Five Things to Look For in an Online School

Online colleges are gaining in popularity as more students find they don’t have the time to complete degrees at traditional universities. There are several benefits to getting your degree online. You can take classes on your own time, making it possible to fit school into a busy work schedule. You can also complete a degree even if you live in an area with no universities. This flexibility makes it possible for many people to attend college online who could otherwise never get a degree.

Although some colleges offer online curriculum for free or as part of a traditional degree program, true online universities usually operate on a for-profit basis. This means that most schools have open enrollment or very low admissions standards. It also means that they need to be assessed with different criteria than other colleges.

While the promise of getting your education over the Internet is appealing, it’s important to consider the school carefully before enrolling. It will also help prevent you from getting scammed by a less-than-scrupulous program.

Here are a few crucial things to consider when looking at an online university:

Is the School and Degree Program Accredited?

An accredited degree is one that will be recognized as equal to the degree awarded ┬áby any other university. This is necessary to have your degree or certification taken seriously by your future employers, and it’s especially important if you plan to pursue any graduate studies or other advanced degrees. Failure to go to an accredited university will result in you paying a lot of money for a degree that may not be accepted everywhere you want to go. Always research the accreditation status of any online school before enrolling.

Is the Program Entirely Online?

Some universities have offline campuses and require students to enroll and take courses in person in addition to the online offerings. While this is a possibility for some students, it can make it impossible for others to pursue the degree. Before enrolling, be sure you know whether the school offers a degree program that can be achieved completely online. Be aware that just because a university has a campus does not mean that it doesn’t offer purely Internet-based courses; many popular online colleges also have campus studies. What’s important is that you can get the degree entirely online if you wish.

School Reputation

Even if your chosen university is fully accredited, it may not have the best reputation. Online colleges often do not get as much respect from employers as traditional universities. Some public colleges have a degree of prestige that online schools, with their open enrollment, cannot generally achieve. If you know where you plan to work after you graduate, see if you can get a feel for that company’s opinion of various schools before you choose a university. Otherwise, see if you can find some general reviews of the online college to get a feeling of how it’s accepted by the greater public.

How Big are the Classes, and can you get help from professors or tutors?

Try to figure out the general size of the average class. Class sizes that are overly large might be a sign that you won’t get any individualized attention. While some people are able to take self-guided courses with no assistance, many people need to have assistance from professors or tutors from time to time. An overly large class size might also be a sign that the university cares more about enrollment than graduation, which reduces the overall prestige of the university. It’s usually better to choose a college with smaller class sizes.

Does it have up-to-date curricula?

Even if a program is accredited, it may not be offering the same high quality of education as other universities. You need to know whether the course material is up-to-date and high quality. Lectures, quiz materials and textbooks should all be updated frequently to reflect the most current information available. You should be able to get an idea of what course materials are like before enrolling; checking reviews and talking to other students can help you understand this information.

The question of whether to obtain an online degree is a personal one and something you’ll need to decide for yourself. Although these questions can help you learn about the potential of a college you will usually need additional information to make a final decision about any prospective school. Always make sure to speak with school advisors, friends, potential employers, graduates and other sources to gather as much information as you can before enrolling in a particular school.

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