How To Choose An Online University Program
Trying to choose whether a community college, a 4 year university or an online university will be best for you can be confusing and overwhelming, but as online universities enrollment continues to increase, this is becoming a reasonable option. Due to the need for people to work and go to school at the same time, as well as many people going back to school after having children, online universities are allowing more people to obtain a college degree from their homes than at any other time in history. The Instructional Technology Council (ITC), which represents nearly 400 institutions that offer distance education courses in the United States, Canada and around the world, surveys its members each year about online learning. According to the research findings of ITC, distance education enrollments grew by 6.52 percent from fall 2011 to fall 2012.
If you are considering an online university program, it is important to determine which program is best for you. There are many universities to choose from, and the options continue to grow. While there is the ability to tour a traditional campus, the same is not true for online universities. There are some online universities connected to a traditional university, while others are strictly virtual entities. Here are some tips on how to choose an online university program that would best meet your goals and needs.
This is extremely important. The online university or online school you are choosing must be accredited. This is important especially if you are looking for financial assistance, internships, post degree licenses and even employment. An accredited program also means that educational credits are more likely to transfer to other universities. Accreditation of a school means the program or university meets or exceeds necessary academic standards, and if you want to know if the university or online program is accredited, most colleges have this noted on their website. If you can not readily find this information on the website, make sure to ask the intake counselor. You can also check with the United States Department of Education. If an institution is not accreditted, RUN the other way, and never look back.
Loans and Financial Assistance
Another thing to consider is cost. Does the online university offer scholarships, grants or loans? Is there any payment assistance offered at the school? Not all online universities are equipped to manage loans or grants, and many grants and scholarships do not even apply to online programs or there may be limitations to the schools the grants will cover. Make sure you understand any limitations or restrictions in regards to tuition grants or loans a they apply to online programs. Also understand the requirements and expectations if there is a loan or grant option.
Your Goals vs. School Goals
Many Online universities offer bachelors, masters and even Phd level degrees, so it is important to determine which degree you are seeking, including your ambitions to seek advanced degrees - Prepare yourself for the path that you want to take by enrolling in the correct coursework and completing the right pre-requisites, especially if you plan to go to graduate school. You will also want to research what the options are in each degree. For example, in human services there might be options or counseling, social work, human services, etc. In addition to determining if the online university offers the degree and level you are seeking, it is also important to know how they manage internships or thesis options. Since the online university may not be affiliated with your state, it is wise to see if they have available options in your area, as well as options that are of interest to you. If you live 2 hours from the nearest internship site, it might not be a good match for you.
Are there scheduled days and times for the classes? Do you have to be online with the class? What are some of the past assignments or group projects that they have required? Some online classes do not require participation in a virtual class, but rather have assignment due dates and the rest is up to the student. If you find yourself lacking in organization or time management, it may be difficult for you to manage this type of class.
Knowing the faculty at the online university can be helpful, and the website should have a faculty tab where you can learn about the professor’s background, experience and specifically their online teaching experience. Teaching online is very different than a face to face classroom. This does not mean that someone who does not have online teaching experience is not competent, but it may mean that there may additional problems with the class.
- Kim B.
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