Facts About Online Degrees


If you're thinking of pursuing an online degree, there are some basic facts you should know first. Online colleges are more popular than ever, growing at a rate of almost 10% annually. There is a wide variety of quality programs out there, both from private and public institutions. There is also a diverse range of styles, schedules and methods of delivery.

In fact, there are now thousands of programs to choose from in the United States. The options can seem overwhelming, but if you break down your criteria it becomes easier to know what you're looking for.

Below are some important facts about online degrees you should keep in mind.

Accredited Online Degrees are Legitimate

Online education used to have a stigma as being of lower quality than traditional college. But a lot has changed, and in a very short time. These days, online degrees are widely recognized by other institutions of higher education and almost all major employers.

But it must be from a school that is properly accredited. Other schools and employers will not recognize a degree from a non-accredited school. Even worse, claiming a fraudulent degree on your resume is a crime in most states.

Make sure your school is properly accredited, preferably by a regional association. Some schools are accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council. Degrees from these schools are recognized by more employers, but you may have trouble transferring credits to other colleges and universities.

If you're still in doubt, go online and verify the accrediting association with the U.S. Department of Education. They publish a list of approved accreditation boards.

In 2008, Congress passed the College Opportunity and Affordability Act, which has helped to regulate the industry. If an online college accepts federal funds, it must verify the identity of all the students it has enrolled. This has cut down on the fraud that used to threaten the reputation of the online education industry.

Online Degrees are Effective

You might think that just because a course is delivered online it is easier or somehow less academically rigorous. The truth is, online programs follow the same guidelines and curriculum as traditional ones. Most students end up with comparable learning experiences.

A major study by the U.S. Department of Education in 2009 concluded, “On average, students in online learning conditions performed modestly better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.”

Where online students run into trouble is with personal discipline and motivation. In general, an online course is going to offer you more freedom and less structure. Some students thrive in this environment, while others struggle to stay on top of the workload.

Regardless of what kind of student you are, there is most likely an online program out there that fits your needs.

Online Programs Come in All Shapes and Sizes

The range of options in online education is more diverse than in traditional college. Technology allows for classes to be delivered in an increasingly large number of mediums, including multi-media presentations. The real challenge is finding an online program that complements your strengths as a student.

You can take classes that are more hands-off, allowing you to work at your own pace. For some students, this is the ideal environment. Others quickly discover that they rely on the structure and discipline of an organized class. If this sounds like you, look for an online program that has regular deadlines and a consistent schedule.

Are you a visual learner, meaning you absorb information better through images? If so, look for online programs that cater to this style, using more text- and graphic-based techniques. Maybe you are more of an auditory learner, who can listen to a lecture online or through a subscribed podcast. Either way, there are thousands of good choices for either type of student.

Many people think that online colleges only offer low-level degrees, such as associate's degrees or professional certificates. But these days you can enroll online and earn bachelor's and master's degrees as well as PhD's.

Online education used to be the domain of small, private for-profit schools, but these days everyone is in the game. Most major universities, public and private, now offer extensive online programs that are compatible with their traditional degree programs.

Online Education is More Affordable

One of the driving forces behind the explosion in online education is affordability. Most online schools have lower tuition than comparable colleges and universities. You're still paying good money to be trained by an experienced teacher in a specialized field, but you save in so many other areas.

You can earn your degree from home, eliminating extra housing and transportation costs. You will still need to buy textbooks and, in some cases, specialized software. But these costs should be considerably less than in traditional college. Instead, much of your texts will be delivered online and paper-free.

Financial Aid is Available

Many students mistakenly believe that financial aid is not an option in online education. Depending on the school you attend, you may qualify for student loans or even scholarships. Talk to admissions counselors to get an idea of what your school offers. As always, different schools will offer very different financial aid packages.

Not All Fields of Study Work Online

Some fields of study are more popular in online education, such as business, English and computer information technology. Other professions just don't lend themselves very well to the online environment, such as music, auto mechanics and chemistry. These are fields of study where you simply need interaction that isn't possible online. In the case of music, you need to get in a room with other musicians. With auto mechanics and chemistry, you need to see what's under the hood of the car and the microscope, respectively.

As you search for online programs, keep this in mind. If you're pursuing a more interactive program, your options may be limited or you may have to take hybrid courses, which require some physical attendance in classrooms. In some cases, online programs will simply not be available.

10 Facts About Online Degrees

Online education is a great option for students who prefer to learn at their own pace and from the comfort of their own home. It's also great for students who need flexible scheduling, such as full-time professionals or parents. As a result, online degrees are becoming increasingly popular. Here are ten important facts about online degrees for you to consider :

  • Online Degrees are Accredited
    Just like degree programs at physical universities and colleges, legitimate online programs are accredited. The most universally accepted form of accreditation is regional accreditation. There are six regional accrediting agencies nationwide, which are also responsible for evaluating traditional brick-and-mortar institutions. As such, these organizations are widely known and trusted. Many online schools are nationally accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council instead of a regional accreditor. This is becoming increasingly recognized and acceptable.
  • Employers Accept Online Degrees from Accredited Schools
    Nowadays, an online degree from a regionally accredited school carries the same weight in an employer's eyes as a degree from a traditional university or college.
  • Universities Accept Online Degrees from Accredited Schools
    If your online school is regionally accredited, you'll be able to transfer credits and apply to graduate programs with the same ease as a degree from a physical institution.
  • Online Degrees Provide Quality Education
    According to the U.S. Department of Education, online education is as effective as traditional education. In fact, students taking courses online were in many cases shown to outperform students in traditional classroom settings.
  • Online Programs Cater to All Learning Styles
    Everyone learns differently, and online colleges recognize this. There are a wide range of programs available, each with a different approach to education. Some programs allow students to work at their own pace and with a great deal of independence. Other programs keep students focused with a set schedule and frequent video conferences. Whatever your learning style, there's an online program for you.
  • Degrees of All Levels Are Available Online
    Many reputable online universities offer not only associate's and bachelor's degrees, but master's and doctorate degrees as well.
  • New Legislation Ensures the Authenticity of Online Degrees
    In the past, it was difficult to verify whether or not the student enrolled in the online course was the person actually completing the coursework. The College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2008 changed that. The Act requires online colleges receiving federal funds to verify the student's identity, thereby ensuring the authenticity of online degrees.
  • Public and Private Universities Offer Online Degrees
    Online degrees are provided by many private schools, but they are also becoming increasingly available from public schools as well. This helps in-state students save a lot of money on tuition, making online education more affordable in general.
  • Online Degrees are Eligible for Federal Financial Aid
    Students of online programs can receive the same types of federal financial aid as students of traditional programs, as long as the online school is properly accredited.
  • Using an Online Degree from a "Diploma Mill" Can Get You Into Trouble
    "Diploma Mills" are illegitimate organizations which print out degrees for a fee, and require little or no work from their students in return. Listing a degree from such an institution can cost you your job, and in many states may result in hefty fines or even jail time.
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