It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that not all online educations are created equal. The certificate you’ll receive care of Sally Struther’s ICS is a such a far cry from your Online Degree from Harvard that it feels wrong to mention them in the same sentence–yet, they are both presented as “viable” training options that are coveted by employers. How can a newcomer to the world of eLearning spot the Good amongst the Bad and the Ugly? It’s not as difficult as you may think. Even the untrained eye can learn to distinguish a valuable degree from a piece of useless paper if you know what to look for.
Don’t give an online education the thumbs up until you do your research.
Know Your Motivation
You, first, need to begin by figuring out exactly what you are hoping to get out of your educational pursuits. Are you simply looking to brush up on a few skills, master a completely new competency, or are you hoping to come away with a valuable degree? It is important to determine your motivation as it will better enable you to decide what type of training is best for you.
The MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) may work for someone who is simply hoping to polish an existing skill, but is likely less conducive to pursuing a lengthy qualification. As “The Real Value of Online Education” states, that while a mere 5 percent of MOOC enrollees complete their courses and receive their certificate, these offerings do meet the educational goals of millions, including enabling them to sample materials, view a few lectures, connect with peers, and complete a couple of assignments. After all, according to a post-course survey conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, 80 percent of MOOC students said that their course had met their primary objectives. It is, therefore, necessary to pinpoint your objectives.
If you are hoping to acquire a degree,however, you may wish to pursue an online education from an institution that has already established itself in the traditional realm of higher learning.
Know Your Institution
- Accreditation. In a perfect world, you would be able to put your trust in advertising. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Degree mills are everywhere. And they often wear convincing disguises, adeptly portraying themselves as reputable. In fact, “How to Choose the Best Online School” purports that some “establish their own accreditation organizations in order to advertise that they are ‘accredited.'” “How to Choose an Employment-Friendly Online College” takes things a step further warning that, in some states it is illegal to list a degree that you have received from a diploma mill when applying for a job. Not only will a worthless degree prove a waste of funds and effort, but it can also land you in an abyss of hot water. Not sure how to tell the good guys from the bad? The US Department of Education has compiled a list of accredited schools that you can check out.
- Talk to Admissions. If an educational institution is willing to take your money, they need to be equally keen to answer your questions. Be sure to learn about your instructor’s professional background, how available they will be for contact, what forms this contact will take, what technologies are needed for the course and what type of tech support is available, if you will be able to chat with classmates, and how large the classes will be. According to “7 Tips for Succeeding in Your Online Education Program,” online classes usually involve e-mail, chat, and an internal messaging system to make up for the lack of face-to-face interaction. It is important that you ensure that any program you are considering will incorporate these important features. Some institutions even offer a toll-free number for contacting your instructor, personally.
- What Will Your Diploma Say? The last thing your future employers want to see is a degree or diploma that says “Distance Program” on it. A school worth attending will not differentiate between their in-class and online students or the education that either group is receiving. Ensure that you will earn a piece of paper that is identical to the one that traditional learners will walk away with.
Don’t let the words “Online Education” scare you. There are a plethora of very respectable institutions that offer e-Learning, enabling you to earn a coveted degree without moving across the country. If you do your homework and make your choice carefully, you can come away with a wealth of new knowledge and the most valuable piece of paper you’ve ever put your hands on.
Do you have an online degree that led to an awesome career? We’d love to hear your story.