Online learning programs are a godsend for those who need to work and study simultaneously, for moms and single parents who cannot go back to school full-time, and for many other students who prefer flexible study schedules and classroom hours. If you’re considering enrolling in a distance education program, here’s a checklist of all that you need to do before you sign up:
Check for accreditation
This is the most important aspect of any online degree – if the institution offering it is not accredited by the right agency, your degree is not worth the paper it’s printed on. Check to see if the school of your choice is accredited by the right agencies and if the accreditation is recognized and accepted by the board of education in your country. Only accredited schools are allowed access to federal grants and scholarships, and only programs from these schools are accepted by other colleges and employers.
Check out the school’s reputation
Some schools may have mushroomed in the last couple of years, so they’re yet to establish themselves as leaders in the field. Choose a college that has been around for a while and which has much more experience in offering online degrees – these schools are the most likely to have the necessary infrastructure and professors who are erudite and experienced in their subject.
Ask your employer if they will accept it
If you’re looking to study online and you’re your master’s degree because you want to get ahead in the workplace, ask if your employer will accept it as equivalent to degrees earned in regular colleges. If they don’t recognize the degree, all your efforts are in vain.
Check if your credits are transferable
You may want to change schools for some reason or the other, so check if the credits earned at this online college will be accepted at other online schools. In general, credits earned at schools that are regionally accredited are accepted at most other colleges, so choose an online school that is accredited by one of the six regional accreditation agencies.
Ask about the school’s refund policy
You may want to get your money back if you’re transferring schools, so ask about the school’s refund policy before you sign up.
Check the school’s teacher-student ratio
You don’t want to be one among a crowd of students fighting for the attention of one teacher. Online education requires teachers who’re willing to put in an effort to keep in touch with students and be available to answer their queries and doubts. So choose schools that promise a teacher-student ratio of 1-10 or 1-15.
See if you qualify for financial assistance
Online schools that are accredited are allowed access to federal grants and scholarships. So check with the admissions office to see if you qualify for a grant or a low-interest loan. Also, if your employer is willing to sponsor your degree at a particular institute, you could base your choice of school on their preference.
It takes effort, determination, patience, sacrifice, and diligence to succeed in online education, so arm yourself with these qualities once you’ve chosen the school and degree that you want.