Online Education; Associates Degrees Online

Online Degrees; A good choice?

As the number of colleges and universities offering online degrees continues to increase, and as more and more people enroll in online degree programs, questions are raised about the value of degrees earned via online education and the acceptance of such degrees as compared to those earned through traditional classroom study.

In fact, it is possible to point to research indicating that students earn equally well in online and in classroom-based instruction, there is research indicating that traditional programs result in better learning outcomes, and there is data which suggests that online learners take more away from their experience than students in traditional campus-based programs.

Thus, it seems likely that broad generalizations about the quality or perceived value of online degree programs will not be useful to people considering them. What might prove more valuable is an analysis of their individual situation, with particular emphasis on their educational and/or vocational goals. Of course, students should always limit their choices to fully accredited institutions, whether they plan to pursue a degree online  or attend a traditional college or university.

In choosing a degree program...any degree is important to be clear about your goals. Are you primarily interested in personal development or do you hope to pursue a new career or move forward in a current one? Is it important to accelerate the rate at which you earn a degree or can you move forward at a more leisurely pace? Do you seek licensure or certification, and if so, what is required and by what agencies or organizations? In addition to institutional accreditation, is professional accreditation an issue? Only after these and related questions are answered can you begin to determine which institutions and degree programs make sense for you.

Convenience is, of course, another important consideration. Many working adults, in particular, have limited time to travel to and from a campus, and it can be difficult, given life's other demands, to be tied to a fixed class schedule. For folks with these challenges, online degree programs are often a clear choice. Online education may also offer more opportunities for applying previously earned credits, including those for life experience, which might in turn make it easier to earn an accelerated degree.

For most people, finances are a major factor in choosing a college or university, online or otherwise. Initially, few online degree programs were able to offer significant need based financial aid or loans, and even fewer offered scholarships. Today, however, many students in distance education program receive financial aid, including loans and scholarships.

Certainly online degree programs offer convenience, and many offer tuition payment plans, tuition rates and financial aid which make them some cases, even cheap. And, it is not hard to find people in many professions who have enhanced their career options by earning online degrees. The tough question to answer is how well online degree programs are accepted by employers. Again, as with one of the questions posed earlier, generalizations may not be instructive.

Perhaps your best bet is to do some informal research. You can call or email people in charge of hiring in the professions and or individual organizations of interest to you and ask them if they differentiate between candidates with classroom-based and online degrees. And, ask the admissions representatives at the colleges you are considering to provide you with a list of the organizations in which they have placed graduates (and the titles of the positions in which they were placed). Of course, if certification or licensure is an issue for you, be certain the program you choose meets all the requirements for the credential you seek.

Finally, when determining whether or not an online degree is a good choice for you, you would be well served to consider your learning style, preferences, academic skills, and your ability to self-motivate. If you have serious concerns, you may want to attempt a single online course or an online educational certificate program before deciding to pursue a full fledged degree program.

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