The nature of distance learning programs are discussed here. Also, the process of gaining accreditation is detailed.
Overview of Distance Learning Programs
Distance learning, also known as distance education, is a method of postsecondary instruction where students can take classes from locations other than on-campus classrooms. These programs are most often delivered via the Internet, with students viewing or downloading course materials online and communicating with other students and professors via e-mail or chat rooms. These types of programs are typically intended for busy, working professionals who may not have the time to attend traditional classes. Programs may also offer a hybrid option requiring some coursework to be completed on-campus in addition to the online coursework. Many institutions have accredited programs by regional bodies, affirming that the curriculum meets an academic standard.
While many regionally-accredited colleges and universities offer distance learning programs in a wide variety of subjects, there are also non-accredited schools that offer these programs. Accreditation is a process that guarantees that degree programs meet minimum academic standards set forth by government-approved accrediting agencies. Along with regional accrediting agencies, some distance education programs are accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). Earning a degree from a school that's not accredited can hurt a student's chance of receiving federal and state financial aid. Credits earned through a non-accredited school may not transfer to other institutions, either.
Distance education programs of the past usually focused on providing vocational training. Today, many degree programs are available in professional and academic arenas, as well as vocational fields. Popular online programs today include:
- Business management and marketing
- Medical transcription
- Criminal justice
Students can earn both undergraduate and graduate-level degrees, as well as certificates.
The technical requirements for online programs vary, but common tools often include things like a headset or speakers. Other typical materials are:
- High-speed internet
- Specific internet browsers, like Google Chrome
- Applications or software programs, like Google Drive
Students looking for distance learning programs that are accredited have a few options across the United States. Accredited program options are expansive. Students should ensure they are able to meet the technical and program requirements.