While online degrees used to have quite the stigma attached to them, advances in technology, and the growing influence of technology in our lives, has changed the terrain greatly. Many top schools offer online programs; there are a variety of quality distance learning-only institutions that have proper accreditation, comprehensive programs and quality faculty. People who live far from a school, or require more flexibility in their schedule, can more easily pursue a degree.
If you have been investigating the benefits of attending an online college, you will see there are many. It is highly convenient, but don’t make the mistake of confusing convenience and flexibility with it being ‘easier’ than a traditional on-campus program. In fact, in many ways, it is much more challenging. You want to carefully consider whether this is the right path, and you want to choose your program with care. Here are just a few important considerations.
Choosing the Right School
While the quality of online degree programs has improved drastically, there can be major differences in programs, and it is important you choose wisely. The first thing you want to look for is accreditation by the organizations that matter. The most prestigious is regional accreditation from bodies such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Familiarize yourself with the program to ensure it meets your needs, and will prepare you for whatever endeavour you are planning to accomplish, whether it is getting a promotion or moving into a new line of work. Who are the faculty? What kind of support will you get? Is there career counseling or assistance with job placement?
Do You Have the Discipline and Motivation to Study Independently?
You have to be really honest with yourself here. While you may have set times to watch a video lecture or participate in a chat group, for the most part, going to school online is a very independent process where you are making your own schedule completely. There are no in-class meetings to keep you on track, or making sure you do the reading so you don’t embarrass yourself if the teacher calls on you to share an opinion or answer a question.
People who succeed with online degree programs are very disciplined, and good at motivating themselves. If you are someone who needs prodding from others, or who responds better to having a schedule imposed on you, you may find distance learning very difficult. This mode of learning is highly independent, and not everyone is a good fit for this type of educational experience.
How Will You Fit This into Your Current Life?
If school is not going to be the only thing on your plate, you have to give some serious thought as to how you will make the proper time for your education. This is an important task that deserves the proper attention, not something you try to just fit in amongst the rest of the stuff going on in your life. You will likely need to brush up on your time management skills, do some deliberate scheduling and planning and reprioritize. You may have to ‘sacrifice’ a bit, and you have to be okay with that. You want to adopt a more positive perspective where you focus on what you are gaining from getting this degree, rather than what you are giving up.