Pursuing a bachelor's or master's degree in cyberspace could be a practical alternative for school-leavers and working adults.
The Jones International University was accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS) in March. It is the first on-line university in the United States to be accredited by a nationally recognised body.
The school provides degree and certificate programmes to students around the world at a lower cost than a traditional university. Glenn Jones, chairman and founder of the university, said the on-line classroom environment provided more flexibility to students who might not be able to attend courses at a 'bricks-and-mortar' college because of geographical or other considerations.
The accreditation was based on a defined set of evaluation criteria, which included on-site reviews and frequent visits to the university's Web site. Apart from reviewing the educational offerings of the institute, the NCACS team also assessed its administration, financial status, admissions and student personnel processes, institutional resources, and relationships with outside communities.
Mr Jones said getting the accreditation from a recognised body had taken a very long time.
'This is still a very new idea and the accreditation could be different from reviewing a conventional institute,' he said.
Students taking a course at the university communicate with the academic teams solely through e-mail. They take part in on-line tutorials by interacting with the academic teams and group members.
The curriculum is set with different time schedules to suit the varying needs of students. They have to finish assignments on-line for assessment.
The cyber university's Web site offers academic advice, library services, financial aid and student activities.
Students can also find research papers, and interactive and multi- media learning packages at the academic resources services corner.
Mr Jones said the idea could be used globally by developing multi- language studying software to cater for students from around the world. However, he said students would need a high-speed and large bandwidth Internet connection to take such courses. 'We put all the teaching materials on-line. There are also audio and video clips to help students understand the topics better. These downloadable computer files are rather large,' he said.
So far, only five students have graduated from the university's master's degree programmes. The university was established in 1995.