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Are Online Degrees Good?

If you've been considering an online degree, chances are that you've been dealing with a host of conflicting opinions. There are some who swear by an online degree and others who feel that an online degree is only a last option when all else fails.

So, is an online degree any 'good'? Or, to address the real issue at stake is it as good as a traditional degree?

Address your need
To be fair, both traditional and online degrees have their own advantages. Before you opt for one over the other, clarify your personal needs. If you're working, have financial and time constraints or family commitments, an online degree could be perfect for you.

Moreover, the effectiveness of an online degree depends greatly on your program of choice. If you're choosing a course in medicine, law or healthcare, you're probably better off in a traditional college setting. On the other hand, subjects like marketing, media and business administration make for great online programs.

It's not so different after all
At the end of the day, the subject matter you're dealing with in an online program or in a traditional degree is hardly different. In fact, even the basic elements remain the same.

So, there will be lectures, but not in person; there will be assignments, but you won't be handing them in to an instructor; there will be exams, but you won't be sitting in a hall with a bunch of other students.

What's more, there may even be an allocated time when the 'class' begins; only, you'll have the freedom to attend whenever you want and you can always replay the videotaped 'notes' or visit the archived lecture later.

You'll be staying in touch with your instructors and peers over chat, bulletin boards, e-mails and instant messages. Some courses may even require you to get into a virtual workgroup and solve problems collectively.

Are Online Degrees as effective as...?
A study by Thomas L. Russell of the North Carolina State University revealed that there is hardly any perceptible difference in the quality of education offered by online programs when compared to traditional classrooms. Another study conducted by John Losak from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, proved that not only did students of online programs perform as well as, but in many cases they were even better than their traditional classroom peers. Also read How Online Degrees are Perceived in the Business Worldfor further insight into what earning an online degree can do for the prospective distance learning student.

But, what do these studies mean to employers?
Perhaps the biggest concern faced by students of an online study program is whether potential employers consider their online degree valid enough to grant them a job.

If that worry sounds vaguely familiar, take heart! GetEducated.com, a consulting and e-learning research firm finds that since 1996, there has been a marked difference in how distance degrees are being perceived.

For instance, in 1990, only 50 percent of corporate managers considered distance degrees to be "as good as" traditional degrees. By 2000, 79 percent of them were accepting distance degrees as a valid qualification. And with the improvement in technology, you can be sure that this acceptance rate will only increase.

However, studies from Vault.com, a career network web site also proves that 77 percent of HR (human resources) professionals value online degrees from established, accredited institutions rather than from unknown, virtual universities.

Accreditation - the key to online degrees
Online or offline - accreditation is a crucial aspect. But online, accreditation is not just an important issue, it is thevital issue.

That's because the world wide web is teeming with hundreds of 'diploma mills' that guarantee much and deliver little. Unless, your degree is from an accredited institution, how will your employers know for sure that you've received a quality education?

And don't just opt for schools that claim to be accredited or licensed. There are only too many schools out there that have been 'accredited' by agencies that either don't exist or have been created by the school itself!

If you're opting to join a course that has not been accredited by a nationally recognized agency, remember that your credits cannot be transferred and your employers will probably consider your hard-earned, expensive 'degree' as little more than a piece of paper. So, do make sure you research the school's credentials with the State Attorney General's office or the local Better Business Bureau.

The agency that oversees legitimate accrediting agencies in the United States, the Council for Higher Education (CHEA), maintains a directory of recognized accrediting agencies online. Visit Chea.orgfor more information on accreditation. The CHEA website has an institutional database that you can search for validating an institute's claims about accreditation.

Other useful resources

Ed.gov

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