There are a variety of factors to consider when making sure an online program suits your needs. Examine program options, learning formats, enrollment information, accreditation and technical requirements to find the best program for you.
Choosing Schools with Online Programs
You should be aware of your options as you begin looking through different schools offering studies via distance learning. Degree and certificate programs can be found at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. There are strictly online schools as well as community colleges and four-year colleges and universities that offer online education programs.
Online programs are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students can take earn an associate's, bachelor's, master's or even doctoral degree online. There are also both undergraduate and graduate certificate programs available in many subjects. Some areas of study in which online programs are offered include:
- Liberal arts
Some distance-learning programs are offered entirely online. Hybrid online courses and programs are also an option. This is where students take courses online and must complete on-campus requirements in order to finish their chosen degree. These types of programs might be a better option for those who cannot make full-time on-campus commitments.
You may also want to research specifics about program and school admissions. Some schools have more stringent minimum requirements for GPA and standardized test scores. In addition, you may want to examine credit requirements and transfer credit policies. If you have existing work experience, some schools may take that into consideration and award you credit toward your degree.
A concern that you may have is whether or not the program or school you're interested in is accredited. The six major regional accrediting bodies are:
- The Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- The New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
- The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
- The Western Association of Schools and Colleges
Schools generally outline the hardware and software that all students need in order to participate in distance learning. Students need to have a computer with internet access, as well as:
- A Windows or MacOS operating system
- A certain amount of memory and hard drive space
- Office software
- Antivirus software
- A CD/DVD drive
Depending on your major, some online programs may require specialized software programs, in addition to textbooks and other learning aids. Some schools offering distance education include these costs in the tuition and fees that you pay, while others don't.
Students can consider program offerings, learning formats, admissions standards and school accreditation. Students also need to make sure that they have access to the right materials and equipment.