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Online education has become increasingly popular over the years due to its flexibility and convenience. Self-paced online courses take this even further by allowing you to learn at your own pace and on your own schedule. The availability of these courses makes achieving a higher education more accessible than ever.

However, choosing the right self-paced online college can be daunting. To help you decide if this path is right for you, and help you choose the best school for your needs, here’s a closer look at how self-paced courses work and the best self-paced online colleges available.

How Do Self-Paced Online Courses Work?

Self-paced online courses are a form of asynchronous learning, meaning there are no set class times. Instead, students can access course materials, including video lectures, articles and reading material, interactive quizzes and assignments, and discussion forums, which they can work through at their own pace.

Typically, online courses will use a platform like Blackboard as a central hub for all things related to the course, including lectures, assignments, quizzes, and tests. This system allows students to track their progress, communicate with instructors and peers, and submit assignments.

With most self-paced courses, students will still have access to either a professor of the course or some sort of student support center to receive help with certain questions or concepts.

While some self-paced online courses have set deadlines, others do not, allowing students to work through the course materials as quickly or slowly as they like, as long as they finish everything by the end of the semester.

Though self-paced courses offer incredible flexibility compared to instructor-led courses, they do require students to be self-motivated and disciplined. Without the structure of a traditional classroom, it can be challenging to stay on track and complete coursework on time.

Are Self-Paced Courses Right For You?

Self-paced courses can be an excellent choice for students with work or family commitments, making time for traditional on-campus classes difficult. They’re also great for students who prefer to learn at their own pace or have unique learning styles that make it difficult for them to excel in traditional learning environments. Self-paced online courses are a good fit for anyone who may be traveling as well, as you can complete assignments anywhere in the world with a strong internet connection and the right computer software.

On the other hand, self-paced courses are not necessarily the best choice for students who struggle with time management or need a traditional classroom structure. These courses require students to be proactive in seeking help and support when needed, as there is no instructor to provide guidance.

While self-paced programs can be very appealing, it’s important to carefully consider your learning style and preferences to decide if this type of program will set you up for success.

If you’re unsure whether self-paced courses are the right choice for you, you can start slowly by enrolling part-time in just one or two classes for a semester. This will help you determine if self-paced learning suits your learning preferences without having to commit to a full-time learning schedule. Additionally, you can connect with an admissions counselor or alumni member to ask questions before committing to a program.

How To Succeed in a Self-Paced Online College Program

Staying motivated and on track can be challenging even for students well-suited for self-paced courses.

This is particularly true for students with work or family obligations that make it challenging to keep up with coursework and meet deadlines. Effective time management is an important aspect of succeeding in a self-paced program, especially if the program has specific deadlines for assignments, projects, or course completion.

Here are some tips to help you succeed in a self-paced online college program.

Set up a dedicated study area in your home

Creating a dedicated study area in your home can help you avoid distractions and stay focused. Make sure your study area is free from distractions like televisions or loud music, and ensure you have a comfortable chair and desk. A dedicated study space can also help signal to your brain that it is time to focus and learn.

Separating your study room from your bedroom will make maintaining a distraction-free study environment easier. If your living situation doesn’t allow for this, you can try arranging your furniture in such a way that there is a clear divide between your study and living spaces.

Manage your time

Effective time management is crucial when taking self-paced courses. Create a study schedule and stick to it, making sure to set aside dedicated time each day for studying and completing coursework. Utilize time management tools such as calendars, to-do lists, and reminders to stay on top of your assignments and deadlines.

Even if you don’t have a busy schedule outside of school, maintaining a consistent routine will help you stay on top of your coursework and complete assignments promptly so that you can avoid the stress that comes with procrastinating.

Study more effectively

Effective study habits are crucial to success in self-paced online courses. Since you’ll mostly be responsible for your own learning and progression, learning what works for you and what doesn’t will help set you up for success.

There are many techniques you can use to study more effectively, such as the Leitner System, which is a popular method for memorizing information, or the Feynman Technique, which can help you understand complex concepts by simplifying them.

Other techniques include:

  • Creating flashcards.
  • Creating outlines of course readings.
  • Summarizing course materials in your own words.
  • Using mnemonics to remember key information.

You don’t have to implement all of these methods, of course, but finding a few study techniques that appeal to your learning preferences will make you much more likely to succeed in a self-paced program.

Our Research

This list features some of the best self-paced online colleges in the country. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution, either public or private, with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions.

We evaluated each school’s program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, and reputation. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of the best self-paced online colleges to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications, such as U.S. News & World Report, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

The 50 Best Self-Paced Online Colleges

Best Self-Paced Online Colleges Badge

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

UW Madison

Central Michigan University

Azusa Pacific University

Gwynedd Mercy University

Thomas Edison State University

Northern Kentucky University

Arizona State University

Lewis University

California Baptist University

Champlain College Online

Elmhurst College

Waubonsee Community College

Florida Tech

Columbia College

Lourdes University

University of North Dakota

Walsh University

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Albertus Magnus College

South Texas College

Indiana Wesleyan University

UMass Global

Charter Oak State College

Mercy College

Western Governors University

Saint Louis University

Upper Iowa University

Western New England University