Online community colleges include junior colleges that offer online programs as well as consortiums of community colleges that share resources so as to offer online education. In addition, there are some schools that, while they are not technically community colleges, offer a similar range of academic programs as a community college would, including associate's degrees and professional certificates and diplomas. Some online community colleges offer courses that can be combined with on-campus classes in order to earn a degree, while others have programs in which a student can earn a two-year degree completely online.
Community colleges, also known as junior colleges, are typically schools that offer vocational training programs, adult education courses, and remedial education as well as the two-year associate's degree. Once a student completes an associate's degree, he is typically able to enter into a four-year university with junior standing, though an associate's degree is an educational credential in its own right. A community college that operates online may offer a full range of educational programs, or students may be able to complete only a limited number of courses or programs via the Internet.
In many cases, online community colleges are also brick and mortar schools that offer traditional classroom education in addition to online classes. Students may have the option of taking all of their classes online or may be able to mix and match classroom and Internet courses. In some cases, students study subjects that require them to participate in on-campus classes, perform work in a laboratory, or work in a student clinic. Although they may be able to take most of their classes online, they will still have to be on campus for some activities.
In some areas, several community colleges have joined forces to offer their classes online. These colleges contribute to the development of an online learning platform, and students may have the option of taking online classes taught by faculty from any of the participating schools. These online colleges may have varying enrollment standards, though in many cases students are expected to enroll at the community college that serves the area in which they live. One advantage to this model is that students can benefit from the courses offered at multiple online community colleges instead of just one.
Some online colleges and universities offer associate's degree programs in addition to bachelor's and even graduate degrees. Students interested in going to one of these schools should consider the advantages and disadvantages of each program. Some online schools operate on a for-profit model and may be more expensive to attend than a community college. Community colleges that operate as brick and mortar schools can also offer students resources that a purely online school can't, such as a physical library, in-person counseling services, and access to amenities such as exercise facilities.