high fees, will sign the necessary and official-looking documents, but then will be required to do very little work and will graduate online with a bogus degree.
So if you are looking into online college courses, the best way to go is through a legitimate college. And even then, if you are unsure, look for the distance learning college accreditation info. Or ask directly about it. When the said distance learning institution names an accreditation agency whether it is DOE or CHEA in the U.S., The British Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education in England, a named Private Colleges Accreditation Board in Canada, or any other Authoritative body's contact that named agency and check to see that the college is in fact accredited, NOT just licensed to do business.