This article does not address online-only universities. Its subject matter relates to the online classes which most 4-year universities have started offering in addition to normal classes.
Online classes generally cost a bit more per credit hour than you would expect. Community colleges will be cheaper, but expect to only use online classes as a supplement to your regular coursework unless you have a big piggy bank
Outside of e-mail, there is little to no actual student-professor interaction. If you live close enough to campus, I strongly advise that you try and meet with your professor at least twice during the semester during office hours. Don’t just slip through the semester in obscurity. When it comes down to it, professors are humans. The students they know will always have the advantage.
You are your own teacher. You can spam your professor with e-mails, but an online class is essentially an independent study course. If you have not already, read this article on some new ways to improve study skills.
Responsibility is a must. If you are not yet at the point where you can set a study schedule and stick with it, you will be in trouble.
Since all of your work will be done on the computer, it is sometimes hard to avoid distractions. My suggestion is to make an alternate user account that does not have any non-educational programs installed. You can call it whatever you want, just make sure that your brain knows that when you log onto this username it is time to get down to business.
A friend of mine says his online class experience was often “out of sight, out of mind.” Without the requirement to go to class, many students simply forget to do assignments.
Some colleges require you to come on-campus to sit for final exams. If you live far away from campus, this should be a consideration.
I could sit here and make this a huge, robust article, but I feel it is not necessary. If you have enough money and are an independent learner, online classes will be perfect for you.
Please send in your experiences with online classes. I imagine they vary greatly between colleges, and I would appreciate your insight.