Online adult education classes are a unique field to navigate. For many who don’t have the time to attend a traditional, brick-and-mortar college, an online program is ideal. But, registering can be intimidating for those who either haven’t done it before at all or have not attended college for some time.

An extensive catalog of seemingly endless course options and programs is likely not the most welcomed site for an inexperienced academic.

In this guide, we intend to help you identify some of the best online adult education classes, programs, and areas of study offered across the country.

Some of these are institutional while others are not affiliated with any state college or university. Regardless, 2018 offers a wide catalog of options for adults looking to further their education in any context.

Online Adult Education Classes Offer Nearly Unlimited Education Options

The possibilities for online adult education classes is nearly unlimited. Classes can be offered in non-traditional semester schedules, can often be completed at the student’s preferred pace, and eliminate the need for additional commuting.

This flexibility makes online adult educational classes the ideal choice for students with a  wide variety of backgrounds. Online adult education classes are popular among parents, students who must work during the day, and individuals who feel uncomfortable in traditional classrooms.

Additionally, online educations offers a wide range of programs. While traditional colleges and universities offer a set catalog of degree programs, students wishing to pursue an online degree can find a program for almost any interest they have. The majority of online learning participants are in the 30+ age bracket.

With that in mind, it does matter which courses you register for. And, not all courses are created equally.

The Best 5 University Programs for Online Education

Here are some of the best university programs you can choose from if you want to enroll in online adult education classes:

1. Capella University – FlexPath

Nurse in scrubs with stethoscope on her neck with a background of words about BSN

Capella University is an expensive online university. The school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and offers bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and even offers over 23 doctoral degree programs including a PhD in Business Management, a Doctor of Social Work degree, and a PhD in Education. All specialized programs are also accredited by their respective governing bodies.

The university also offers certificate programs in the nine fields of study.

Courses are offered by Capella University in two formats – FlexPath and GuidedPath.

GuidedPath is a more structured program that mimics many aspects of a traditional, semester-based college experience. FlexPath offers the most flexibility for adult learners who need freedom from class restraints. Enrollees in FlexPath can complete their courses at any pace they are able to. Once they complete a course – whether it be in two weeks or over the span of a year, the student can move on to another course free from semester restraints.

Learners in this program also only pay for the courses they take, meaning no wasted dollars if you find yourself too busy to complete a course in the time you thought you could.

This option is especially attractive to learners who have experience in their field of study and can move through some sections of their degree fairly quickly by leveraging that experience.

FlexPath is probably a contributing factor to the adult-majority demographics reported by Capella University. Students of the university range from ages 19 to 86, but the average age of a learner at Capella is 39.

2. Western Governor’s University – Competency-Based Program

Western Governor’s University building

If you haven’t yet heard of Western Governor’s University, you’re going to want to check them out. WGU offers a “competency-based” program of adult education classes that have not yet been adopted by any other university in the country.

Competency-based education by WGU is a degree program that is “based on learning rather than time.” Students that can exhibit that they have mastered the specified material for each course can move on without the restraint of semester-based degree advancement.

WGU says this model allows students to rely on existing skills, their free time, and more to move through programs at their desired pace. “If a student can learn faster, spend more time on schoolwork, or lean on the knowledge they already have from previous work or school experience, they can accelerate,” says WGU.

WGU is accredited by the appropriate, regional accreditation body: The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. In addition, specific programs have received accreditation by other governing bodies such as the accreditation of WGU’s business programs by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, the membership of IT programs in Microsoft’s Imagine Academy, and the accreditation of the teaching programs at WGU by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.

3. Thomas Edison State University – TECEP® Thomas Edison Credit-by-Examination Program

Thomas Edison State College

Thomas Edison State University takes an approach to education that is unique from most other colleges. The school offers a credit-by-examination program. This means that credits can be earned by proving proficiency in a particular subject via a proctored exam. This is ideal for individuals who possess prior industry knowledge or experience and can exhibit proficiency in certain skills without having to endure a semester-long course.

While other tests such as the popular CLEP test are available, TECEP offers one of the most extensive catalogs of available subject matter and is easily accessible.

Thomas Edison State University is a state-chartered university in New Jersey that has operated since 1972. The university was actually one of the earliest colleges to be centered around adult education classes.  According to the mission and purpose statement by the university,

“The University was founded for the purpose of providing diverse and alternative methods of achieving a collegiate education of the highest quality for mature adults.”

Thomas Edison State University is accredited by the appropriate higher-education board, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Students at Thomas Edison State University have the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s, master’s or even a doctoral degree. The university is located in Trenton, NJ, but most students will not visit the campus in-person. The university offers programs that are flexible enough to suit the most hectic lifestyle – many students of the university are even active-duty Military and take classes from their deployed location.

Credits can be earned through the credit-by-examination program even for students who are not enrolled at the university, but you should first ensure the credit will transfer to your primary institution if you’re thinking about exploring this option. Tests are offered on a wide variety of subject matter.

This is a great option, not just for students at Thomas Edison State University who wish to move through their program faster than a traditional student, but for students at any other institution who wish to expedite their commencement.

This method of earning credits is also much more affordable than enrolling for a semester-long course. Each test costs $53 per credit attempted to test out of. This puts an average 3-credit course test at $159. The price is even lower for students who are enrolled at Thomas Edison State University.

4. Antioch University – Antioch Connected  

campus of Antioch University - Los Angeles

Antioch University is an institution that has a longstanding history. The university was founded in 1852 under the guidelines of remaining at the “forefront of social justice, inclusion, and equality for all people, regardless of ethnicity, gender, creed, orientation, or ability.”

This mantra is reflected in the accessibility the school boasts.

Though Antioch University has physical campuses across the nation, there are physical campuses located in Seattle, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, the Midwest, and New England. The university truly shines in the realm of online accessibility for students.

If you’re not within a reasonable proximity of a physical Antioch University campus, you can opt to participate in their online programs available nationwide. The online program is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Students at Antioch University can earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree online from the comfort of their home, offices, or wherever fits their schedules.

Antioch University has a few unique services that make online learning easier for their students. For example, the university offers a remote library program. Students can have digital texts sent to their school-issued Gmail account and physical texts sent to them in the mail. The texts are offered through one of the world’s largest library catalogs.

One of the most attractive features of the online program by Antioch University is the implantation of a 24/7 help desk line. Students can call the support desk for Antioch University and reach a live human for help at any time of day and any day of the week.   

Antioch University also has a virtual writing room where tutors are available to help students with their publications no matter how far from a physical campus they may be located. The center has tutors available to help with outlining and planning, major and minor revision, as well as final style and editing tasks.

If you’re a learner that has had little success with traditional collegiate courses, you may be interested to know that Antioch University has a “no grades, no tests” policy. Instead of letter grades for the completion of courses, instructors provide learners with a “narrative assessment.”

“At AU Online, we use narrative assessment, rather than letter grades, to provide meaningful, actionable evaluation of what you’ve learned. Letter grade equivalencies for graduate school applications or employer tuition reimbursement are available upon request. AU Online coursework values demonstrated learning over test scores, further preparing you for a successful career ahead.”

5. General Assembly – Non-Institutional Adult Education Classes

General Assembly

While there is a great deal of education available online from accredited, state universities, that is not the only source of adult education classes. There are numerous platforms that offer training of various types to the adult looking to advance their education online. One prime example of a platform like this is General Assembly.

General Assembly is a platform offering courses in subjects including coding, user experience, design, data, marketing, business, and career development. These courses are offered online and in-person at over 25 campuses nationwide. Additionally, courses can be taken either as a full-time or part-time student depending on the learner’s specific needs.

General Assembly is different from a traditional college or university in that you cannot earn a “degree” per se but there are plenty of opportunities for certifications and other training. Many employers sponsor their employees’ tuition for a course or two at General Assembly but the institution is partnered with two major lenders for those students who need financial assistance.

General Assembly is partnered with over 10,000 hiring partners to ensure that graduates get a job in their field of study. These hiring partners include some major economic influencers like Boston Globe Media, Capital One, Publishers Clearing House, News Cred and more.

The hiring partner and talent pool programs at General Assembly have synthesized some impressive statistics. Eighty-eight percent of graduates from a General Assembly program got full-time jobs within 3 months of graduation and, after 180 days, 99 percent of graduates found full-time work in their field of study.

If you’re in the market for adult education classes that offer a future in a specific desired industry over a degree from a state institution, General Assembly is certainly worth checking out.

Adult Education Classes are More Accessible Now Than They Have Ever Been

As the prominence of adult education increases, so will the opportunities provided increase by some of the major educational players in our country. It’s likely that other major institutions, both collegiate and non-collegiate, will take steps to advance their online program offerings. Additionally, as technology continues to advance, we will likely see new methods and practices arise in the world of online adult education classes.

For now, however, we hope our guide has provided at least a starting point for your journey to further online education. As we mentioned, the world of adult education classes can be overwhelming especially for those who may be inexperienced in this realm.

Whether you prioritize speed, flexibility, or cost, this list certainly has something for you. There is no reason that someone who desires further education should not be able to access it and we hope that this guide has provided some new resources for you.