SolveYourProblem Article Series: Online Degrees
Is An Online Degree Program For Me?


     How To Choose the Right Online Degree Program

You have the money. You have done your research and avoided the diploma mills like a plague. You are now determined to earn your college degree online and eventually get the job you want and deserve.

But what are some tips for choosing the right online program? The last thing a college graduate wants to hear is that the degree they thought they earned is not that impressive and more or less a waste of money.

There are some online colleges that just barely get by, so to speak, in terms of offering truly valuable training, and then there is the exceptional online program that is specially designed to give you a complete, collegial-level learning experience.

Tips 1 & 2: Know yourself and know your computer. Are you self-disciplined and motivated to work without supervision? There are many distractions in the home and if there is no definite scheduling or time management then a student may never complete an assignment. On the other hand, if a self-motivated person doesn’t know the basics on how to work on a computer, then he or she will have just as much difficulty. In order to take an online course one must be comfortable using a computer, have easy access to their computer or another computer if the first goes down, and know how to navigate through the Internet.

Tips 3 & 4: Know your course and have a plan. Some online colleges offer only textbooks, which can be impersonal and not very illustrative. However, some online schools offer an interactive course, with video lectures, audio recordings, slides and computer software. A student would be wise to consider, first of all, if his or her computer can support the audio and video requirements. If the software requires Internet access, would it work on a dial up connection or only with broadband service? Some online colleges can also arrange a degree of interactivity with instructors and fellow students. If you are planning to pursue a specific career, ask yourself if your future employers will look for personal, hands-on experience. Though some online colleges might provide a mentoring-training option, others will not. Be aware of what you want when choosing the right online program and what your potential employers will want from you.

Tips 5 & 6: Know your instructors and your school. Anyone with a website can offer his services as a “certified” teacher so a serious student would want to verify not only the school and its legitimate accreditation, but also the credentials of the instructors that will be teaching. Instructors should have a name and a profile explaining what he or she teaches and what makes them the right teacher for you. Other things you might look for is a teacher’s experience in online education. Some local classroom teachers are merely given a computer with Internet access and sold as a qualified online instructor. The school itself should be accredited, and in association with either the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) or Council for Higher Education Accreditations (CHEA). Any other claimed accreditation is either phony or not up to the national standard. Furthermore, instructors should be supportive and customer service should be readily available.

Tips 7 & 8: Know the price, the price of competing schools, and the graduation schedule. While legitimate online schools are always expensive, many low-interest financing plans are available. Some employers offer tuition reimbursements, and some schools offer special terms for lower income individuals. If you find a school that has a reasonable price, keep looking. Though you might still be choosing the first school, it never hurts to shop around and to see what competitors can offer. The more research you do the more confident you will be in reaching a decision. Online schools should offer publicly, or by request, an outline of the curriculum and timeline for graduation. A good time frame for earning your degree on a part time schedule is 2-3 years. Ask questions if the timeframe is an unusually long or short period of time. Finally, learn about the graduation process itself. Are there a large number of enrollments with plenty of satisfied graduates willing to make a statement? (Some schools will even give references) How many students have successfully completed the program? Do a Google search and see if there are any disgruntled students with a legitimate complaint.

While choosing the right online program can involve an exhaustive search, since you will be spending thousands of dollars and investing 2-3 years of your life, it is well worth the effort.

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