More and more of us are exploring new opportunities to further our education. In today’s day and age, this usually leads them online. Students may have been skeptical in regards to online degrees a few years back, but now, they have become a generally accepted and credible academic qualification.
While it may be true that no universities or colleges will surpass the status of Stanford, Harvard or Yale, it seems that online schools are quickly establishing themselves as authorities in the academic field. As a matter of fact, there seem to be online degree programs for any type of subjects, including arts & design, engineering, IT & computer engineering, social studies, law & criminal justice, business, healthcare and science.
Earning an online degree can be extremely beneficial for international students who wish to advance their education. Whether they are pursuing graduate or undergraduate degrees, right now there are options available for any professional goal. But before you decide to pursue an online degree or school, you should know exactly what the benefits and disadvantages are.
The Benefits of Online Degrees
Flexibility & freedom are the first benefits that come to mind when talking about online degrees. Of course, this freedom shouldn’t be misunderstood. Students are still graded with the help of online tests and they have to attend virtual classrooms. Nevertheless, they have the freedom to organize their schedule and study from the comfort of their own homes. From this perspective, traditional lectures are extremely constricting, because they are organized during exact times. Online lectures are usually assigned for an entire week. This means that students are free to review the materials and complete their work during a convenient time.
Another huge benefit of online degrees lies in the way that course materials, assignments and readings are distributed. Remember the boring lectures you had to attend at university? Yes, I’m talking about that browned off teacher who would always dictate in a dull tone but at an extremely fast pace? You will never have to lose a part of the lecture, because all the materials you need will be conveniently shared on a cloud-computing service. If you don’t understand something, professors are an email away.
As far as educational experience is concerned, the vast majority of students agree that they learn as much, if not more, than they would from a traditional course. This is, not only because they have access to a complete course, but also because the Internet is only a few clicks away, and any question they might have can be answered to increase their understanding of the subject. Furthermore, course materials from online degrees do not come only under the form of text. There are plenty of videos, presentations, images, infographics and podcasts to accompany them.
The Disadvantages of Online Degrees
Like all good things in life, online degrees also have a few disadvantages. One thing that most students found difficult to overcome is the lack of face-to-face instructional support. While it is true that you have the Internet to explain certain concepts, there are some technical aspects that must be explained by an experienced teacher. Another problem would be lack of appropriate technology. International students who do not possess the right technology will not be able to access course materials. The third disadvantage of online degrees lies in the fact that most coursework must be submitted under the written form, so not having strong communication abilities may deter the final outcome.
Major Options for Accredited Online Degree Programs
The general practice of e-learning can be divided into three major categories: CBL (computer-based learning), CSCL (computer-supported collaborative learning), CBT (computer-based training). As far as education levels are concerned, the United States offers associate degrees, bachelors degrees, master degrees, Doctorates / PHDs, MBAs, Certifications and High School diplomas through certain programs.
But what about availability?
We have covered certain online degree programs that might interest you, with details regarding the best programs & schools as well as their advantages. All of these are Online:
- Business Degree Programs
- MSW degree programs
- Computer Science Degrees
- Engineering Degrees
- Nursing Degree Programs
The Admission requirements for online degree programs aren’t very much different from those of on-campus degrees. Most students are accepted based on their GPA, college testing scores and other factors that are directly related to the subject that they wish to pursue. In very exceptional cases, students are allowed to transfer college credits to online degree completion programs in order to obtain their bachelors degrees.
Yes, I did mention that online degrees offer a certain degree of freedom. However, this doesn’t mean that you can complete a four-year course without ever having set foot on campus. Certain online degree programs will require that you spend a minimal amount of time on campus. Even hybrid and blended degree programs will require students to present themselves at the school at some point. Hybrid programs represent a combination between the two degree programs, meaning that substantial part of the time must be spent in face-to-face classes.
Some programs may offer all courses online, but expect distance learners to complete an internship, practicum or other on-site experience at an approved setting relevant to their field of study. – Source: Study.com
Online Degree Requirements
Once you are all set to begin the online degree of choice you have to start thinking about a few operating system, hardware and skills requirements. First and foremost, you will need a strong internet connection in order to download materials. This becomes even more important for degrees that require heavy usage of programs such as graphic design.
Naturally, you must be accustomed to navigating the internet, installing & using applications, Word processing, sending & reading emails and opening PDF files. As far as web browsers and OSs are concerned, most online courses use Blackboard or similar management systems. The problem with this type of software is the fact that it is not compatible with all operating systems, and you will also require a content management system. You should receive specific instructions on the schools page.
Lastly, you have to think about computer hardware, which, luckily, doesn’t have to be extremely advanced. You should be fine with a 1GHz CPU processor, 512 MB RAM, speakers + sound card, a hard-drive with 10GB of storage capacity and a DVD-ROM drive.
How to Pick the Best Online Degree Programs
If you truly wish to advance your studies with the help of online degree programs, you must conduct extensive research beforehand. The Internet may be teeming with incredible things, but it is also a hotbed of scamers. Don’t let yourself be pulled in by websites that promise the moon and stars but aren’t supported by proper accreditations.
The best place to start your search is on an authoritative website that ranks universities with the help of reviews, recommendations, affordability considerations & other relevant criteria. (check out GuidetoOnlineSchools and OnlineDegrees, as well as Chea.org for the list of recognized accreditations).
I recommend that you answer the following questions before you decide on an online school:
- What do you know about the school’s financial position (past and present)? This is probably the best way to spot fly-by-night operations. There are also certain free online degree programs but I would advise against them as they have thin curriculum.
- When was this online school established? Although a short educational history does not completely exclude a school from the list, you should focus your attention on those with reputability.
- Is the online school accredited? This is one of the most important questions. The accreditation of your online school will reflect on your performance and CV. If your diploma isn’t released by an institution with reputation, it might affect your future career.
- Are there any other expenses associated with my online degree program of choice? Some schools include hidden costs in order to attract innocent students. Don’t forget to read the fine-print!
- Do you know how current the program’s material is?
- Does the coursework align with your educational goal?
- Will students receive technological support online? Most online schools have a web-page that links to all necessary information and materials. Students should be able to login to a personal account in order to access the course’s library.
- What services do students benefit from? There are a few perks that you should be interest in, such as: student recruitment, financial aid, tutoring or full advising for international or long-distance learners.
Technical aspects aside, how do you actually choose the right online degree for your needs and personality?
Here are a few key factors that I would take into account:
- Am I passionate about the subject? You should choose a subject that you have been interested in since high school. Make a list of pros and cons – include topics that bored you to tears, but focus on those that you were genuinely interested in. Choosing a major is a difficult task. You have to give yourself time.
- Do some research. Read reviews from other students to find out what schools are best suited for your professional aspirations. Students are eager to share their slightly biased opinions.
- Take your hobbies into account. If you’re into arts, you probably spend a lot of time drawing. Wouldn’t it be nice to make a career in something that you actually love doing? If you still can’t decide on the best online degree program, you should consider talking to a career advisor.
- Consider the Program’s length. How many years are you willing to invest in your education. There are different types of programs and accreditations. A bachelors degree takes around 3-to-4 years to obtain, while the graduate-level programs will only take around 2-3 years. Obviously, PHDs and masters programs have longer, varying lengths.
This concludes our guide for online degree programs. If you have further questions feel free to contact us!