I’m skeptical of online college degrees.
I associate them with diploma mills that will give you any educational credentials for the right price.
But online education is for real these days and can be right for many people, experts say. Is it for you?
U.S. News and World Report, which has long ranked traditional colleges and universities, has a website devoted to online schools.
“Online education may transform higher ed,” Brian Burnsed writes in an article on the site. “The industry has experienced growing pains but may be on the path to maturity.”
Burnsed says about 30 percent of American college students now take at least one course online.
What’s the appeal? Cost and convenience. With an online course, you can learn at your own schedule without the commute.
Burnsed says prestigious, established universities are now beefing up their online offerings. It cites the University of Southern California and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill as examples.
“They’re trying to marry the online experience with the brand of the institution,” Richard Garrett of the research firm Eduventures says in the article.
The U.S. News website lists five tips before pursuing an online degree. They include making sure the school is accredited, talking to former students, and asking employers what they think of an online degree from that school.
Students can earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees online.
“For those who have the time and money, the four-year residential campus still offers what is widely considered the best educational experience,” says a New York Times article by Tamar Lewin. “Critics worry that the online courses are less rigorous and more vulnerable to cheating, and that their emphasis on providing credentials for specific jobs could undermine the traditional mission of encouraging critical thinking.”
Still, online education is here to stay, and it will likely get better, Lewin writes.
If you’re a single dad juggling career and parenting, online classes might suit you well. You could earn a degree without taking too much time from either.
Before you start any educational program, decide your course of study and find out which schools offer the best classes. Some of those might be available online.
Online education can be perfect for some people. But do your homework. Research a school before enrolling in classes. You don’t want to waste time and money on an online degree that carries no weight.