Online degree programs are becoming more popular today, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic forced many students to get their degrees from home. However, online degree programs have only been highlighted by the pandemic as they have become increasingly popular for many years.
Studying online can be very beneficial for any student. Still, it is a perfect choice for students who need additional flexibility to work full-time, run a business or raise a family while getting their degree. Studying online can also be cheaper overall; some degree programs have lower tuition fees, and with the opportunity to fit your degree around other commitments like work, students can avoid losing out on earnings while getting a qualification to improve their career.
While online degree programs were met with skepticism when they first appeared on the scene almost a decade ago, these days, they are just as credible and valuable as a degree program that you would study in a traditional campus setting. Whether you decide to get your degree in person or online doesn’t matter when it comes to the viability and quality of the qualification you receive and the opportunities it might help you in your career.
However, it’s essential to remember that when searching for the ideal online degree, some programs and colleges might not be as reputable as they initially seem. Sadly, the boom in online learning has also led to several scams with fake colleges and fake degrees that might take your money without having anything to offer you in return. So, if you are considering getting an online degree, knowing what you are looking for and how to protect yourself from online learning scams is essential. There are a few things to look out for to help you be sure you are applying for a reasonable online degree from a reputable institution.
You can do several things to confirm the credibility of an online school and program. While many online degrees today are offered by schools with physical campuses, which can make them easy to verify, many online-only schools are entirely virtual. A quick Google search is one of the easiest ways to ensure that a college is credible and exists before you decide whether or not to go ahead with applying for a program. Even an online school should still appear somewhere in national rankings lists, and you may be able to find published papers from researchers who work or study at the college.
Access to Resources
Another thing to consider when choosing an excellent online degree course for you is the access that students are given to the resources available from the college. Suppose you’re looking at an online program from a college that appears to have a physical campus. In that case, it might be worth being wary if online students do not have the same access to resources as students who attend on-site classes. A good online program will ensure that distance learning students have the same access to resources as campus-based students, including online library access and any available student services, including career advisors, student mental health support, and appointments with professors and tutors.
When you are studying for a degree program that is designed to get you into a specific career, such as this master’s in electrical and computer engineering, then it’s essential to ensure that the program you are considering is accredited. Suppose you’re not studying for an accredited degree program. In that case, you might end up unable to use your degree for the intended purpose since many employers will only be prepared to hire graduates of accredited programs and schools. You can check whether or not a program is accredited by going to the website of the relevant accrediting bodies and running a search for the school or program you are interested in. You will usually also be able to find more information about accreditation on the school or program website.
When studying for a degree program online, many people do not realize that despite learning from home without campus classes, distance learning can be just as interactive and social as getting a degree on campus. Depending on the type of degree that you want to get and what your future goals for your career are, you might find networking to be more or less critical.
Regardless of your career goals or the degree option that you are considering, there are lots of benefits to building your professional network while studying. Because of this, learning more about the networking opportunities you can take advantage of while you are an online student is essential. Although you won’t have the same opportunity to strike up conversations as quickly with the other people in your class compared to studying on-campus, an excellent online program should offer you many opportunities to get to know your peers virtually, such as online forums, chat groups, social media groups and more.
The level of student engagement available to you as an online student will depend on what you are looking for. Some students are happier just being left to get on with things, while others might be more interested in a highly engaging and interactive program. How long the online program has been in operation might be a good question when determining how much engagement and interactivity you can expect when studying.
You might also want to consider whether the program is run by a college offering reasonable distance learning opportunities or a regular campus-based program that has recently moved online due to events worldwide. Established programs designed solely for distance learning are more likely to be an attractive option for students. However, it’s worth researching as this isn’t always the case.
While a program being or not being very flexible won’t help you determine if it’s credible, it can help you determine if this will be a good fit for you as a student. Some online degree programs are more flexible than others, so consider your schedule and needs before deciding how much flexibility you will be comfortable with. Suppose you have a busy schedule and need to be available at different times for specific commitments in your life, such as working shifts. In that case, you might benefit from looking for an online degree program that offers complete flexibility and control over when and how long you want to study each day. On the other hand, for those who can commit to it, there is also the option to choose an online degree program that might require you to be online at certain times for classes, which might be more suitable for you if you prefer structure.
Before you decide whether or not a particular online degree program is credible and the right option for you, it’s a good idea to spend some time learning more about the program’s content and what you will be covering if you decide to enroll and become a student. Before you enroll, get a good idea of the learning outcomes expected of you when you enroll in the program. The amount of information that you can find about the course content online can help you figure out whether or not it’s a credible program and college since any credible and legitimate program will have more information on the program page about what each semester involves and what students can expect to have learned by the time they graduate.
Funding and Fees
Since there’s no need to relocate, commute, or take time away from your full-time job to get an online degree, it’s no surprise that distance learning has become a more popular option among people who are interested in saving money on their education. With the cost of college tuition only increasing, there are many reasons to consider studying online as an alternative where you may not need to spend or lose out on more money than is necessary. However, not all online degree programs are created equally, so checking out the fees and funding options is essential before deciding if an online degree is ideal. Along with this, the available ways to pay for your degree can also help you determine whether or not a program is credible. A credible and trustworthy online degree will usually offer a range of options for funding, including student financial aid programs.
Online Learning Experience
With online learning booming more over the past few years and lots of colleges adding online degree programs to their syllabus in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, you might find it essential to make sure that you are studying at a college that has a lot of experience offering online programs. While colleges offering online versions of their campus-based programs for the first time can sometimes be just as good as an online-only institution, it might not be a risk that you will be happy to take as an online student. Suppose it’s important to you that you get the best student experience while you get your online degree. In that case, looking out for an online college or program with a long-standing reputation and a lot of experience is worth it. This allows you to learn more about previous graduates and get a better idea of where the degree might be able to take you in the future.
Courses and Elective Options
A reputable and credible online degree program should work the same way as a campus-based degree program with elective courses and study options that you can choose from throughout your degree. Of course, this might depend on the subject you want to study as some are more flexible than others; however, a degree that does not offer any opportunity to hone your skills in the areas of the subject that interest you the most might be a red flag.
Just because you are studying online does not mean you should not be able to access the same career support options available to students on campus. A reputable and credible online program from a good college will offer the same support resources to their distance learning students, including the opportunity to get access to support with your future career. Whether you need help choosing elective modules to help you get into your chosen career or are looking for help and advice with finding work experience, internships, and placements that will support your future career goals, you should have access to the same kind of resources. It might be worth checking other options if you’re looking at a college that appears very limited in the additional resources offered to online students.
Online degrees are increasing in popularity, but many online programs might not be what you are looking for. Since it’s surprisingly easy to set up a website that functions as an online college and offers paid-for courses, anybody who is interested in getting a degree online should do their due diligence before applying and enrolling to ensure that they’re studying for a program that is reputable, credible, and legitimate.