10 Things to Look for When Picking an Online School

Online education is a great choice if you have a busy life, but there are many schools to choose from. We evaluated the online education landscape and selected the 10 most important things to look for when picking an online school.

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Once you've decided you want to earn your degree online, it's time to pick a school. A quick Internet search will give you a ton of online school results, but you'll want some criteria to help you decide on the school that works for you. Take a look at this handy guide that offers some key points to consider before you make your decision.

1. Experience

Online learning is a fairly new medium, and you don't want to trust your education in a school that's still experimenting with online programs. Look for a school with a well-known brand, years of experience administering online programs, and a reputation for investing in the top technologies and methods for online instruction. Also visit the school's 'About Us' section to learn how many years of experience in online education it has as well as the number of degrees it has awarded.

2. Accreditation

Whether you're enrolling in an on-campus or online school, you'll want to make sure that a school is accredited. In general, degrees from accredited schools are more widely accepted by employers. This is particularly important when choosing an online degree because it's relatively easy for low quality schools to start up. Accredited schools generally display their accreditation information in their 'About Us' section.

  • Explore the degrees available at Northcentral University|] and at Brandman University.

3. Flexibility & Convenience

Flexibility is one of the primary benefits of online education, and you can look for a school that offers asynchronous learning, which means you can log in to class on your own schedule rather than at set times. This might include participating in discussions that span a few days instead of real time, scheduling exam times that fit your calendar, or watching video lecture materials at your own pace. If you have a busy schedule, make sure to ask about flexibility options when you speak to a school's enrollment advisor.

4. New Student Orientation

Learning online is different than face-to-face learning, and it's important to choose a school that supports students as they transition to online learning. Many top schools have personal enrollment advisors that will support you throughout the enrollment process. Also look for schools that offer trial periods or sample mini-courses for free so that you can try out online learning at a school without committing.

  • Check out Kaplan University if you want to check out a course for three weeks before committing.

5. Program Diversity

One of the big benefits of online schools is that they offer a wide variety of programs. Program diversity allows you to take a variety of electives and to seamlessly switch majors if your interests or goals change. Another option you might consider is looking for schools that offer programs all the way from the associate's degree level to the doctoral level. By choosing a school with strong program diversity, you can stick with it throughout your career as a student rather than spending time selecting and transitioning to a new school.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

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  • Transportation and Distribution
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6. Program & Class Availability

In addition to offering a wide array of programs, top schools have enough program availability that qualified students don't have trouble getting spots in programs and classes. You don't want lack of access to classes to delay your roadmap to graduation. The best way to determine program availability is to fill out a request for information and then speak directly with an enrollment advisor.

7. Career Services

Many online degree programs are career-focused programs, and you'll want to look for schools that can support you in finding a job after graduation. Also, consider finding schools that offer career services for both current and graduated students. Schools with large alumni networks can provide additional opportunities for career networking both online and in your area.

8. Student Support

When you're learning from home, you need easy access to support services. It's critical to look for schools with technical support teams to help you with computer problems as well as academic support teams to help you plan your degree program and select courses. If you work or have a busy schedule, look for schools with 24/7 services so that support (particularly technical support) is available when you need it. Schools that offer a lot of online programs and have a large number of alumni tend to have more comprehensive support options because they have more resources.

9. Learning Environment

A well-designed learning environment can make the difference between an enjoyable and frustrating online course. Top schools have online classrooms that are easy to use and navigate, even if you're not a computer expert. Their classroom technologies allow you to interact with your classmates and instructor intuitively and provide a personal feel to the online environment. Look for schools with mobile access to the online classroom, especially if you have a smartphone. Also check to see if the technical requirements (such as computer type) match what you have at home. Most top schools offer a learning environment that can be accessed from the most common platforms.

10. Online Resources

Many schools offer online classes or degrees, but most of their student services are only available on campus. Look for schools that have resources that are available online, including a library and career services. Additional resources that can enhance your experience include online lecture series from industry leaders, virtual experiences of hands-on fields, and online access to professional software. Online resources can vary by program, so speaking to an enrollment advisor is the best way to find out about resources for your degree program.

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