The rapid growth of interest in distance learning via computer, also called e-learning, has brought a number of questions to the forefront.
Following are the answers to ten common questions about online degrees:
- What is an online degree? An online degree is a college degree that is earned by distance learning. Generally registration, assignments, tests and communication with teachers and fellow students takes place via computer. Additional resources – like bookstores and libraries – are also available online.
- Why would someone choose an online degree over a traditional degree? Online education appeals primarily to adult learners who already have job and/or family responsibilities. An online degree program allows students the flexibility to study on their own schedule, without cutting work hours or taking time from the family. Others who find an online degree to be preferable include active-duty military personnel, students who are physically unable to attend on-campus classes, those who live far from a college campus, and those who travel often.
- What is the difference between an accredited online degree and an unaccredited online degree? Accreditation is a process by which colleges and universities are held to a high academic standard of quality by meeting a number of rigorous requirements. When a college has passed accreditation, it joins the ranks of other institutions that have met the same high standards. An unaccredited college is one that has not passed the accreditation process; though some in this category may later become accredited schools.
- Are the same educational standards applied to online degrees and traditional college degrees? The major accrediting bodies in the U.S. require both online schools and traditional colleges to meet the same high standards in order to receive accreditation. Whether an accredited college degree is an online degree or an on-campus degree, both are considered to be of high quality, as far as the requirements that have been met by the graduate.
- Are you eligible for federal financial aid if you enroll in an online school? If the online college is accredited and meets the federal guidelines, it should be eligible for the same types of federal financial aid — grants, loans, work study — as the accredited traditional colleges.
- How can I find a reputable online school or online degree program? Online degree programs may be found in both traditional or online schools. There are a number of excellent online directories, like DirectoryofSchools.com, that maintain huge lists of accredited colleges and universities, including what types of online degrees are offered by each school. The Department of Education also maintains a database of accredited U.S. colleges and universities.
- What is a diploma mill? Diploma mills are businesses that sell authentic-looking college diplomas for a fee. They are not colleges; though they usually market themselves as colleges or universities. And they often choose business names that sound like legitimate schools; but they require little or no college level work. The use of their fake college degrees to obtain work or job promotions is illegal in some states; and employers have fired or demoted those who are discovered to have purchased, rather than earned, their college degrees.
- How can I avoid mistaking a diploma mill for a reputable online school? There are a number of red flags that may indicate that a supposed school is really a diploma mill. For example, they offer a college degree for a set fee, rather than by the number of units taken. There is no school term, like a semester or quarter. The payment for the diploma offers the option to pick your own grade point average. You can purchase your bachelor’s and master’s at the same time (for an additional fee, of course). There is no physical address, just a post office box. But another way to double-check an online school is to check with the Department of Education to see if it is on their approved list. Other places to check out the school include the Distance Education and Training Council and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
- How do employers feel about online degrees? According to a recent survey, employers are warming to online degrees. But also, the University of Phoenix and other accredited online schools are often recommended by employers to their employees as flexible avenues for increasing job skills and earning college degrees.
- What is the best way to choose an online degree program? Choosing an online education program should be based upon many of the same factors that would be used with a traditional school — accreditation or vocational stamp of quality, area of career interest, faculty credentials and reputation, tuition cost, availability of financial aid, job placement support, ease of obtaining necessary classes, etc.
As education technology continues to contribute software that enhances the delivery of teaching materials, the growth of online learning is poised for explosive growth.
So stay tuned for more questions and answers down the road!
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