Do You Know the Hallmarks of a Quality Online Degree?
Choosing Quality Online Education
As people have become increasingly reliant on the Internet for learning activities of all kinds, the popularity of online education has peaked as well. Students flock to online college programs for a variety of reasons including flexibility, the ability to take classes while keeping a job and the chance to improve your career. The problem, however, is that like many internet-born propositions, it can be hard to tell the legitimate online schools from the scams. Understanding the hallmarks of a quality online learning program can help prospective students differentiate the legitimate degree opportunities from degree mills.
Many fields require applicants to graduate from an accredited program in order for the degrees to count toward job requirements. Regional accreditation is the most widely accepted form of accredited programs, making it worth a student’s time to look for a program that has been regionally accredited in his state. Some employers will also recognize the national accreditation offered by the Distance Education Training Council or another accrediting agency. Students can visit the U.S. Department of Education’s accreditation page in order to find out which accrediting agencies are regionally and nationally recognized by the Department of Education.
Majors and Courses
The fact that a campus-based school offers a distance learning
program doesn’t necessarily mean that their program will provide a quality or enjoyable learning experience for the distance learning student. Many traditional colleges have found the inclusion of online courses to be more difficult or expensive than expected and as a result have allowed the programs to flounder. Students should look carefully at the course catalog for online degree programs to make sure a particular school offers not only the major they want, but also the classes they have expressed interest in. While there are traditional colleges which offer excellent online degree programs, students should also consider schools whose primary focus is distance learning rather than campus-based learning.
Students who have already completed a portion of the degree they wish to pursue online should check with the school’s transfer department to ensure that their completed work will transfer into the new program. Some schools will accept credit hours earned at other institutions, but will apply them as elective hours, meaning the student must still complete the full course load in order to graduate. To make sure their hours will transfer in as completing part of the degree requirements, students should request an official transcript estimate. Some schools will also offer credit for work experience or life learning experiences, but legitimate schools will allow these credits to account for no more than 25% of the total requirements.
Course Delivery Methods
More technology isn’t always better when it comes to online learning. Students should look for a school that allows the technology
to serve the students, rather than vice versa. Class requirements and convenience may vary from school to school as well. Some require students to “meet” in a chat room for class discussions or to watch class videos at a scheduled time, while others allow more flexibility. Students should choose a school and a program that meets their needs either by allowing them the flexibility they need to accommodate other responsibilities or by giving them the structure they need to keep them on track.
Student support can quickly suffer with online colleges as schools set up programs but fail to provide opportunities for students to ask questions or interact with faculty members. Some programs will also be relegated to grad student teachers, saving the more experienced professors for campus classrooms. Online students should never settle for receiving less than the best when it comes to their educational experience. Schools with small faculty to student ratios and that offer several ways for students to get help when they need it can provide a better overall educational experience than big name schools that may not take online education seriously.
The popularity of online education has mushroomed as students have begun to enjoy the benefits of a non-traditional learning environment. Knowing how to choose a quality online program can help students position themselves for an excellent college
experience as well as for lifelong career success.