Careers & Education

Getting an online degree

By John Anderson
Info Guru,

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The online market in higher education is growing at a fantastic rate
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Many working adults are going back to college and trying to balance education with work and family life.

Though the cost is usually about the same as for an on campus education, there are many advantages to getting an online line degree, including:
  • No geographical constraints
  • No residency requirements
  • You are not restricted to rigid class schedules
  • You can pursue your undergraduate or graduate degrees while holding a full-time job, traveling or serving in the military
  • You can work around family obligations and schedules
However, many experts advise those looking for credible college credits on online to be cautious. In many fields, headhunters for top-tier companies are only just beginning to take online degrees seriously. Some employers may not recognize distance degrees unless the school is a well-known college or university. The quality of online degree programs vary dramatically. Careful research on your part is needed before you sign up for an online degree. Also, make sure you read up on the different online universities.

Do your homework!

Ask questions A simple search for online degree programs will return thousands of results. Each school, college, and career-training center is different from another. The teachers, professors, staff, and educational resources will vary from one institution to another. Take the time to research the institutions that offer the type of degree you want. Ask questions. Read student comments. Talk to your employer about the choices if you'll be using the degree to further your career within your company.

If it sounds too good to be true… If a degree online is offered for considerably less than a traditional college degree, do more research. It may be a diploma mill, selling virtually useless "degrees" rather than offering a legitimate distance learning opportunity.

Look at the accreditation If you're considering getting an online degree from an established college or university, make sure that the accreditation covers the online version, not just in the traditional classroom version of the program. Even for well-known schools, the value of the distance degree can be different.

At some institutions, online courses are completely distinct from the campus programs and are taught by outside lecturers and part-time adjuncts. The regular faculty has minimal involvement, and the quality may not be the same.

Check out the source of the accreditation, too. Unfortunately, many online and even some local schools are accredited by agencies they have created themselves. There is no national regulating agency for accreditation, so it's quite legal, but may be misleading for consumers.

How does the program compare to an on campus program? Today most quality institutions publish online syllabuses of their courses. If they don't, you should be suspicious. If what's offered online is the same as what's offered on campus - from faculty to syllabus - you can trust that the online program is of the same quality.

Is online learning right for you?

In order to be successful with an online program, you must have a high level of self-motivation. You should be able to work independently and be comfortable with deadlines.

Since many online courses consist primarily of reading and writing assignments instead of traditional lectures, it is essential that students enrolling in these programs have proficient reading comprehension and English fluency.

If you learn better with a lecture style, look for a program that offers teleconferencing and video lectures.

Getting a degree online can be a wonderful way to advance you career, or simply master a new field of study when time or distance keeps you from taking on campus courses.

With a little research, you can find the right degree program for your needs. A college degree may be as close as your computer screen.

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