When making the decision to return to school to pursue a higher level of education, potential students should begin by carefully researching the programs available, both in the traditional face-to-face campus setting as well as online education programs.
For many employed workers, the option to be a traditional student isn’t available because they need to continue earning their salary to support themselves and their family, and to pay for the degree they’re pursuing. This situation is where online university programs have an advantage. Overall, online universities are designed to allow students to access coursework on their own schedule. This flexibility allows students to continue their full-time careers, concentrating their coursework in the evenings, on weekends, or even in the late hours of the night, if they so choose.
However, there are some points about different online university programs students should review before enrolling in classes:
Accreditation – Earning a degree is one thing, but earning a degree from an accredited college is important. Accreditation means the university or college has been reviewed by an accrediting agency, which involves a review board that assesses the school’s mission and goals, the admission requirements, services that are available to students, the faculty teaching the courses, and the overall quality of education. When choosing a university, check to see that the school is accredited by one of the nation’s accrediting agencies.
Quality of faculty – Faculty with firsthand experience in an industry can provide students with discussions of real-life scenarios and situations they will very likely face as they potentially advance their careers with their new degree. In addition, faculty who have taught classes for several years also have the ability to pass their knowledge on in a way students are able to take and use themselves. When researching a university, read the bios on the faculty members who will be teaching the online courses.
Program flexibility – Some students are able to earn a degree in a minimum amount of time, while others may take several years to accomplish the coursework. In addition, some students may have a full schedule for three weeks in a row, and not have time to spend on their school work. Before choosing an online program, review how flexible the program is in allowing the student to accomplish the work when he or she is available. Many online programs have assignment deadlines, leaving it up to the student to determine how to best organize his or her schedule. For individuals who are motivated and organized, this style of learning allows them to earn a degree while continuing to work full time and enjoy spending time with family.
Convenience – Students are always on the go these days, and they want to take their courses with them wherever they are. Be sure to check out how convenient the technology offered by the online university is to use. For example, are there high-rated apps that can be downloaded on a tablet or smartphone device? Ashford University continues to improve the apps they developed for both the iPad and Android tablets that allow students to connect with the university at all times of the day on everything from classroom discussions and university news, to accessing instructor support and student services. These apps have been updated to keep abreast of technology improvements and have received high reviewer ratings.
This convenience comes in handy for students who need to catch up on their academic learning in between other activities going on in life. Sometimes an hour in a coffee shop during a lunch break to review the latest post from the instructor, or to read and participate in the online classroom discussion, allows a student to keep up-to-date with what’s happening in the class. Students who want to learn on their schedule will appreciate how convenient online learning is becoming thanks to mobile apps like the ones offered through Ashford University.
Online, but with a campus – The nice factor about online universities is for many programs, a student won’t be required to visit a campus. However, students should check to see if the university program also has a campus location. This gives the student a home community and administration to connect with – if needed – and a chance to celebrate with the rest of his or her class by attending commencement.
When reviewing online universities and their degree programs, students should keep these tips in mind so they can find a program that best fits their learning style, accommodates their unique schedule considerations, and provides them with the education they need to potentially further their career.
Emily Green is a freelance writer with more than six years’ experience in blogging, copywriting, content, SEO, and dissertation, technical and thesis writing.