According to a survey conducted by Excelsior College and Zogby International, 83% of executives consider online degrees to be as credible as traditional campus-based degrees. The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) also weighed in confirming that the views of employers regarding online degrees and schools have improved over the past few years. This is despite the presence of diploma mills and unaccredited schools and programs. It is therefore important for prospective students to conduct a thorough investigation before enrolling in an online degree and school.

To get a better understanding of how distance education programs work, let’s start from the top.

Online Schools

Online Schools

Even though distance education has been around for more than a century, it was only after the introduction of internet that this medium found a wider audience. From GI’s to stay at home parents or employed professionals looking to improve their prospects, distance education has proven to be a convenient yet practical solution for many. To realize how preferred online education has become today, here are a couple of facts to consider.

  • Brown, Cornell, Yale, Dartmouth, Harvard and Princeton are just some of the Ivy league schools who’ve launched their own distance learning programs
  • Around 30% of students enrolled in online schools are 30 years of age or above
  • 27% of the students are pursuing full-time employment. While 17% are employed part-time

If you are interested in distance learning programs, the first thing you must consider is enrollment in a credible educational institute.  The following factors must play an important role into selecting one online school over the other.

Accreditation – First and foremost is the accreditation of the school and program. Accreditation basically confirms that the school follows certain academic standards. There are accrediting bodies who evaluate schools periodically to make sure all the required standards are being met. In this case the Council for Higher Education Accreditation would be a safe bet. Also the Accrediting Council for Distance Education is a private body that accredits online schools all over the world.

Student Services – All prospective students must check before enrollment if the school provides ample support and services. In case of online schools, the criteria would be a little different than campus-based schools. Students must confirm the student teacher ratio, the qualification and experience of the faculty, how frequent is the interaction between the student and teacher and how effective are the career placement services for a particular field.

Student Body – The main purpose behind distance learning education is to study without going to campus. However, interaction with other students in this case would be through forums and social media. Before enrollment, getting a sense of what kind of a student body the school has will help to determine whether the school and their future career are in sync.

 Facilities – Students must also check what type of facilities the school provides. For instance, if enrolling in a criminal justice or a legal degree, students must check if the research and reference materials are available online for free and not in a library for a fee. Also what modes of communication are being used for lessons by the faculty and how frequent it is?

Tuition Fee – There is a general understanding that online schools and degrees are relatively cheaper than traditional campus-based schools. This perception may not be true all the time.  Students must keep a close eye on their tuition fee and make sure charges such as ‘activities fee’ do not get added. If for some reason they show up on their tuition fee bill, students should not be shy to question the school.

The above mentioned are some of the factors that go into the making of a top online school. In addition, a major chunk of the responsibility lies with the students to complete their education. The completion rates of online programs hover around 15% to 20% according to the US News & World Report. There are a number of reasons for such low numbers and one of the biggest is the lack of motivation and disorganization of students.

They must do the following

If students are thinking about enrolling in online degrees, they must do the following:

  • Be motivated and self disciplined
  • Have unlimited access to computer and internet
  • Commit at least 4 – 15 hours to a course per week
  • Willing to learn and be social with other online students
  • Have excellent time management skills
  • Not be shy. If the student doesn’t understand something, they need to let their instructor know

Completion of an online program is as much the school’s responsibility as it is the student’s. It is the effort from both sides that ultimately leads to higher online completion rates. Before enrollment, prospective students are recommended to do as much research as possible and be prepared to commit to the program wholeheartedly.

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