More than 118,000 CSU students are currently enrolled in at least one online class, yet misconceptions persist about online education. New to the idea? Here are five factors you might not know.

1. Online courses are of the same high caliber as in-person courses.

A variety of online courses are offered at CSU campuses in undergraduate, master's and doctorate programs—and they are taught by the same faculty members who teach face-to-face courses. 

"Many of our courses are certified through the quality online learning and teaching, called QOLT, and a national program, Quality Matters," says Sheila Thomas, Ed.D., assistant vice chancellor and dean of extended education at the CSU Chancellor's Office. "We have thousands of faculty who have taken these certifications to make sure that what they're offering online is consistent with the quality of their traditional classroom offerings." 

2. Online courses and programs combine "delivery styles" of class material.

Some courses offered as part of CSU programs are online only, meaning the student never goes to a campus. Others require some in-classroom hours, explains Dr. Thomas. Among the degree programs, some enable students to take online courses only, while other programs allow students to take a combination of in-person and online courses.  

3. CSU students can enroll in online classes cross-campus.

"If you can't find [the class you want] at your campus, another campus might be offering it, and you can enroll there," Thomas says. The new CSU Fully Online enrollment program shows online courses at each of the CSU campuses. Every term, undergraduate students can take one free online course through another CSU campus and receive credit at their home campus.

4. Online courses can help you complete your degree sooner.

The obstacles to finishing a college education can be daunting for working students or those with children or other obligations—and online education can be a time- and energy-saver. "You eliminate that stress of trying to get to campus, find parking, get in the classroom on time," explains Thomas. "For many students, this is a very good choice for them to be able to persist to complete their degree."

The variety of online programs are offered at CSU campuses as part of the Graduation Initiative 2025, which seeks to increase graduation rates for all students. "We have 234 online and hybrid degree programs—34 percent of those are at the bachelor's level, 63 percent at the master's level, and 3 percent are at the doctorate level," says Thomas. Online classes are also offered for Extended and Continuing Education programs.

5. Online classes are definitely not passive experiences.

Participation in online discussions and communication with instructors are critical for getting the most out of online education. Students who aren't sure if they're ready for an online class can take the CSU's self-assessment test to find out. 

Success in an online course includes checking out technology requirements before the class begins, having a quiet workspace free of distractions, being well-organized and self-motivated enough to check for assignments and due dates often, according to a 2013 U.S. News & World Report article.


Visit Cal State Online and CSU Fully Online to learn more about your options for taking online courses.