Choosing the Right Online School For You
One of the most important steps of online learning is choosing an online university or an online college that is both accredited and a good fit with your personal and professional needs. For this reason, researching online colleges and universities is a must when considering applying to a distance learning program or online degree program.
Researching Online Institutions
The first step in your online education journey is to research the online institutions that interest you, in order to ensure that they are in fact accredited online institutions. Not ensuring that the online school that you attend is a recognized institution could result in your degree not being recognized by either your employer or other schools.
An important part of researching online universities and colleges is by interviewing school counselors, either by phone or in person. Ask them about the structure of the school and its programs. Be sure to ask them the following questions:
- How many years has the school been in service?
- What types of multimedia elements does the distance learning programs or distance learning courses you’re interested in include?
- What is the breadth of the curriculum offered? Are there any courses or programs that you haven’t heard about that might be applicable to your interests and skills? Are you able to develop your own distance learning program?
Also be sure to check out the school’s website, as well as ask for brochures and other materials that can help you assess whether the school is the right distance learning program for you.
You should also ask others for referrals. Talk to friends or family who have graduated from or taken courses through online colleges or universities and ask them about the quality of their experiences. What did they like best about the program? What did they like least? What had they wished they’d known about before pursuing their education online? How do they compare the experience with attending a regular school?
Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Distance Learning Program?
Once you’ve taken the above steps to research your distance learning options, the next step is to ask yourself some important questions in order to decide whether the online school you’re most interested in is indeed the right choice for you:
- Is the school accredited? Make sure you verify that the institution offering your distance learning program is indeed accredited. In order to be officially recognized, a regional board or association must accredit online colleges and universities. If the school isn’t accredited, your degree or certificate might very well be rejected by employers and other academic institutions. If the school is not officially recognized, fight out whether it is currently in the process of being accredited or if it will be so in the near future
- How much is tuition and are there any other hidden costs or fees? Find out upfront about how much the cost of distance learning programs and courses. The cost of online college courses and online university courses should be comparable to those offered by regular universities. In some cases, the tuition offered by online institutions may be slightly lower than regular schools. Also, be sure to find out about whether there is a strong a strong multimedia component to your online program of choice or if you will be required to purchase textbooks, as the latter can be very expensive.
- How qualified is the faculty? The majority of junior college teachers have at least an M.A. in their field of specialization while university professors have a Ph.D. Distance learning teachers should have a comparable level of education.
- What degrees does the school offer? Not all online education institutions offer all types degrees. Ensure that the school you’re applying for has exactly what you want in your degree.
- What is the length of the program? Some distance learning programs allow you to finish a degree in up to one year less than it would take at a regular school
- How many students are there in each class? A lower student-to-teacher ratio generally indicates a higher quality of education.
- How long has the school existed? While being in service for a long time does not automatically guarantee that a school is a reputable institution, experience is always an advantage
- Who can I contact for support? Does the school have "office hours"? Is direct assistance always available? Is there are a number at which you can contact counselors, registrars, faculty? Different online schools have different communication policies so be sure to find out whether the distance learning institution offers direct support or if it expects it students to work independently.
- How many students are currently enrolled in the online college or online university? How many students have graduated from the school? A small student body usually indicates instability while a high graduation rate suggests a high level of stability, satisfaction and success.
- Are students allowed to speed ahead or take the time to work at their own pace? Some online institutions allow students to work at their own pace while others have specific deadlines for assignments as well as mandatory virtual class sessions.