Thursday, October 31, 2013

College Degrees Online - 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Enrolling

Considering getting your degree online? You are certainly not alone. Many people from all stages of life are choosing to pursue their education through online degree programs. In fact, the field of online education is growing extremely fast, which is great news for those looking for a way to get the education they need by means of a flexible online programHowever, as with any booming industry, there are those who are trying to take advantage of the situation by offering sub-par, over priced, or even outright fraudulent degree programs. Additionally, even if the degree program is 100% legit, you still need to consider whether or not getting your degree online is the proper course of action for you. These five questions should help guide you on your way to having a pleasant and productive online education experience.Question 1: Is My Online Degree Program Legit? This is the number one scam to watch out for when it comes to getting your education online. So called "degree mills" will claim to offer you a college degree without requiring very much work out of you. They will pitch these degrees using terms like "life experience degree programs," which claim to take your previous experience into account, and offer you a "degree" based on them.As nice as this might sound to some, its all a fraud. You can't get a legit degree without putting some time into accredited coursework, period. Any degree you get from these programs will be nothing but an expensive piece of paper.To understand what these diploma mills are doing, lets talk a bit about the concept of accreditation. To be considered a real degree program, an online course must be officially accredited by one of several accreditation boards. These boards look at the course material, and how its being taught, and determine whether or not it provides sufficient background in the material to warrant being counted as a legitimate degree program. If it doesn't meet these standards, the program isn't accredited, and thus employers and others can have no confidence in the quality of the degree. Since degree mills, in general, offer no actual education, they are not accredited, and therefore are simply scams.The good news is that it is easy to check to see if a program is accredited or not. Simply search the U.S. Department of Education site for your degree program. If its legit, it will be on the list, with details about the accreditation. If its not on the list, run, don't walk away. Make sure you do at least this much homework before enrolling in any online degree program. A degree mill may have promising claims, but it will never, ever be worth it in the end.Question 2: Is My Online Degree Program Well Thought of by Employers?This is a question many have about online degrees. What do employers really think about online education? It seems that the simple answer is that while there is definitely still some skepticism, perceptions are improving all around.Let's talk about the skepticism first. According to this article from the New York Times, most employers still prefer traditional, campus based degree programs to online programs. Given the amount of fraud in the online degree space, as well as the relative newness of online programs in general, this is understandable.However, it appears these negative impressions are changing as time goes on. This report from the Sloan Consortium suggests that those who view online education as just as valuable as face to face education are growing. I expect that as the field of distance education continues to grow, so will positive expectations. This is great news.Question 3: Is My Online College Offering A Quality Program?Not all legit, accredited online schools are created equal. Quality of online programs can vary for many reasons, ranging from quality of the course material, course organization, easy of use of the website, and many more. Unfortunately, there isn't a simple quick and easy resource to turn to to get all this information. However, there are a few things you can investigate to gauge the quality of an online degree program.First of all, be sure to do a search and see if you can turn up some basic articles about a particular school. Try to find real student experiences, and not just sites trying to sell. Forums and such are good places to find genuine student reviews. See if people are getting a good education and good customer service from the college.Also, many online programs offer "tours" of their learning environment. Exploring this is a good idea, because you will be spending a lot of time navigating their interface when participating in the class. If you find the site confusing, you should probably look elsewhere.Additionally, if you're trying to get work with a specific employer, or get skills for a certain job, don't be afraid to call up the company and ask them what programs they recommend. They might have had some good luck with certain programs, and will be able to point you in the right direction.Question 4: Is My Online College Competitively Priced?This is probably one of these easiest points to address, but an important one still. You don't want to pay more than you have to to get your degree, so be sure to compare prices once you've picked out the programs that work for you. Tuition rates should be clearly posted in the college's information packet, and if they are not, I would think twice about enrolling. Take the time to compare prices, and you will be much happier.Question 5: Is My Online Degree Program Relevant to My Goals?This is a very important point. After all, why should you put in all this time and effort if you're not accomplishing what you really want? You need to make sure that your degree program of choice is helping you achieve your goals rather than simply wasting your time and money.One of the best ways of checking the relevancy of a degree program is to request information from the school about the course list. When you look at the course list for a given program, the individual courses should seem relevant and interesting to you. If they aren't, you should consider looking elsewhere.However, if most of the courses sound interesting and relevant to your goals, then by all means consider pressing forward and enrolling. You can achieve a lot through higher education, and doing it online can help make it possible for those on tight schedules.Wrap UpI hope you will take the time to carefully consider each of these questions before enrolling in any sort of online degree program. Though it may seem tedious at some points, having good, solid answers to each of these questions that you can really feel confident about will pay off tremendously when it comes to making the right choice for continuing your education on the Internet. Good luck with your search, and keep working towards those goals!