Online Degree Programs are Here to Stay
When it comes to pursuing a degree for the first time or heading back to school after a break, failing to keep an open mind and considering the distance learning alternative is a great way to let a potential golden opportunity go to waste.
Don't believe there's any truth behind this claim?
One look at the number of students who took at least one class online - 5.3 million according to U.S. News and World Report - should help to dispel any misconceptions regarding the growth of the online college experience.
Adding in some deeper analysis of this figure yields even more insight regarding the true impact of distance learning in the higher education landscape. Specifically, Joel Hartman, an administrator at the University of Central Florida and the president of the Online Learning Consortium, reports that this continued growth in online enrollment accounts for three-quarters of all increases on this front.
In other words, taking college courses online isn't just some passing fad; it's a dominate trend that is sure to influence the decisions of incoming students to the collegiate scene for years to come.
The Benefits of Online Degree Programs
As far as the reasons to consider an online degree program go, Tom Snyder of The Huffington Post explains that the benefits are both numerous and enticing. At the top of the list is the amount of flexibility provided by this approach. With more and more students having full-time jobs, as well as familial commitments, being able to take online classes and study at your own pace doesn't just make the process more manageable, it's often an outright necessity to even entertain the notion of stepping into a classroom - online or otherwise.
Outside of giving prospective students a greater range of flexibility in their learning experience, the team from the Open Education Database also points out that the estimated 1.4 million individuals currently enrolled in completely online programs also spend less money obtaining their degrees. Without the likes of commuting costs and expensive physical textbooks cluttering up your education budget, it should come as no surprise that working on your degree from the comfort of your own home can often be easier on your bank account.
In terms of other potential avenues for savings, online colleges and universities also stand on the cutting edge of accepting credits from prior collegiate and professional experience, as well as more innovative channels - namely massive open online courses (MOOCs). From this perspective, paying for the same class twice shouldn't be anything you have to worry about should you commit to a distance learning approach.
Speaking of professional experience, online degree programs serve as the perfect platform for bolstering your standing within a company, developing your career-oriented skill-set, and maintaining your current job responsibilities and duties. In some cases, employers even offer funding and support for members of their organizations to seek out these opportunities, thereby adding even more incentive to step foot into the digital classroom.
Of course, the most important benefit of the online learning experience is that with each passing semester, the amount of programs and courses offered by institutions grows exponentially. This means that taking advantage of all of the aforementioned perks doesn't come at the expense of your learning options and degree pathways. If there's an area of study you're interested in, then there's probably a program out there that fits your needs.
Choosing an Online College
Selecting a college doesn't have to be an overly stressful affair. In fact, Kelsey Sheehy of U.S. News and World Report points out that with a strong understanding of how to sift through potential institutions, coming to a sound conclusion is actually a fairly straightforward process.
First, research the accreditation of the school in question. This "stamp of approval" can tell you a lot about the standards of a degree program or target institution.
After you review a university's accreditation, consider the curriculum and credits offered by this school. Not only does this ensure that you pair your educational aspirations with the right coursework, you'll also be able to start figuring out how many and what kind of credits you can bring with you during the enrollment process.
Reaching out to the support services of prospective colleges can also shed light on which school is right for your needs. From counselors that provide insight into the selection of a degree program and the transfer of credits, to mentors and faculty that offer academic assistance as you prepare for graduation, having a firm understanding of what kind of support services await incoming students is crucial to picking out the right college.
Online Classes vs. Traditional Classes
Despite what others might tell you about the collegiate selection process, making the choice between online and traditional classes isn't always a black and white affair. Both options come with plenty of pros and cons, so gauging the merit of each route can help illuminate the path that fits your needs.
Traditional classes offer the allure of the on-campus college experience and the atmosphere that comes with storied or historic institutions. However, this type of learning experience also entails commuting costs and considerations, as well as a rigid and often inflexible course schedule.
If you'd rather complete your coursework at a time that works for you, then the online college experience is more desirable than its traditional counterpart. By reviewing your professional and personal scheduling limitations, your ability to communicate with classmates and faculty without face-to-face contact, and your preferences regarding the in-class or at-home learning experience, you can make a smart decision on this front.
At the very least, having this information on hand and in front of you as you parse through your options guarantees that once you're ready to reach out to your target online programs, you'll have all the questions you need answered ready and waiting for the upcoming conversations with school representatives and counselors.