Science is one of the broadest fields, and seeks to explain the way the world works. Science includes many specializations and courses of study, including physics (the study of the physical world), chemistry (the study of interactions between chemicals), biology (the study of living beings), social science (the study of human behavior in groups), geology (the study of the earth), and medical science (the study of healthcare methods). All of these fields share some common assumptions, however, such as the idea that knowledge can be gained by conducting experiments and collecting data.
The core method in all science fields is commonly called the scientific method, and is used in settings including college science programs and practical research laboratories. Scientists come up with a question to test, as well as a hypothesis regarding how that test will turn out. Results are predicted and then tested to see whether they match that prediction. The results are then analyzed, and scientists determine whether their initial predictions for their core question worked out. These findings are then reported so other scientists can take them into consideration in the future.
There is no single accrediting body for science programs in the United States, but you should consider checking the university at which you take any offline or online science courses for accreditation by a body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. While the lack of centralized accreditation means students at one university often complete different courses from those at another, institutional accreditation can provide assurances that courses meet minimum standards for quality. Online courses can work well for some sciences, such as those that are driven more by theory than laboratory experimentation, but most science degrees will require more lab work than an online science class can provide.
Online courses in science can work out well as introductory classes for fields such as physics, psychology, computer science, and biology, though in most of these cases you will want to move on to a traditional campus for later laboratory work. An online science course can help you learn how to answer questions like:
When considering an online science course, you should look into the quality of your chosen institution and its professors. Do professors at this school typically have a Ph.D. in science? Do students in online courses and those in classroom settings have comparable access to faculty at this school? Does this school have a good reputation for the science you are interested in? Being able to answer these questions can help determine whether the school you choose is a good fit for you.
Below we have compiled a list of online open courseware from top universities in several countries. These are offered for free, and include lecture notes, video lectures, practice exercises, and other teaching tools for science students. These online science course documents do not give you access to top faculty in the sciences to ask questions, but can serve as a good way of feeling out your own interest in science.