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Online is the latest buzzword in continuing education, and schools are making creative use of new technology, but how do virtual classrooms compare to the real-world thing?

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Fashion Institute of Technology School of Continuing and Professional Studies (FIT-SCPS)

FIT is filled with teachers who are also industry insiders, and classes reflect the competitive, sped-up pace of the business. "We created online courses with that same caliber, creativity and rigor," says Lisa Braverman, dean of FIT's School of Continuing and Professional Studies. "So you don't have to be here physically to be on the inside." More than 100 online course offerings focus on everything but hands-on activities. Two programs can be completed entirely online: the year-long fashion-merchandising management degree and the 136-hour image-consulting noncredit certificate program. Both offer classes to continuing-ed students. fitnyc.edu

Three fall classes to try

The big-picture Intro to the Fashion Industry is popular with both professionals who need a crash course for a new position, and students wondering if fashion is for them. Given the rag trade's global scope, it's not surprising students log on from all over the world. Aug 29--Dec 21.

Multimedia Computing for Advertising and Marketing Communications is a rare instance of a hands-on course that has to be online to work. Students build all the skills they'll need from presentations and Internet research to print ads. Aug 29--Dec 21.

Part of the image-consulting program, "Expert Fashion Trend Online Research for Line Planning" is taught by manufacturing consultant Bernard Kahn. You'll navigate an ocean of images and articles and pinpoint the trends without leaving your desk—even building online mood boards. But you don't have to feel guilty about taking shopping breaks: In this class, keeping up with retail is homework. Nov 7--Dec 2 (six sessions).

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