How to Choose an Online Degree Program: Handy Tips for Future Students
If you’re asking yourself this question, you probably know that starting an online program is a decent way to get an actual degree as well as offline education is. Nowadays not only new schools but also venerable institutions offer a variety of distance courses and programs that could help you to get a bachelor, master or even doctorate degree.
For instance, if you want to pursue a career in business, University of Massachusetts, Penn State, Temple University offer the online bachelor in business administration degree programs. Since public and private universities, as well as community colleges, provide online education, the basic concern is to choose a program that will meet all your requirements.
How to pick a major?
If you want to get a degree but couldn’t choose a particular field, there are three ways to make up your mind depending on your personal preferences or a practical relevance of a program:
- Follow your passion. Think of something you’re good at and, more importantly, you really enjoy doing that. Gaining extra knowledge and skills in the sphere you like will never be a waste of time.
- Think of the career you want to pursue. There are plenty of jobs that require higher education, and an online degree program is your chance to start a career in a field that you find promising.
- Finally, you could pay special attention to the fields in demand and deepen in one of them which appeals you the most.
Several crucial criteria should be taken into consideration if you want to choose a legit degree program of high quality. Let’s take a closer look at them.
How to choose a decent online degree program?
Before choosing any particular program, take your time and think carefully: are you the type of person who has enough motivation and discipline to study basically on your own? To make online education productive, you should be really interested in what you’re learning let alone being self-motivated and responsible. If you can do homework in time and make yourself stick to a schedule, then you could stand to gain from distance learning. So, let’s finally cover the main criteria that you should consider when selecting an online degree program.
First of all, this is accreditation. It means that a given school or a program meets established standards of quality. It also means that you will receive a valid certificate or diploma that will help you to find a job with no trouble. For example, if you’re interested in getting a bachelor degree in biology, accredited programs offered by Arizona State University and Western Governors University are at your service.
To find out if the school you want to enter is legit, call it or search for the information on its web page. And there is one more reliable way to find out if this institution has gained accreditation or not: you could use the College Navigator on the Department of Education’s website. This tool will help you to look through the list of all the fine and worthy institutions and find the one you’re interested in.
Curriculum and teachers
Firstly, you should decide which way of learning is more effective for you. If you prefer to listen to an actual teacher who explains a new topic and answers your questions immediately, you will probably need more than just learning materials and tests on the screen of your laptop.
On the contrary, if you’re okay with learning new things basically by yourself with a little help of a student book and learning videos, communicating with the professor via e-mail may be enough for you. Find out more about the style of learning at the school you’re interested in and correlate it with your needs to make an education as productive as possible.
By the way, certain programs combine distance learning and intramural attendance for the sake of the better result as well as your convenience. For instance, the software engineering degree program at East Carolina University is an excellent example of such partially online program.
Student support services
The fact that you’re receiving an online education doesn’t mean that you couldn’t get all support that regular students do. First of all, you may face all kinds of technical problems while downloading required files, logging into your personal account, listening to audio lectures and so on. For all that to be fixed, you definitely need a technical support to be available most of the times.
Moreover, you also need some kind of a personal tutor who will be able to answer your questions about the major, the schedule, and the professors. Having enough support is extremely important for more effective and comfortable studying.
Price and scholarships
Sometimes cost is a decisive argument in favor of one particular program. Be it as it may, but keep in mind that a decent online program can’t be too cheap. If the price of the program that you’re interested in is too low, there must be something wrong with it.
Maybe this school doesn’t have accreditation, or student services are poor, or the professors aren’t qualified enough. Either way, don’t fall for a cheap online program even if it seems perfect - it almost certainly isn’t that good.
When receiving a good education is quite expensive, some schools offer their students a scholarship which is pretty helpful. If your institution doesn’t offer a financial aid to you as a student, you may still be able to get some help from the government such as student loans or grants.
By the way, there are a lot of courses that are absolutely free, for instance, Massive Open Online Courses. Many websites offer courses in different fields, usually as a set of video lessons that you could watch at home at any time you want. You won’t probably get an actual degree that way, but some companies could give you some kind of a certificate that could come in handy in your future work. Such courses are also a good way to deepen your knowledge in a particular field.
Another country or another institution
If you’re going to get a degree in one country, and there is a chance that you may apply for a job in another one, make sure that the country you’re planning to work in recognizes your diploma. Otherwise, you will waste a significant amount of time on the education that couldn’t provide you with a job of your dreams which is obviously frustrating.
Also, if you consider switching a selected program or even a school to another one, find out whether you could transfer the credits you’ve already earned to another institution or not in advance. That will give you extra flexibility if you decide to make a change of any kind in your online education.
Online Degrees on Coursera
Coursera degree programs typically take up to three years of at-your-own-pace study. Upon completing your program, you will receive a university-accredited degree that is in no shape or form different from the degree granted to students attending conventional lectures on campus. Usually, the price is up to $25,000 per degree on Coursera. Just to compare, a full-time MBA degree usually costs a hefty $100,000.
Earning an accredited university bachelor’s or master’s degree on Coursera is easy and affordable. For a highly attractive cost, you will enjoy learning from top university professors and graduate with an industry-specific university degree. In some cases, your Coursera degree won’t even reveal that it has been earned through online education.
The following online degree programs are especially sought after on Coursera:
- Business Degree Courses
- Computer Science Degree Courses
- Data Science Degree Courses
- Public Health Degree Courses.
In other words, Coursera degrees come with a number of perks, such as lower price compared to other internet and on-campus degrees, incredible flexibility, and paid subscriptions that allow you to pay as you go, eliminating all the unexpected turns and surprises. Another benefit is that you get to access a number of free courses. The possibility to preview prior to committing provides unparalleled freedom of choice.
Tips and tricks for an online student
So, let’s imagine that you’ve picked the program you like the best and now you’re ready to get started. To make your education more comfortable and effective, take these tips into account.
Balancing work and studies
If you’re considering getting a degree online, you probably have a full-time job or other duties that don’t allow you to be an offline student. So you should really think your weekly schedule through to fit classes and homework in it. And don’t forget about your family, friends, and your loved one as they want to spend some time with you as well. Juggling relationships, work, and education may be hard at first, but getting a degree is totally worth it.
There is this mainstream thing called procrastination. While it might be only an overhyped word for you, it actually is a big problem for online and offline students as well. When you don’t have to wake up at 7 a.m., attend an actual class and do your homework every day, it’s pretty easy to lose track of time and miss a deadline. So you’d better use all the means you know to keep up with the course and keep yourself motivated.
Stick to a schedule
This tip follows from the previous one. Even if you’re learning at home, you should set up some rules anyway. There should be the time for classes and the time for chilling out. Try to make your studying at home looks like an actual class. That way you will take it in all seriousness and make a progress much faster.
Create a work environment
The fact that you’re studying online doesn’t mean that you will need only a computer or a laptop to get a degree. You also should make a workplace that will be associated with a class. This means that nothing and no one should distract you from studying. It may be only a small space with a desk, a desk lamp, and a laptop, but you should definitely have a special place dedicated only to your education. It will help you to concentrate and proceed to business.
As you can see, there are some key aspects that you should take into account before choosing a particular degree program. If the institution you’re applying for is accredited, hire qualified and passionate teachers, provide students with all the support they need and offer a scholarship - way to go! Online education is an excellent way to get a degree if you’re ready to be a responsible and self-motivated student.