Online learning shouldn’t just be convenient and affordable. Only online courses that also deliver great quality are worth your time and money.
Online courses from top universities are widespread now. They come in all different shapes, sizes, and topics. This makes the process of ranking online course-offering universities a little difficult. So instead of one comprehensive ranking that puts apples with oranges, we’ve looked at the two main reasons why would-be students are looking at online course providing universities: to obtain a degree, or to join in on cheap (or free) non-credit learning. To highlight both of these (perfectly valid) online course experiences we’ve divided our top 50 list into two top 25 rankings, one for universities that offer degrees online, and a second for universities offering non-credit course offerings (often for free).
Methodology 1: Degree-granting Online Universities
For this ranking, we’ve incorporated the overall quality of the academic institution providing online degrees, the range of offerings, and online-specific support services.
- Range of Offerings (.3): The number of degree options or certifications that can be completed entirely online. Including Associates, Bachelors, Masters, Doctoral, and Certification programs.
- Support Services (.3): the range of online-specific support services, including mentoring, tutoring, advising, writing and math centers, online student clubs, forums and career services.
- Quality of Parent Institution (.3): the overall ranking of the online program’s parent institution.
Top 25 Universities Offering Degrees Online
1. Arizona State University
Arizona State University is a leading research university that was recently named the “#1 best buy public college” in the US by Fiske Guide to Colleges. ASU offers over 100 degree and certification at both undergraduate and masters levels. Courses are highly interactive, allowing students to work on projects together and with their professors. Support services include academic mentoring and career services who facilitate the active recruiting of ASU students by over 250 leading international firms.
2. State University of New York
State University of New York offers its online Open SUNY program with the help of 64 New York system university partners. The vast range of institutions helping to bring the online experience together enables Open SUNY to offer more than 380 degrees and certifications (the second highest number of institutions surveyed). Online programs range from associates level through doctoral degrees, and also include a wide range of certifications. Support services include the incorporation of experiential learning into courses, a 24/7 helpdesk and tutoring support system, and a personal advisor who sticks with you through your educational process.
3. University of Massachusetts
The University of Massachusetts offers fully online degrees ranging from associate’s to doctorate level, as well as certifications. Courses are taught by faculty from UMass campuses in Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell, and Worcester. Currently over 440 degree and certification programs may be completed through UMass Online, which is the largest number of degrees of any program we surveyed. Blended learning, in which courses are taken partially online and partially on campus is also available. Student support services at UMass Online include 24/7 tech support, academic advising, and library services.
4. Drexel University
Drexel University was a pioneer amongst online colleges, offering online degrees since 1996. Today this top ranked national university offers over 140 degrees, bachelors through doctorale (and certifications) online. Graduate programs in education, engineering and nursing are particularly well regarded. Student support services include library services as well as 24-hour tech services.
5. Indiana University
The University of Indiana at Bloomington is one of the most highly regarded institutions on our list in terms of academic quality and STEM research. Currently over 100 degree and certification programs are available online, with a number of degree completion programs, undergraduate, graduate, and certification programs. Current student support services include around the clock tech help, a large software distribution package, a subscription to Lynda.com, and ways to access course materials on any device.
6. University of Phoenix
The University of Phoenix offers over 160 degree and certification programs entirely online, ranging from associates-level programs through doctoral programs. A wide number of career advancing certifications are available as well, following suite with University of Phoenix’s focus on career development. The STEM education portfolio program works with leading STEM employers to improve course offerings relating to exactly what is in demand in the workplace. A career planning platform as well as an active career services department further enhance the University’s career mindedness.
7. Walden University
Walden University offers over 120 degree options online, from bachelors through doctorale (and certifications). For over 45 years they have been committed to helping working adults obtain or further their education. This has led to many innovations in flexible distance education. Current features include Tempo learning, in which you can test out of what you already know, and only pay tuition for topics that you need help on as well as an ePortfolio where students can collect their coursework automatically and share the best of their work with classmates, colleagues or supervisors. Other support services include academic advisors, library and research services, and technical support.
8. Kansas State University
Kansas State University offers over 60 degree completion, undergraduate, graduate, and certification programs fully online. In an effort to fit education into the life of a working adult, Kansas State offers many online courses in formats that are shorter than eight weeks, allowing for shorter sprints and less overall time until degree completion. Current student services include a writing center, academic advising, an active career services office, library services, and a number of graduate level-specific services.
9. American Public University System
The American Public University System offers over 220 online certificates and degrees ranging from associates through masters level programs. These include a number of security and defence-related programs that aren’t found at many other schools (terrorism studies, weapons of mass destruction preparedness, security management, etc.). Student services include academic and career advisors, library services, and student activities.
10. Florida State University
Florida State University is a top ranked national research institution that currently offers 49 bachelors, masters and certificate programs fully online. Other online courses may also be used to complement a traditional classroom track through Florida State University. Student service offerings are large, including specialized librarians that work directly with online students, academic mentoring, a career center, a subscription to lynda.com’s courses, a reading and writing center, and a virtual computer lab where online students can access software installed on computers in a FSU computer lab.
11. Colorado Technical University
Colorado Technical University is a national university currently offering over 100 fully online degrees ranging from associates to doctoral levels. Programs center on six core areas which include business & management, engineering & computer science, healthcare, information technology, project management studies, and security studies. Intellipath is a unique offering of Colorado Tech which uses assessments to gauge what course subjects you are comfortable with, and which you need to work on, and automatically adjusting course materials to fit your needs. Other student services include career services and a number of online communities through which you can engage with classmates and professors.
12. Pennsylvania State University
Pennsylvania State University is a top tier research institution known to be one of the Public Ivies according to Greene’s Guides. Currently Penn State offers 33 undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, and certificates entirely online through their World Campus. Student services are expansive including access to the 9th largest university library system in North America, academic mentoring, career counseling, exam proctoring, tech support, tutoring in math and writing fields, as well as connections to communities within Pennsylvania State University.
13. Wilmington University
Wilmington University is a national university that offers over 90 programs, concentrations, and certificates at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Courses are available in 7 or 15-week formats, with three semesters or six blocks offered each academic year. This lends some flexibility to your studies, however, the courses are not self-paced, but rather proceed together on blocks or semesters. The learning environment is active, with students expected to participate in class discussions, peer feedback, and post assignments 3-5 days each week. Student services also include 24/7 technical support.
14. Regent University Online
Regent University offers over 80 fully online degrees ranging from associates degrees to doctoral work. Unique offerings include online degrees from their school of law including an LL.M in American Legal Studies and an M.A. in Law. Student services for online degrees at Regent University include library services, academic advising, and career counseling.
15. University of Arizona
The University of Arizona is one of the top 100 research institutions in the world, and offers over 60 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and certificate levels fully online. Some courses are asynchronous while others are synchronous, though all operate upon a semester timeline. Student services include tech support, math, science, and writing tutors, leadership programs, library services, and career services.
16. University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida is a national research university that currently offers over 70 degrees ranging from bachelors to masters level programs fully online. Unique offerings of the UCF online learning platform include the ability to search web-based and streaming video courses on a section by section basis by topic, as well as first year experience (FYE) programs that help first year students transition into undergraduate programs. Additional student services include library services that mirror that of traditional programs (the ability to request interlibrary loans, access a large number of academic journals, and so on).
17. Liberty University Online
Liberty University offers Christian online programs ranging from dual-enrollment high school programs through post-doctorate offerings (as well as certifications). Degree offerings may be accelerated through a generous transfer policy and prior learning experience (which includes on-the-job experience). Student services include an online writing tutor center, career services, IT support, 24/7 tutoring through tutor.com, an active forum through which to communicate with classmates, an office of military affairs, library services, and a greatly discounted IT marketplace.
18. Old Dominion University
Through their distance learning department, Old Dominion University offers over 70 degree programs, from bachelor’\s through masters and certifications, entirely online. Online student support includes an academic skills center (tutoring), lynda.com subscription, academic advising, experiential learning opportuntities, online tutoring, tech support, and a student success center.
19. Regis University
Regis University’s World Campus offers over 90 degree programs at the bachelors, masters, or certification levels entirely online. Flexibility is central to Regis’ online offerings, particularly at the college of professional studies. Accelerated programs deliver courses in five or eight-week terms that start six times per year, and classes may be taken in a variety of formats: campus-based, online, or directed study(where you design your own course with the help of an advisor). Student services include library services, career services, tech support, and academic advising.
20. Kaplan University
Kaplan University offers over 100 degree programs online at the associates, bachelors, masters, or certification levels. Unique offerings include the ability to attend learning centers at a local campus for some of your coursework, as well as Concord Law School, the first online law school program in the nation. Student services include academic support centers with tutoring in writing, math, science, and technology subjects, career services, and library services.
21. University of Alabama
The University of Alabama “Bama by Distance” program offers over 35 online degree programs at the bachelors and masters levels. Unique offerings include some offerings for high school students, as well as LL.M master of law and taxation, and master of law in business transactions degrees. Student services include academic advising, proctored testing, and career resources.
22. Northern Arizona University
Northern Arizona University offers over 80 online degree programs including bachelors through doctoral (and certification) levels of study. For motivated students, or those who need a bit more flexibility, courses may be taken as self-paced. Student services include 24/7 IT support, online library resources, tutoring in science, math, and writing, and if you choose to stop by, all of the traditional campus resources.
23. Southern New Hampshire University
Southern New Hampshire University is the only University to make it onto Fast Company’s 2012 list of the World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies. SNHU offers over 100 degree programs fully online at undergraduate, graduate, and certification levels. Unique offerings include a summer bridge program to help you begin preparing for your program before it’s officially underway, and intensive remedial assistance in the event that you fall behind in your courses. Other student services include tutoring, academic mentoring, a learning strategies seminar, and library and tech services.
24. Granite State College
Granite State College offers over 60 online degree programs ranging from associates through masters level work. Post-baccalaureate teacher certifications are also available. Programs may be taken on a part-time, full-time, or accelerated basis. A vigorous prior learning assessment policy allows you to earn credits for prior learning through methods such as military, professional certification, or equivalency testing. Support services include discounted software, IT help, online tutoring, and workshops that occur throughout the year.
25. University of Maryland — University College
The University of Maryland University College is part of the University of Maryland system that offers more than 95 online degree programs at the bachelors, masters, of certificate levels. Tracks are career based, in particularly related to business & management, cyber security, education & teaching, healthcare & science, information technology & computer science, liberal arts & communications, and public safety. Associate’s degree programs are also available for active-duty military, veterans, spouses and dependents. Support services include online writing feedback, library services, academic and career advising, and 24/7 tech support.
Top 25 Universities offering Non-Credit Online Course
Methodology 2: Non-credit online course providing universities
For this ranking, we’ve incorporated the overall quality of the academic institution providing online courses, the number of courses, and how many support services common to MOOC platforms each university’s courses provide.
- Number of Courses (.3): The number of online courses, regardless of platform or academic level at which they are offered.
- Support Services (.3): the range of online-specific support services, including project-based learning, forums, certifications, exams, video lectures, interactive environments, and supplementary material.
- Quality of Parent Institution (.3): the overall ranking of the online program’s parent institution.
1. Harvard University
Harvard currently offers 56 Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) through the edX platform. All may be taken for free, though a number of courses also offer verified certificates (for a nominal fee). Course topics cover a wide range of subjects, from poetry, to the science of cooking, to advanced statistics, and a number of courses fit into larger pathways within edX. All courses provide supplementary materials, activities, tests, and forums.
2. Duke University
Duke University currently offers 61 MOOCs (6 are upcoming) that have produced within the last 3 academic years for Coursera. Course topics are wide ranging, with the largest concentrations of courses coming from the cultural anthropology, philosophy, and statistical science departments. Courses are free unless you want a verified certification. Courses are also well-supported on the coursera platform, offering video lectures, problem sets/quizzes, and active forums.
3. Yale University
Yale offers 42 MOOCs through iTunes, YouTube, and OpenCourseYale. Most courses center around the traditional arts and sciences and are taught by world class Yale faculty. Courses available through the Open Yale portal provide course videos, course audio, course materials, study groups, and links to where textbooks may be bought.
4. University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania currently has 21 MOOCs out through coursera, with another 19 currently in the works. Course topics are wide ranging. A number of courses created by the Wharton School of business are job related, and provide introductions to operations management, corporate finance, financial accounting and marketing. As with most other Coursera-hosted courses, video lectures, problem sets/quizzes, active forums, and (for most courses) a verified certificate are available.
5. Princeton University
Princeton University, currently the top ranked national University according to US News, offers 15 MOOCs through Coursera (five currently available and ten in the works). They cover a variety of topics including, math, psychology, history, sociology, and philosophy. Renowned philosopher Peter Singer is also currently developing a course on practical ethics.
6. Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University currently offers 38 MOOCs through the Coursera platform (19 currently offered and 19 in the works). The largest portion of which revolve around data science and statistics. As with most Coursera courses, verified certification, forums, video lectures, projects, and quizzes all support learning on the platform.
7. Rice University
Rice University offers 40 MOOCs, with 15 on the Coursera platform and 25 on edX. Unique offerings on their EdX platform courses include a number of courses for preparing for AP science exams. On Coursera their offerings include a number of STEM topics ranging from programming with Python, to algorithmic thinking, as well as a series of courses on inquiry science learning.
8. UC Berkeley
UC Berkeley’s MOOCLab is tasked with stimulating and funding MOOC development in collaboration with edX. UC Berkeley has 38 upcoming MOOCs on EdX, with a number of themes that include the Berkeleyx “Book Club” (courses that work their way through famous works of literature), a four-part series on preparing for the AP computer science exam, and a number of business, statistics, and programming titles.
9. Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt University currently offers 15 MOOCs through the Coursera platform (five are currently up and the rest are in the works). Though they are varied, most center around STEM or medical topics (such as “Nutrition, health, and lifestyle: issues and insights” or “case studies in personalized medicine”). Six MOOCs fall into a six-part series that ends with a capstone project of building a complex mobile computing application from the ground up.
10. Peking University
Peking University offers 56 MOOCs when coupling their offerings on edX and Coursera. They’re offerings are unique in that they’re one of the largest Chinese-language MOOC providers. Though their courses span a number of disciplines, the most common include the study of Chinese language and Computer Science/Engineering.
11. Northwestern University
Northwestern University offers 11 MOOCs through the Coursera platform (with six currently available and five more in the works). Three of their courses revolve around media and content strategy, with two built into a series particularly about content strategy for professionals. As with many Coursera platform MOOCs, courses may be taken for verified certification, and involve video lectures, projects, quizzes, and forums where you can talk with your classmates.
12. University of Virginia
The University of Virginia offers 14 MOOCs through the Coursera platform (12 on-demand and 2 in the works). Though on varied topics, they’re less STEM related than those of other university providers. Instead focusing on historical topics, public policy, and business. As with most Coursera courses, classes may be taken for verified certificates, and involve video lectures, projects, quizzes, and forums where you can talk with your classmates.
MIT is by far the largest provider of open courseware online, offering over 5000 courses in nearly every academic discipline and at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Though all the courses listed are valuable resources in their own right, only some provide all of the typical components of an online course (video, quizzes, reading materials), with many simply providing syllabi and some of the course materials. MIT does offer 12 OCW Scholar courses, however, which are far more complete than many of their other courses, and provide simulations, videos, and custom built courseware for each.
14. University of Washington
The University of Washington offers 16 MOOCs through the Coursera platform. Most courses center around computing and data science, though there are several others with diverse focuses. University of Washington’s Coursera MOOCs offer video, quizzes,project-based learning, peer assessments, forums, and–for some–verified certifications.
15. Georgetown University
Georgetown University, the nation’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit university, offers eight courses through the edX platform. Unique offerings include a three-course progression through Dante’s Divine Comedy, and a course on preparing for the AP physics exam. When auditing these edX courses, users get full access to course material, activities, tests, and forums for free.
16. Dartmouth College
Dartmouth College currently offers two MOOCs on the edX platform: the engineering of structures around us, and introduction to environmental science. While this is a smaller range of courses than other institutions on the list, this is made up for by the student services afforded by the edX platform, and the quality of the Ivy League Dartmouth (currently ranked 11th amongst national universities by US News). Both courses offer verified certificates and have top reviews from students.
17. University of Florida
The University of Florida currently offers 12 MOOCs through the Coursera platform (5 currently out and 7 in the works). The largest topical portion of the courses cover agriculture and food-related issues, a niche not filled by other MOOC-providing institutions. The University of Florida is regularly ranked in the top 20 public Universities.
18. University of North Carolina
Eight MOOCs are offered by the University of North Carolina on the Coursera platform (three are currently available and 5 are planned for the future). A variety of topics are represented, from history to psychology, to copyright law and metadata. As with most Coursera-platform courses verified certificates, videos, quizzes, and a forum space are available to students.
19. Tsinghua University
Tsinghua University–the second Chinese University on our list–currently has 14 courses available on the edX platform. Courses are largely on mathematics and engineering topics, though a number of Chinese Architecture courses are also available. The courses provide for a wide range of students, as lectures were originally recorded in Chinese, yet also course materials are additionally presented in English.
20. UC Irvine
UC Irvine offers over 120 courses on their OpenCourseWare platform, with at least one nearly every academic discipline. The largest offerings include the physical sciences, and particularly chemistry. The “lectures” menu option allows users to choose individual topics within courses to watch, and their “collections” option provides a number of courses in a path for users to master content.
21. University of Birmingham
The University of Birmingham offers ten MOOCs hosted on their own site, the largest portion of which is a series titled “Good Brain, Bad Brain” that looks at the effects illness or drugs can have on the brain. Courses are composed of short 3-7 minute videos, involve pauses for reflection/questioning, involve student-led moderated discussions, and multiple-choice tests.
22. University of Sheffield
The University of Sheffield offers 9 MOOCs hosted on the FutureLearn and CourseSites platforms. Courses are wide-ranging but tend to center around health related topics, from studying the importance of daily play, to discovering dentistry. It’s noted that courses are suitable for those with a secondary education, but include supplementary details for those at higher education levels of who would like to challenge themselves.
23. Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv University offers eight MOOCs on Coursera and Futurelearn. Coursera courses tend to center on history and society, while FutureLearn offerings include a series of courses on the Holocaust. Courses are taught in English, offer verified certificates, and are suitable for all levels of learners.
24. Utah State University
Utah State University offers 80 MOOCs in a comprehensive array of subjects on their own OpenCourseWare platform. Video lectures and fleshed out exams including essay writing are integrated into the courses. A unique offering includes the ability to take OpenCourseWare courses and get “credit by examination” through a number of means at Utah State University.
25. North Carolina State University
North Carolina State University currently offers 7 MOOCs through the MOOC-Ed platform, a project supported by the Friday Institute of Educational Innovation and the NC State College of Education. All courses are teaching centered, and address digital learning, and course design.