Not all online universities have a good reputation and certainly, not all colleges that offer degrees online are created equal. While earning a degree online is the most convenient option for working adults, parents, and individuals with busy schedules, it’s still important to do your research on a school ahead of time. Here are a few tips to help you assess the quality of an online degree program.
1. Is the school that offers the program accredited?
Verifying accreditation is the first and easiest step you should take when evaluating an online program. First search for your school using the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions here. It’s best if your school is regionally accredited. Once you’ve verified accreditation with the USDE, cross-check the school in the Council for Higher Education Accreditation database here. It never hurts to double-check accreditation using two sources just in case one listing hasn’t been updated recently.
2. Is the online program affiliated with a reputable brick-and-mortar school?
The highest-quality online programs are offered by schools that also offer high-quality traditional programs. For instance, the University of Massachusetts (UMass), Nova Southeastern University and Drexel University are all widely recognized institutions with well-regarded traditional programs, and their online programs are designed to mimic as closely as possible the in-class experience. The idea is to find a school where the programs are just as rigorous online as they are in the classroom.
3. How qualified are the faculty in the online program?
Before enrolling in an online program, request information about the program’s faculty. After all, your experience in a program will often only be as good as the educators you learn from. The majority of your professors should have terminal degrees in their field of study and several years of relevant work experience if you a pursuing a degree in an area such as nursing or business.
4. Read reviews of the college offering the program.
Go online and read unbiased reviews that were written by current and former students of the college and your program of choice. Keep in mind, though, that people are more likely to complain online than to say anything good about any school. What you want to look for in these reviews are patterns. The more students who mention a certain quality about the school, the more likely you will have a similar experience.
5. Do the courses in the program use current lecture materials and videos?
This is another question you need to ask by contacting the schools directly. As with traditional colleges, you don’t want to end up in an online program that uses the same “canned” courses year after year.
6. Is there good student-faculty interaction?
At any school you go to, you’re going to find some professors that are more accessible than others, but in an online environment, accessibility is key for your engagement and success in an online degree program. Find out how faculty communicates with students and how the conversation is facilitated in class through the use of tools like discussion boards, video conferencing, virtual office hours and live chat.
This is a guest post by Lauren Bailey. Lauren is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to blauren99 @gmail.com.