Can I take an online college course without enrolling in a degree program?
The short answer is: yes. It's very possible to take a single course in a subject you're interested in. Given the number of options that online education allows, you most likely can find something that will work for you, too. There are many reasons why, and many ways how, to go about doing just that.
Why should you take courses without enrolling in a degree program?
There are many scenarios where taking a single course could benefit a learner. In fact, taking college courses online presents a flexible, and often more affordable, option than taking them on campus. Here are some of the most common reasons why many students enroll in just one or a few courses online:
- Finish a degree. If you are a few credits shy of a degree, taking single courses online can help you finally finish it. However, check with the school where you were originally earning your degree to see if it will allow online college credits to transfer back as degree requirements before you enroll.
- Continuing education credits. Many careers, especially those that require practitioners to hold a license, such as nursing, counseling, and engineering, often require continuing education hours. These can typically be completed through online courses offered from accredited programs.
- Career advancement. Even if continuing education hours aren't required for your job, online courses can provide additional training and skills development that could help advance your career and possibly increase your salary by making you more eligible for promotion.
- Personal growth. For the simple joy of learning and enriching your mind, online courses also open up a number of subjects to the lifelong learner.
How can you take courses without enrolling in a degree program?
If you are interested in taking online courses without having to enroll in a degree program, here are some of the several ways to find them:
- Colleges and universities. Naturally, you can look to community colleges, four-year colleges, or universities for online courses. Often, this will require enrolling as a non-matriculated student, which exactly means that you aren't enrolled in a degree program. These online courses tend to be geared towards working adults, so you can find a number of flexible options, and in a variety of areas, too.
- OpenCourseWare classes. A growing trend among universities is to offer OpenCourseWare — digital publications of college materials, such as lectures and videos — all available for free access online. These materials are available to view at your own pace, too. For starters, you can search more than 6,600 courses through the OpenCourseWare Consortium's database. However, note that completion of these classes or even related work will not necessarily lead to academic credits.
- Professional organizations. Though these aren't college-level, academic courses, you can often find online courses in career development through relevant professional associations. These courses are usually tailored for you to take at your own pace, too, and could lead to additional certification in an area, further enhancing your credentials.