Need a way to earn your degree while still keeping your day job? You’ve probably considered enrolling in an online school. Many of today’s online colleges and universities have earned solid reputations with public and private-sector employers. Since online education isn’t the same at all universities, you’ll want to carefully consider your chosen online school. Here are five signs that an online school is respected.
Many modern students look for schools that are less about on-campus socials and more about learning skills that’ll help to further their career aspirations. From online students who are on a well-worn path towards an industry like medicine to those crafting a degree to highlight the skills they already have, students turn to schools to extend their abilities. Exceptional online colleges and universities display academic rigor in their standards, teaching tools, and student achievement.
Academic standards vary by the online school. Some schools have online programs that are created from established, on-campus courses. You’ll find that these universities maintain the same high standards for online and traditional degree programs. Some examples of these schools include the University of Maryland Global Campus, Drexel University Online, and Liberty University Online.
What’s in it for Me?
When searching for a reputable online school, you’ll want to know about the resources that the school offers to its online students. Look for online colleges and universities that give you access to digital campus libraries, tutoring services, and mentors.
One reason that a college or university has admissions standards is to give the best and brightest students the chance to shine at their school. High achieving students in computer science, or in education for instance, make the school look good. If your preferred online school has a web page of graduates who are successfully making a difference in their chosen career field, then it’s likely that the school is a winner.
Course Delivery Formats
Early critics of distance learning programs lamented that online schools could never replace in-person discussions in a classroom setting. The self-paced lessons that online students learned via presentation slide-shows prevented students from experiencing different perspectives from their peers and professors. Unfortunately, there are still some online schools that offer courses in this limited delivery format.
A respected online school uses a robust curriculum that’s delivered in an interactive, dynamic format. Many schools allow you to work at your own pace to complete assignments by specified dates, but they also require you to participate in discussions with your peers and instructors via digital platforms. Other schools use collaboration software to offer occasional live instruction for online classes.
Some career fields require students to complete practicums before entering the job market. For instance, teachers must spend a certain amount of supervised hours doing hands-on teaching in a classroom to get their licenses. These sessions are usually included in traditional degree programs. A reputable online degree program for education will include these opportunities as well.
When an online school wants to show itself as credible, it announces its accreditation status to the world. A school that has an accreditation credential has met the quality standards of an independent body of higher education professionals. This stamp of approval signals to prospective students, industry employers, and public agencies that an online school delivers effective instruction.
The two main types of accreditation bodies are national and regional agencies. Both are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (DoE), and a quick look at the DoE website can confirm if your chosen online school is nationally or regionally accredited.
National accreditation agencies evaluate for-profit schools that deliver career-oriented instruction. They accredit vocational, seminary, and technical schools across the country. Here are some examples of national accreditation agencies.
- Distance Education Accreditation Commission
- Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, Accreditation Commission
- Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools
Regional accreditation is one of the oldest and most prestigious forms of accreditation. Regional accreditation agencies evaluate academic-oriented universities versus career-based colleges. Here are some examples of regional accreditation bodies.
- Higher Learning Commission
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
While both types of accreditation are valuable, some regionally accredited schools don’t accept transfer credits from nationally accredited schools. Nationally accredited schools usually accept transfer credits from all accredited schools.
The opportunity to gain higher levels of career success is one of the main reasons that you want to earn a degree. Online schools produce goal-oriented graduates who are like you in many ways. Look for an online school that has a network of successful alumni in your career field or that offers scholarships that prosperous alumni fund.
Tech-related companies need fresh talent to fuel innovation and maintain their market positions. Businesses within the technology sector look at both traditional and online colleges and universities for graduates who can impact companies from the first day on the job. Credible online colleges and universities usually have strong connections to local businesses that operate in this trending sector.
Valuable Industry Partnerships
Some online universities show their corporate ties with partnership pages on their websites. If the school offers job placement resources, its partnered businesses are usually featured employers. Other online universities are affiliated with traditional campuses. If you choose this type of online school, you’ll likely have access to career fairs with partnered businesses.
Online universities that have good reputations are also linked to government organizations. Public agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security often partner with reputable schools to cultivate talented information assurance professionals in the growing field of cybersecurity. An online school that offers internships with public sector agencies or private businesses usually qualifies as reputable.
Enrolling in an online college or university is a big commitment. If you’re still not sure that your chosen school has a good reputation in your professional area of interest, ask someone about it. If you’re working in your preferred career field already, ask a trusted hiring manager about how he or she views job candidates who have degrees from the school. If you want to switch careers, contact an HR person who supports that career field to ask them about the school’s reputation.