WHICH ONLINE SCHOOLS ARE RESPECTED?
Accredited Schools When choosing among schools, prospective students should ensure that the schools they’re interested in are accredited. This means that the schools are approved by certain non-profit associations that are dedicated to educational excellence. Whether a school is online or traditional, it will fall into one of six geographical regions, each of which has a long-established accrediting body. These accrediting bodies include: 1) Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools 2) New England Association of Schools and Colleges 3) North Central Association of Colleges and Schools 4) Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities 5) Southern Association of Colleges and Schools 6) Western Association of Schools and Colleges Additionally, the Board of Regents of the State of New York is federally recognized as an accreditor. Some online schools refer to additional accreditors. These are not necessarily legitimate or widely respected. A degree from a school without accreditation from one of the aforementioned associations may not be respected by employers or other schools. Therefore, to avoid wasting time and money, it is very important that a student researches the accreditation status of schools they are considering. Fortunately, this is not difficult. Most schools mention one of the six main groups on their website, and many online school directories only list schools with legitimate accreditation. Additionally, schools can be researched through a database that’s maintained by the U.S. Department of Education.
Other factors to consider
Since many schools are accredited, students might consider other factors to determine how respected a school is. Degrees from certain universities, such as Ivy League schools, tend to automatically earn respect. A few of these schools now award degrees through online education that do not distinguish between online and on-campus learning. That is, the student’s transcript and diploma make no mention that training took place online instead of face-to-face. Some universities are more respected in some disciplines than others, and this is true whether the school is online or traditional. Rankings are published by US News & World Report, Barron’s, and other groups. It may also be helpful to find forums in which people in your field discuss online schools. Also, some professions have formed associations that endorse certain schools. They might approve of certain online programs in particular. You could also consider a school’s acceptance rate; generally, a very high acceptance rate indicates that the school is not very competitive. Completion rates may also provide insight. If many people drop out of the program, then it might not be well-designed or well-delivered. Ask if you may experience an online class session free of charge in order to determine if it meets your expectations. You might also be able to contact graduates of the program. Their testimonials might help you to understand the program in a new way. Online degrees are also more accepted overall in disciplines that are computer-oriented or very conducive to telecommuting. Examples include web design, graphic design, and game design. When choosing a school, you also might consider scheduling a meeting with your employer. Explain that you would like to gain more knowledge and skills, and that online education offers some practical benefits. Your boss might be able to recommend an online program that would facilitate career advancement. In many cases, large employers offer tuition assistance.
WHAT ELSE SHOULD A STUDENT CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A SCHOOL?
When deciding between schools, you might have the latitude to consider the quality of technical support that’s provided. Is support available 24 hours a day? Is it only available through email, or can you communicate with a technician via instant messaging and on the telephone? Second, students at traditional schools enjoy many benefits such as library use and career counseling. Fortunately, regionally accredited schools must offer equivalent services. When deciding with whom to study online, familiarize yourself with the perks that online schools offer. These will include financial aid counseling, career counseling, library access, tutoring and more. Third, what are the professors’ policies concerning feedback? Students progress best when their professors are responsive to questions. In a brick and mortar institution, a professor might teach 300 students per course and have little time to spend in consultation with each individual. On the other hand, such professors might also teach very small seminars and have extensive office hours. The availability of online professors will also vary. Fourth, what are the technology requirements? You may need to invest in a broadband connection before starting your educational program. If you will be accessing courses from more than one computer or through a firewall, then you will need to address these issues with the school’s technical support team. Also, you will want to have a good quality printer. Your texts may be provided online, but you’ll probably find that printed copies are easier to work with.
IS ONLINE LEARNING RIGHT FOR YOU?
The benefits of online learning are obvious. People save time and money by not having to commute, purchase clothing for school, or pay for child care when they attend class. Many courses can be accessed at any time of day from anywhere in the world. Also, the virtual classroom is a great equalizer: students who are too nervous to actively participate in face-to-face class discussions might freely express their ideas in an online forum. Nonetheless, online education is not the best fit for everyone. Consider the following questions.
Do you manage time wisely?
In addition to evaluating an online school itself, you should honestly evaluate yourself as a learner. Online learning requires organization and self-motivation. It requires the same amount of study time as on-campus learning. Certain people might never complete programs that are self-paced, or they might not work up to their potential. However, if you are a self-starter who is highly motivated to earn a degree, then you might be an ideal online student.
Can you learn online?
Online professors, like offline professors, adopt different teaching styles. You therefore might benefit from sampling (for free) a few different professors’ online courses. In doing so, you may experience a variety of online teaching techniques, from audio lectures on downloadable MP3s to live audiovisual web seminars (also known as webinars). The more you like the teacher and his or her teaching methods, the more likely you are to look forward to class.
Do you ask for help when you need it?
In a traditional classroom setting, professors may discern from body language that a student does not understand a concept. A student who is learning online, however, will need to be proactive and contact the teacher when studies aren’t going well.
Would a hybrid program be better?
Some students need the discipline that attending class involves, but their lifestyles are not conducive to frequent campus visits. These students might consider hybrid programs, which are between 30% and 80% online.