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Top online courses and universities

With a significant increase in the number of courses and degrees available online, it's important to get a sense of what is available and which institutions are highly rated for their online learning programmes.

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Online learning has shown considerable growth over the last decade, but there has been particularly high demand in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. With the use of technology and the expertise of academics, online learning is a great option for anyone wanting to study from their home country or are looking to gain qualifications alongside other commitments.


Here, we’ve listed online bachelor’s, master’s, graduate diplomas and short courses to give you an idea of what you could study to develop your skills. As we don’t want to bore you, we’ve collected popular online courses for three institutions within the U.S., UK and Canada, but of course you can continue your research using our course matching tool if you are interested in any other destinations. There’s also the option of refining your course search on our site, by selecting the Online/ Distance option on your search results page.


What types of programmes are available online?

Short course – The clue is in the name. Short courses tend to last for only a few weeks or months, covering a particular area of interest for continuing your personal development. Some short courses can reward credits, but many are not accredited so this is something to check before enrolling.


Certificate – A certificate from a university may take a few months or even up to a year to complete. They may be offered in conjunction with an undergraduate or postgraduate degree to specialise in a particular topic of interest. A certificate also tends to provide more vocational training as opposed to delving into theory, in contrast to a bachelor’s or master’s programme.


Diploma – This programme is more in depth than a certificate, which may be longer in duration but tends not be longer than a year. With this program you can expect to receive thorough teaching for a particular area. For example, you can gain a diploma in journalism to become a certified journalist.


Undergraduate degree – To study at undergraduate level students typically need to have A-levels, BTEC’s or equivalent. This study level generally lasts 3 years with some courses requiring longer, such as medicine which takes 5 years on average.


Postgraduate degree – Once you’ve gained an undergraduate degree you might decide to further your interests or qualifications for your own personal or career goals. In some fields, a postgraduate (master’s) degree is compulsory such as if you wanted to become a therapist. Full-time postgraduate courses are usually 1 year long while part-time would take 2 years.


Search for online/distance courses using our filtering tool.


Who are the top online universities in the US?



Ohio State University

Ranked 1st for online bachelor’s courses by the U.S. News & World Report Rankings 2020, Ohio State University has been offering online programmes since 2008.


Tuition fees: USD 359 per credit hour


Most popular online foundation bachelor’s degrees

  • Registered nursing
  • 12-15 months


  • Allied health and medical assisting services
  • 120 hours minimum


  • Dental hygiene/hygienist
  • 1-5 years

Course delivery: 100 per cent online


Each of these courses are pre-requisite programmes designed to prepare students for a full bachelor’s degree. Make sure you check the specific details for the course you’re interested in so that you know what type of qualification you’re applying for.


University of Illinois – Chicago

A top-ranked research institution, The University of Illinois places 3rd for online courses in the U.S. News & World Report rankings.


Tuition fees: USD 462 per credit hour


Most popular online courses

  • Bachelor of Business Administration (MBA)
  • 60 hours of credit


  • Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management
  • 123 hours


  • Registered nursing
  • 16 months


Course delivery: 100 per cent online


University of Florida

Offering online courses since 2001, The University of Florida is a top ranked university for online courses.


Tuition fees: USD 500 per credit hour


Popular online courses

  • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
  • 12 months


  • Bachelor of the Arts in Criminology
  • 120 credits = 12 months full time


  • Sport and fitness administration
  • 120 credits = 12 months full time


Course delivery: 100 per cent online





University College London offers many different master’s level courses through online study or distance learning. UCL also ranks 8th in the QS World University Rankings 2020 with a global reputation for its respected research-intensive approach.


Tuition fees: GBP 9,000 to GBP 21,000


Popular online postgraduate courses

  • Education MA
  • 180 credits
  • Full-time 1 year, part-time 2 years


  • Sports Medicine, Exercise and Health MSc
  • 180 credits
  • Full-time 1 year, part-time 2 years


  • Advanced Neuroimaging MSc/MRes
  • 180 credits
  • Full time 1 year, part time 2 years


Tuition: Find further information on fees and costs at UCL.


Course delivery: Part-time, full-time and online study modes available


If you’re looking for a shorter course, UCL is also offering 4-5-week programmes on particular subject areas. For example:


  • Creative Writing Workshop: Writing the self, Writing the Other
  • 8 hours
  • GBP 300
  • Documentary storytelling
  • 15 hours
  • GBP 150


  • French evening classes
  • 8 weeks
  • GBP 300


Oxford University

As a world-leading university, it’s not hard to see why many international students are keen to receive an Oxford University degree. While admission standards are very high, short online courses might be your best option in gaining some qualifications before applying to other courses. This is also a constructive use of your time during the coronavirus outbreak when you might have more spare time.


Tuition fees: GBP 280 to GBP 500


 For example:

  • Advanced creative writing
  • Online
  • 10 weeks
  • GBP 420


  • Microeconomics: An introduction
  • Online
  • 10 weeks
  • GBP 300


  • An introduction to philosophy
  • Online
  • 11 weeks
  • GBP 300



The University of Manchester

Study an online, blended or distance learning postgraduate course at The University of Manchester to boost your career prospects. Popular master’s programmes include:


  • MA in Financial Management
  • 2 years
  • Part-time or blended learning
  • GBP 19,500


  • MA in Digital Technologies, Communication and Education
  • 1 year full-time, 2 years part-time, 2-3 years distance learning
  • GBP 19,000


  • MSc in Electrical Power Systems Engineering
  • 1 year
  • Full-time
  • GBP 25,000




Athabasca University

Find online undergraduate, postgraduate and professional development courses at this Canadian institution. Athabasca University in Alberta offers a range of courses to meet your needs, with options for flexible learning to fit around your other commitments.


Undergraduate online courses

  • BA English
  • Recommended 3-4 years
  • GBP 30,000 (estimate based on currency conversion and 90 credits)


  • BA Psychology
  • Recommended 3-4 years
  • GBP 30,000 (estimate based on currency conversion
  • 90 or 120 credits


  • BSc Computing and Information Systems
  • 2 years with post-diploma route or 4 years for full degree
  • GBP 32,500 (estimate based on currency conversion)
  • 120 credits


The University of British Columbia

Offering pre-requisite online courses across a range of disciplines to boost your skills and knowledge when it comes to applying for a full degree programme later down the line. You can check the university website for a full course list but here are a few examples:


  • Engineering and Sustainable Development
  • 4 months
  • 3 credits
  • Introduction to Biological and Cognitive Psychology
  • 13 weeks
  • 3 credits
  • Dentistry: Special Oral Care in the Community
  • 16 weeks
  • 6 credits


Tuition: Find specific tuition fees for online courses on the university website.


Don’t forget that you will need to check the requirements for some of these courses as you may need to have an undergraduate qualification.


Royal Roads University

The following courses offered by Royal Roads University in British Columbia, are available online for graduate students looking to boost their skillset after an undergraduate degree. This is typically known as a graduate diploma and may be undertaken to qualify for a master’s level course.


  • Graduate Diploma in Learning and Technology
  • 12 months
  • 18 credits
  • CAD 16,745


  • Graduate Certificate in Tourism Management
  • 3-18 months
  • 9 credits
  • Blended
  • CAD 7,940


  • Graduate certificate in Sustainable Community Development
  • 6 months
  • Blended
  • CAD 8,023


If you’re new to the online learning environment and want to find your bearings you can also have a look at our introduction to virtual learning guide.




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