Now that you have decided to pursue your education online, chosen your preferred major, and know the career you wish to pursue, the question is which school should you now attend? However, choosing a school to attend requires extensive research, and it can be a daunting task if you are unsure of what factors to look for to choose a good online school.
When choosing an online school, don’t think that all degree programs are the same. Just like with courses in traditional schools, online courses are also varied. In fact, some might just be more rigorous than others!
So before investing somewhere, make sure you know the cost of the course, the time it takes for completing a program, and the number of credits needed to graduate. Make sure you also have a look at the following factors before you pick out an online school.
Accreditation is the most important factor when deciding on a school. You must know if the school is regionally accredited. But, what is accreditation? It just means that the school is recognized as a legit institution and not as a degree mill. If at one point, you might want to transfer credits from an online school to a traditional one, then you can’t do it with an unaccredited school. Moreover, employers usually tend to favor degrees from accredited school more.
Technical and student support
You must know how dedicated the school is to its students. Can they help you out when you have a problem? Once you know that the school will be there for you during technical difficulties, you can rest assured that they do care about your education, and not just your money. You wouldn’t want to risk your money only to end up with a school having faulty internet connections.
Similarly, look for schools that offer academic support so that you can get help with selecting your courses and planning your degree. It is better to go for a school that offers its services 24/7, particularly if you have a busy schedule. Generally, schools with numerous online programs and many alumni offer more comprehensive support as they have more resources.
It is true that online universities are less expensive than traditional colleges; however, you still might find yourself needing financial help. Make sure you check out the policies that the school has when it comes to financial help. At the same time, don’t forget that a high cost doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get a high quality education. Go into the details of the courses and carefully consider how those courses can help you in your professional life.
Since online education is still fairly new, it’ll be a risk to trust such a school that is still experimenting with its online programs. It is much better to choose a school that is well-known and has years of experience in administering online programs. Moreover, it should also be known for investing in the most effective and recent mediums of online instruction and technologies. Go through the ‘About Us’ section of the school’s website to know the experience it has and the number of degrees that it has awarded.
One of the greatest advantages of an online degree is the flexibility it provides. It is best to choose such a school which lets you learn on your own schedule instead of having fixed timings. This also includes participating in discussions that span over a few days instead of happening in real times, watching videos at your preferred pace, and giving your exams at a time that suit your calendar. So, if your schedule is a busy one, make sure you talk to the school’s enrollment advisor about the flexibility options first.
Availability of programs
Apart from offering a variety of programs, the best schools should also have sufficient program availability that qualified students can get spots in their preferred programs and classes without a problem. You wouldn’t want to be late for graduation only because you couldn’t find a spot in your preferred course.
Most online degrees and courses are career-focused, and it is best to find a school which helps you find a job once you graduate. You would be better off choosing such a school that offers career services for current as well as graduated students. Look for schools that have large alumni networks so that you can get additional opportunities for career networking not only online, but in your area too.
A learning environment makes all the difference when it comes to an enjoyable online course and a frustrating one. You must choose a school that has easy to navigate and use classrooms. Moreover, their classroom technologies should be such that they allow you to interact with both your classmates as well as instructors intuitively and offer a personalized feel to the learning environment.
Look for such schools that offer mobile access for online classroom, particularly if you plan on doing most of your studying with your smartphone. Make sure to check the technical requirements too to see if it suits you. Generally, the learning environment of top schools can be accessed from common platforms.
While many schools do offer online degrees and classes, their student services are limited to on-campus only. It is better to go for a school with online resources, particularly career services and a library. Other resources that can help make your learning experience better include online access to professional software, virtual experiences of hands-on fields, and online guest lectures by industry leaders.
Since online resources tend to vary by program, you should speak to an enrollment advisor to know more about the resources for each program.
The bottom line
After you’ve considered the factors mentioned above and made a list of online schools make sure you read what students have to say, particularly about the degree program you are planning on pursuing. Try finding out what they liked and didn’t like about it and what employment opportunities they got after graduation.