As online degree programs surge in popularity, questions inevitably rise about a program's legitimacy and quality. So how can you tell if you're choosing a quality online program or enrolling in a diploma mill?
Most online students never come face-to-face with their instructors, but rest assured, most online courses are taught by core faculty members of the college or university who teach classes to students on campus as well.
Don't be shy about asking a school about an instructor's qualifications when looking into an online program. It's important to know and be comfortable with the educational and professional background of someone who will act as your mentor for the duration of the course.
Coursework and Study Time
Find out what the course materials are. Courses should use the same textbooks and study aids that traditional programs use. Students should have a mandatory number of hours of work to complete to meet the credit requirements. Many online programs, for instance, have an attendance requirement and students are required to log in a certain number of times.
Instructors should be available for discussion as much as on-campus instructors are. Programs with many resources for interaction and discussion offer students opportunity to really hone their skills and viewpoints on the class material. Many online programs feature software that includes chat rooms, discussion boards, and other interactive opportunities for peers and instructors.
On a college campus, students have access to a wealth of support programs, including a financial aid office, career services department, library, and more. A quality online program will offer the same resources to its students. Students from around the world should be able to tap into a college's library system or work with a career advisor on future planning.
Support services should be easily accessible and provide help when needed, and support personnel should be available for discussion through email, chat, or phone to ensure your questions are answered and the educational experience is a good one.