Want to earn an accredited degree through your computer? Schools such as Florida State University, UCLA and Boston University are just some of the schools offering students the chance to pursue a degree online.
A study done by the Sloan Consortium found that 29.9 percent of traditional schools offer at least one online degree or distance learning bachelor’s degree.
But don’t think that gaining acceptance to an online degree will be easier than being accepted to a traditional program.
Online degrees are “as difficult to gain admission to and complete as campus-based options,” says Vicky Phillips, professor and founder of GetEducated.com.
If you’re considering a non-traditional degree, there are important factors to consider: accreditation, cost and residency requirements.
Make sure the degree you’re considering is from a college that is regionally, nationally or state accredited. Most school Web sites contain their accreditation information.
If the college claims you can “earn your degree in 30 days,” or that earning your degree is “cheap and easy,” then cross that school off your list.
Just because a degree is offered online doesn’t mean you’ll get a price break over traditional tuition. Ask if your potential online degree program accepts the FAFSA, scholarships or other forms of federal financial aid.
Residency requirements differ from program to program. Some programs offer “low residency” options where students must stay on or near campus for up to two weeks once or twice a year. Other programs require no face-to-face contact and are completed exclusively online.
Some institutions also offer military tuition assistance, so those who have served our country are eligible for preferred tuition rates and a number of other benefits. You might even be able to earn undergraduate credits for the time you spent in the military, including training time, which makes it much easier to earn your degree and create a new life for yourself.
This assistance is available for active duty military and veterans alike because many of these institutions believe that every person who has sacrificed for the country should have access to the education needed to reach their goals.
Types of instruction
Instruction in online courses may be solely Internet-based or may use a mix of technology to deliver the course content. Many online degrees are composed of Web-based classes that offer instruction via e-mail, school chat rooms, discussion boards and more.
Even at a traditional two- or four-year college, you may have the option to take some of your classes online. Should you?
Consider online if…
You’re self-motivated. If you’re able to set your own schedule and stick with it, an online program may work for you. Online students need self-discipline and the ability to ignore the lure of TV, IM chats and cell phones to get through class assignments.
You can work on a degree from anywhere. If you love your city and aren’t ready to venture off to College Town, an online degree will allow you to visit your favorite local spots while you earn your degree.
You can pursue other ventures. Commuting, sitting in class and preparing for class takes time that you could instead spend on a job, internship or a rock star career. With an online degree, you won’t be trekking to class from a dorm room or sitting in traffic waiting to get to school. You’re able to attend class any time, and that freedom may allow you to spend more time on extracurricular activities.
Reconsider online if…
You don’t have a constant Internet source. If you don’t have Internet service in your home, ensure that you’d have open Internet access from somewhere else. Programs that use video and book downloads may not work well with dial-up. Check the program’s computer and Internet requirements to find out if DSL or a high-speed Internet connection is required.
You prefer to interact face-to-face. Attending class online means your actual contact with students and professors is limited. If there is a problem with a grade or you don’t understand the material, you must be comfortable calling or e-mailing your professor to ask.
“As an online student, I have found online classes to be harder than face-to-face classes,” says Sharon Chapman, coordinator of student support services from the Office for Distributed and Distance Learning at Florida State University. “The student doesn’t have the benefit of verbal and visual interaction with the instructor.”