In recent years, a massive number of online universities have sprung up, offering everything from full degrees to individual courses and certificate programs. While this has created the problem of some programs to become undervalued learning opportunities online and undermined the legitimacy of online learning, it has also expanded opportunities to thousands of students who didn’t previously have them.
Two main factors are driving this upwards trend. First, the demand for advanced education has never been higher. As the job market tightens, more and more people see online education as a quick way to boost their credentials. Second, the high potential for profit makes it attractive for schools to offer courses to a wider student body online.
However, because most online universities use aggressive marketing to reach students all around the world, many consider to be more of a business than anything else. If you are considering an online degree, one issue to bear in mind is the importance of accreditation and overall institutional value. If your school does not have a strong reputation, any degree you earn may not improve your job prospects. Taking the time to thoroughly research the best programs can save you a lot of heartache later on down the line.
One of the most widely respected online universities is National University. National University boasts a student-faculty ratio of 9:1, and offers courses in a wide range of fields. Students can log in to earn degrees as diverse as business administration, applied engineering, and psychology. One unique aspect of the National University approach is that it structures its curriculum on a one-course-per-month plan. Students enroll in just one class at a time. They spend a month of dedicated study in that discipline, then proceed to the next course.
Liberty University offers another well-respected online program. Liberty is both a traditional campus and an online portal, and many of the school’s traditional faculty chair e-learning courses and programming. The school is also different from much of its competition because of its Christian slant. As a religiously affiliated institution, Liberty operates as a non-profit institution. This allows it to offer its courses of study at a lower cost than most other online universities.
Lower costs may also be available at public schools. Colorado State University’s acclaimed Global Campus is an example of a public university that offers entire courses of study through entirely online mediums. Students can pursue a wide range of degrees through the Global Campus at both the graduate and undergraduate level. Anyone can take courses online, but students with Colorado residence usually qualify for tuition breaks.
Students who want the flexibility of attending live classes as a supplement to their online learning should look into programs like those offered by Regent University. Regent is well-ranked private university that operates an increasingly respected online campus. Online degrees at Regent have earned accolades for their breadth of programming and faculty expertise, but one of the most unique aspects of the online experience is its flexibility. Students in the online program who are near a Regents campus are able to attend live lectures in their areas of study as often as they like, with no notice required.
If name recognition is a concern, consider a school like DeVry University. DeVry is one of the largest and most widely recognized online universities, and focuses primarily on administration, finance, and business technology. Full Sail University is another school to consider. Like DeVry University, it is a for-profit institution, but Full Sail focuses more on preparing students to work in media arts professions, offering degrees in subjects like game design.
For many professionals, the real appeal of an online degree is its ability to help advance a pre-existing career. Business and management degrees are some of the most hotly sought after. Online schools make the learning easy, as schedules can often be tailored to suit particular schedules. Thunderbird School of Global Management is steadily ranked as one of the world’s top online business schools. In addition to its traditional MBA programs, Thunderbird also offers a distance MBA program. This program uses technology to connect students to each other in such a way that the barriers of distance are almost non-existent, allowing them to collaborate almost exactly as they do in more traditional MBA program settings.
The schools listed are just a brief sampling of some of the nation’s top accredited programs. When you are considering an online degree, accreditation is essential. It is a lot easier to set up a “university” and collect tuition than it is to actually build the infrastructure needed to offer a valuable education. Remember, too, that additional cost does not necessarily reflect additional value — especially when it comes to online degrees. Doing your homework ahead of time can help you choose a program that will suit your needs both now and into the future.