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Many people assume the terms "distance learning" and "distance education" means "on-line" or "computer-based".  While all on-line and computer-based courses are distance learning/education courses, not all distance learning/education courses are on-line or computer-based.

Distance learning courses can be categorized as shown in the following table, taken from The College Blue Book: Distance Learning Programs:

SPECIFIC TIME (synchronous) Two-way interactive video or audio conferences

Traditional on-campus classes

On-line courses (interactive computer conferences, chat rooms, etc.)

Radio broadcasts

TV broadcasts, satellite, cable

ANY TIME (asynchronous)


On-line courses (newsgroups, bulletin boards, web sites, e-mail)

CD ROMs, DVDs, Videotapes


Correspondence courses


Is Distance Learning for You?


Anyone who's considering on-line courses (rather than another type of distance learning) should take the time to read a short article published by the University of Illinois listing the characteristics of successful on-line students.

Even more useful are the many on-line assessment tools available to help you determine if computer-based distance learning is for you.  Here are a few.  You should go through at least one of them before deciding whether to take college courses via distance learning or by sitting in class with other students.

DANTES and Distance Learning


DANTES is the acronym for a DoD organization (the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support) dedicated to helping military personnel and, in many cases, their dependents and civilian employees further their educations through other-than-classroom courses.

DANTES's web site provides an overview of distance learning services provided by DANTES.


DANTES Independent Study Catalog


DANTES has negotiated Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with 45 regionally accredited institutions of higher learning that allow eligible personnel to take more than 6,000 individual courses. Through the MOU, participating schools agree to

  • accept the DANTES Enrollment Form for Service Members (DANTES 1562/31) from all active duty military personnel. Some schools may also require completion of their own forms.

  • provide DANTES with information on fees for tuition, textbook prices, special fees, and essential course information (which is published by DANTES in a program catalog).

  • provide rapid turnaround time for initial ordering and distributing of course materials and for lesson and examination grading.

  • provide refunds according to institutional policy as stated on the Institution Information page.

You can find a huge number of quite inexpensive courses in the DANTES Independent Study Catalog.


DANTES External Degree Catalog


DANTES has negotiated Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with 107 regionally accredited institutions of higher learning with little or no residency requirement for degree completion. Together, these schools offer eligible personnel approximately 100 associate, 225 baccalaureate,100 graduate degree, and about 45 credit-bearing certificate programs. The MOU for the External Degree Program is the same as for the Independent Study Program above.  You can find these degree programs listed in the DANTES External Degree Catalog.


Nationally Accredited Distance Learning Programs


DANTES has compiled a list of courses and programs available from schools accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council and other national accrediting bodies in one volume of Nationally Accredited Distance Learning Program. Many of these programs are technical or vocational in nature.


A college's or university's inclusion in or exclusion from a particular search engine's database in no way implies that the Coast Guard endorses or does not endorse that college or university.  The links below are provided merely as a courtesy.


Directories of Schools and Degrees

(The list below is not definitive, all-inclusive, or in any particular order.  Also, search engine results may not include all schools which meet the criteria you select.)

A college's or university's inclusion in or exclusion from a particular search engine's database in no way implies that the Coast Guard endorses or does not endorse that college or university.  The links below are provided merely as a courtesy.

Self-Paced/Independent Study Programs


The following schools are just a few of many regionally-accredited colleges and universities which have self-paced degree programs.

All of these programs allow you to start a course at any time – there are no fixed deadlines for registering, completing lessons, taking tests, or even finishing a course.  You can register at any time of the year and work at your own pace.  Some schools require you to complete their courses in four months, but many allow up to nine months, and a few give you a year or even two years.  Those with shorter time frames grant extensions.

Needless to say, courses from these programs are especially advantageous if your schedule is unpredictable.

An added benefit of these programs is that in most cases tuition is lower than the maximum tuition assistance will cover.  (The lower the tuition, the more courses per year you can take using tuition assistance.)

Arizona, University of

Colorado (Boulder), University of

Idaho, University of

Indiana University

Kansas, University of

Louisiana State University

Mississippi State University

Missouri, University of *

Nebraska (Lincoln), University of

North Carolina, University of

North Dakota, University of *

Northern Iowa, University of

Oklahoma, University of

Oklahoma State University

Ohio University *

Tennessee (Knoxville), University of

Texas (Austin), University of

Upper Iowa University *

Weber State University

Western Governors University *

Wisconsin (Madison), University of

* Whole degrees may be completed via self-paced/independent study courses


Alternative Knowledge Sources


If you're trying to acquire knowledge about a specific subject, but aren't necessarily looking for college credit or a degree, you can find thousands of courses, lectures, etc. through the following sites.

These are not for-credit courses.  But if you want to brush up on a particular subject or learn something in preparation for a test (e.g., CLEP test, DSST, GRE, etc.) or if you’re home-schooling your children, these are excellent resources.

Specific Colleges & Universities with Open Courses (alphabetical)

Sites Listing Multiple Sources of Open Courses, etc.

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Last Modified 1/12/2016
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