Q&A: How Many Students Are in a Typical Online Course?

Answer: The number of enrolled students in online classes can vary, based on factors like these:

  1. The size of the online school
  2. The type of class
  3. The necessity of the class

Some schools may have a large "traditional" or "ground" campus (where students participate in the classroom) and a smaller online population. These schools may offer specific classes only at certain times of the school year. If so, they usually allow a wide range of students per class. For example, the lowest number accepted may be five and the highest could be 25 or 30.

Larger online schools tend to offer some or all classes frequently. These courses in most cases require a specific number of students, possibly ten or more. If fewer students register for the class, it is usually cancelled because of low enrollment and offered at a later date.

Specific courses may be more in demand than others, such as Math, English and required classes for students' majors. Often, these subjects are scheduled at specific times in the year, but sometimes the school makes an exception if several students need the course.

Courses such as "general education" subjects are open to all students regardless of their major or chosen program. Online schools may require students to take a certain amount of general education classes or credits, for example, Critical Thinking, Psychology, Communication and so on. These studies can be helpful for students in many different programs with diverse career goals.

Lastly, some schools allow "independent study." If a student needs one or two particular classes to graduate and they aren't being offered for one or two semesters, some schools permit students to take a class, solo. This is a rare case, not an option for all online institutions.

To recap, each online school is different, and class size could depend on the subject. In any given class, you may have 20 classmates or a handful.

Dr. Beverley BrowningDr. Beverly A. Browning (Dr. Bev) has been a higher education adjunct faculty member for over 25 years. She has taught in the classroom and online for multiple colleges and universities including Spring Arbor College, Baker College of Flint, Mott Community College, and Rio Salado College. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, Spring Arbor College and Mott Community College. She is currently an online instructor for ed2go.com (Cengage Learning). In addition to founding and directing the Grant Writing Training Foundation, Dr. Bev is also Vice President of Grants Professional Services for eCivis, Inc. She is the author over over 37 grant-related publications and a frequent keynote speaker and workshop presenter for national and regional conferences. Dr. Bev is a product of lifelong learning and an advocate for online teaching and learning!