How do online colleges, universities and programs work?
Content may be delivered via virtual classroom courses, lectures, streaming videos, podcasts, discussion boards, chat rooms, students buying or downloading materials, and other methods. Fully web-based virtual classrooms offer the convenience of working remotely, and are not simply an email exchange. Learning is interactive, participatory and collaborative. Resources typically include an always-available online library, 24/7 technical support and instructors who are accessible by phone, e-mail or online chats.

What are some of the benefits of Canadian online college programs for international students?
Taking an online program at a Canadian online school means international students get to collaborate with peers from across Canada and around the world. There is also no worry that courses will close due to low enrollment, or that they will fill up before you get in. The flexible format of online programs means you can complete your degree in as much or as little time as you have available. Cost is also a big benefit for international students: usually there are no textbooks to buy, and online programs have lower tuition than regular universities and colleges. There is also the added benefit of a reduced carbon footprint, since there is no travel involved.

How affordable are Canadian online college programs for international students compared to traditional campus programs?
Canadian online college programs allow international students to save on the following: the cost of textbooks and facility fees (most online programs mean students download materials including lectures, assignments and additional notes); the cost of travelling to and living in a new country; and the cost of daily commuting to campus. Some online degree programs can cost as much as traditional programs. However, others are very affordable and on average they will cost a student far less. As a result, the amount of student debt for international students taking online programs is usually less than for international students at traditional colleges.

What is the difference between online courses and online programs?
Online programs are complete, multi-course programs at the undergraduate or graduate level leading to an academic credential (a degree, diploma or certificate). Examples would be an online Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Commerce.

Online courses are one-off, single courses usually taken for personal interest, to fulfill a program pre-requisite or upgrade knowledge and skills. Students do not receive any credential for having taken a single course. Example would be an online course in art history or cooking.

How is the quality of online college programs in Canada controlled/ ensured?
Most online programs are delivered by public universities and colleges that have been given authority to grant degrees, diplomas and certificates by their respective provincial government, and which are therefore "recognized." Government recognition is a form of quality assurance.

Depending on the school's focus--whether it is a career college or Christian college, for example-it may be eligible for particular accreditation. For example, career colleges offering online programs may be accredited by the Canadian Education and Training Accreditation Commission (CETAC), and individual programs are eligible for accreditation by the same professional accreditation agencies as campus-based programs. See our article on online program accreditation for more.

What kinds of online credentials can you get in Canada? And how long do they take?
You can take online bachelor's degrees, applied degrees, associate's degrees, diplomas, certificates, master's degrees and even doctoral (PhD) degrees.

How long they take depends on the program and the school offering the program. Some online universities impose a similar time schedule as regular campuses (3 to 4 years) for a bachelor's degree, for example, while others may simply give a maximum time frame (for instance no more than 7 years) to complete the degree. Each school maintains its own online program regulations.

Are international student scholarships and financial aid available for online study in Canada?
Yes. Students taking a program in the online division of a regular university or college qualify for the same kinds of scholarships and financial aid as other students. Fully-online schools may also offer scholarships (although generally smaller amounts), and federal and provincial financial aid is available to students at recognized online schools as well.

Is there a language requirement for online study?
Proficiency in the language of instruction (English or French) is required. Students whose first language is not English may be asked to provide proof of English proficiency. This does not necessarily mean standardized test scores; some online programs will administer their own application questionnaire or language exam.

Are credentials/credits earned online transferable to traditional colleges and universities in Canada? Are online programs recognized internationally?
Within Canada, transfer of online credits is often possible. Elsewhere in the world, it depends. Canadian university credentials-including online programs--are accepted and recognized around the world; however, you should still ask about recognition of Canadian university credits and credentials in your country of origin. Smaller schools like community colleges and career colleges may not have the same level of recognition internationally. It's a good idea to check with universities and potential employers in your home country before you leave (if that's where you plan to work or continue your education) to confirm acceptance of any Canadian university credits or credentials you are thinking of taking. If you are taking a course as part of a program in your home country, you may be required to obtain a Letter of Permission from your home institution indicating it will accept the Canadian course in your program.

Do international students need to get a student visa/study authorization for online courses and programs in Canada?
If you are taking your online program while living in Canada, and will be studying for 6 months or more then yes, you will need a valid study authorization to enroll. You can also take online courses and programs at Canadian schools from overseas, in which case the above does not apply.