1. Is online education right for me?
Online education requires more discipline than traditional college courses. Because students do not meet in person at a set time, there is a need for online students to schedule their own time for study and coursework. Successful online learners will be self-starters who can incorporate their studies into an existing schedule.
2. Will I miss out on the college experience?
Many students choose to pursue online education because they cannot attend classes on campus because of work or family schedules. While this does provide the opportunity for high quality education for those who would not otherwise be able to purse their studies, other online students long for a traditional college experience.
You should consider what you want to get out of your educational experience. Are the friendships and networking that occur on campus important to you? If so, you may wish to seek out night classes or other flexible on-campus options. Some online programs attempt to simulate these interactions using online message boards that are available for everything from study groups to emotional support. As with every other aspect of online education, you will need to evaluate if the virtual environment is right for you.
3. What subjects can I reasonably study online? Are there any subjects that I cannot study online?
In the past, the largest obstacle for online students in any field of study was the asynchronous nature of discussion. Because all students in the class were not available online at the same time, the classroom discussion and dialogue that lead to higher level thinking required active participation through discussion boards and email correspondence over the course of several days. This can be rewarding considering students and instructors alike have time to consider their input into discussions, which can lead to a more meaningful dialogue. However, for some students there is a need for discussion and feedback to be in real time. In recent years, technological advances have allowed online courses to incorporate asynchronous and synchronous elements.
Synchronous online classes allow students and instructors to be online at the same time. All Lectures, discussions, and presentations occur at a scheduled times. In order to participate in these activities, everyone must be online at the ordained time. This may be a concern for those seeking out online education because of a busy or unpredictable work schedule.
Asynchronous classes allow students to participate in course activities whenever they choose. Materials, lectures, tests, and assignments are provided by instructors beforehand and can be accessed by students at any time. Students are often given a time frame during which they need to connect at least once or twice.
4. Is online education effective?
If you feel comfortable flying solo—and many students are more than prepared to do so—an online degree program may be right for you. If this is your first attempt at managing your educational affairs without the assistance of parents or teachers, make sure you are up to the challenge, that you are using all the support services available to you, and that you have somebody in your corner, be it a family member or a professional tutor, to help you through the early stages of transition and hold you accountable. Your performance at an online college is determined in large part by the way that you have historically approached education.
As an editorial from the New York Times (2013) points out, your performance at an online college is determined in large part by the way that you have historically approached education. The editorial observes that “courses delivered solely online may be fine for highly skilled, highly motivated people, but they are inappropriate for struggling students who make up a significant portion of college enrollment and who need close contact with instructors to succeed.”
It is important that you, as the college applicant, know into exactly which of these categories you fall. For some enrollees, compatibility will require the adoption of improved study habits, better schedule management, and a stronger work ethic. Of course, the positive offshoot is that if you can successfully make this transition, you will also be gaining absolutely essential life skills. These skills won’t just help you to succeed in your online education; they will make you more valuable to prospective employers.
That said, high rates of non-completion are rampant in online education and suggest that one must be realistic about one’s abilities before deciding to go this route.
5. Can I blend online courses with on-campus courses?
Increasingly, students are experiencing higher education through a blended course of study that includes some combination of online learning and physical class time. This can provide students the opportunity to take a course that they previously were not able to take because of a scheduling conflict. Additionally, some students who commute can reduce the number of trips to campus by blending on-campus and online courses. Some science courses may offer the lecture portion of a course online while requiring students to attend a laboratory component in person.
6. Will I be able to continue to work full-time while earning an online degree?
The allure of online education, for many, lies in the fact that classes can be taken anytime and anywhere. Many students think that because online courses are so flexible that they can incorporate a college education into a life that already includes a full-time job and a family. They are correct, but should be careful.
While a great number of students have successfully completed degrees while working a full-time job, it is important to consider all the obligations on your time before beginning a program of study. Online courses require as much, if not more, study time as traditional college classes.
7. Are online degrees accredited?
Yes. There are several types of accreditation which may be given to a college or university. The gold standard is regional accreditation. If an institution is regionally accredited, the online courses and degrees offered by that school are accredited by the same organization.
According to the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), regional accreditation “is a self-regulatory process based on rigorous standards.”Accordingly, academic institutions receive accreditation based on internal evaluations conducted by colleges and universities and in accordance with such rigorous standards.
Once self-review is complete, accrediting commissions call for a peer review of the applying university or college. Following these steps, a commission within the agency determines an institution’s accreditation status. This process should also conclude with a concrete plan of action for subsequent review of accreditation status in the event that consequential changes take place in the way the institution operates.
Schools not awarded accreditation status at the end of this process often receive counsel and support from the accrediting agency so that they can make the changes and improvements needed to merit accreditation. For instance, the accrediting agency may identify lapses in quality or consistency of academic programs, and set out a course of action to redress them before the school can reapply for accreditation. Institutions with accreditation may lose this recognition due to a decline in quality or a problematic change in operations.
8. How do I know if an online school is legitimate?
Unfortunately, not all online colleges have your best interest in mind. As with any new technology and industry, online education has proliferated over the past decade. There is no shortage of for-profit institutions that claim to offer high quality online education that are little more than scams that prey on those wishing to obtain a college degree. It is important to research any institution in which you are considering enrolling.
So, how do you know if a school is legitimate? Regional accrediting agencies regulate and evaluate higher education in order to make this determination easier for prospective students. Accreditation is the educational stamp of approval that guarantees your selected academic institution has attained certain standards of operational, procedural, financial, and academic practice.Regional accreditation is the gold standard!
9. What are the best online degrees?
The best online degrees are going to be those offered by affordable schools which help you to further your education and accomplish your goals. That being said, some online degrees are better received by graduate schools and employers than others. We have highlighted The 25 Best Online Degrees which tend to fall into one of the five following categories: Business, Computers and Information Technology, Healthcare, Science and Engineering, and Social Science and Criminal Justice.
10. Are online degrees as good as on-campus degrees?
When considering an online college and an online degree, the reputation of the school and specific program is of great importance. Schools which are renowned for a given program of study will offer degrees which are useful to students whether they earn their credentials in person or through distance education.
However, the prestige of the school is not the only consideration when weighing the value of a degree. In many cases, the skills you gain during your studies will eclipse the degree that you earn. If this is true for you, then you need to seek an online college with a positive track record in its quality of instruction. Consider conducting some research on the employment rate for those who have previously graduated from a given online college program. Evidence that graduates are enjoying gainful employment in their chosen field of study is usually a good indicator of an online college’s relative quality.
. What Do Employers Really Think About Online Degrees?
The perceived dividing line between these two modes of education is becoming increasingly blurred to prospective employers. As online education continues its expansion into traditional institutions of higher learning and becomes a necessary part of the course catalogue for major colleges and universities, employers are becoming less apt to scrutinize the medium through which your degree was earned, though perhaps increasingly likely to place greater stock in the reputation of the college or university from which you earned it.
Some employers may even place a higher premium on prospective employees who have demonstrated the ability to manage their own education, to work well with others from a distance, and to operate on a flexible and non-traditional schedule. Indeed, the same skills that one might exercise to successfully complete an online education are highly adaptable to a wide array of 21st century jobs.
Still, for all of these gains, there are employers who may view online education as subject to too great a variance in quality. There are employers who, if pressed to choose between two worthy candidates, will instinctively choose one with a brick-and-mortar education over one with an online degree. Some employers are just plain old-fashioned. This underscores the recommendation to exercise discretion when applying for a job. There is never a reason to specify on your résumé whether you earned your degree online or in a traditional classroom setting.