Once you decide to pursue a higher education, the next question is where to enroll. With the rapid growth of online degree programs, today’s students have more choices than ever before. According to the Sloan Consortium, a group of organizations dedicated to quality online education, online enrollments have been growing at a faster rate than the total higher education student population and show no signs of slowing. But are these online programs as rigorous and challenging as those offered at traditional bricks and mortar colleges and universities? As more and more traditional institutions offer online degree programs, the answer is simply “yes.”
Both types of programs offer a very similar curriculum of courses and degrees. Many on-campus professors and teachers also teach online classes, ensuring both types of courses offering cover the same content and are equally challenging for students.
In the online programs, face-to-face interaction with professors and other students is limited. However, students taking online courses are required to actively participate in discussions by posting their thoughts and comments. The online programs also offer students the chance to work with classmates and teachers from around the nation. These interactions hold students accountable for their work and allow them to build relationships and networks with people they might otherwise never meet.
Traditional universities offering online degrees also provide students a wide array of resources and support, including libraries, tech support, financial aid, and career advisement. Professors in both types of programs are approachable for support and guidance, with many providing office hours.
Online programs also give students the flexibility to set their own pace of learning and course schedule. Students can also choose to enroll in part- or full-time study to complete their advanced degree. Each course comes with the same assignments, projects, and deadlines as the traditional on-campus offerings, but participation in online classes allows students to post their homework and contribute to class discussions when it is most convenient for them. For those who choose to keep working while returning to school, taking online classes may be ideal.
Both traditional and online degree programs can earn accreditation, or official recognition and authorization, from governing bodies. Evaluators review the schools and coursework to ensure the educational institutions maintain specific quality standards of education. Regionally accredited online programs assure students they are earning a degree that will be recognized and respected by others, while providing them the flexibility to transfer credits between institutions should they decide to do so.
Before deciding which type of program is best for you, take the time to research the programs and institutions you are considering. Talk with others who have taken online or traditional courses from the university, review the available resources and course offerings, and assess your own learning style. For many, online programs are the perfect solution to advancing their education and careers. They allow students to study at their own pace, take accredited courses taught by on-campus faculty, and graduate with a respected degree from an easily recognizable school.