Is An Online Degree Right For You? 5 Things to Consider
12 June, 2019
With tuition and living expenses on an upward trajectory, online degrees can look incredibly attractive to people who want to gain further qualifications while minimizing education-related debt. While you might be excited about the possibilities offered by online degrees, it is important that you make a full and informed decision before you sink your hard-earned cash into such a qualification. Here are five things to consider when deciding if an online degree is right for you.
1. Can you budget for the entire course?
If you compare the tuition fees for a traditional US bricks-and-mortar college with the typical fees for online degree courses, the financial benefits of studying online are blindingly obvious. Generally speaking, you are looking at slashing in half the tuition cost if you choose to study online. However, you need to weigh the costs for the entire course and you also may have to save in other ways. For example, young school leavers may be able to live at home with their parents, while mature students may not have this option.
2. Does online study match your preferred learning style?
Perhaps the most important consideration is whether online study suits your learning style. It is not for everyone. Although the freedom and convenience of studying in your own time and at your own pace can seem great at first, many people simply cannot hack it. You need to be quite self-critical and decide what type of learner you are. You can find many free online tests to help you with this. Online learning will work if you have great time-management skills and if you are self-motivated and conscientious. It can, however, leave some students feeling quite isolated as online courses lack the live, interactive classes found on a standard degree course. Watching online lectures or participating in a webinar is just not the same.
3. Is the institution accredited?
While it is tempting to jump at the chance to earn a degree without getting up to your eyeballs in debt, do not waste your money on getting an online degree with an unaccredited institution that is not recognized worldwide. Going into debt for a worthless online degree could be worse than not studying at all if it means you pass up paid employment opportunities.
You should thoroughly research the background of institutions offering online courses. Check out their credentials and then check with the accrediting organizations that accredit them. You should also contact the associations and organizations that work with the school. It is extremely important that you check whether the institution has state authorization before you part with your cash.
4. Will an online degree help advance your career?
You can check the background and credentials of an online learning institution with relative ease these days, but that does not always tell the whole story. A reputable provider will let you contact alumni for details and their experiences of the course you are planning to take. Grab this opportunity and be sure to politely contact and ask any former students about their experiences.
When talking to former students about their experiences, you want to know whether they found the course useful, what doors it opened for them, and whether they would recommend the course. If you have an idea of the industry or sector that you hope your degree will help you find a job in, check with potential employers whether they would consider or value an online degree.
5. Are you comfortable with learning and handling software on your own?
By taking online classes, you can expect to lean on computer software programs to complete the majority of class assignments. G Suite and Microsoft Office 365 are the top two providers of cloud-based productivity tools for schools. Professors and students alike need to be up and running with these educational software tools in order to be more productive in the technology age.
After you leave school, you will realize that these applications are also very prominent in the business world. These productivity tools can become essential for document writing and formatting, formula calculations and tables, group presentations, and much more. Having a good handle on them has become basic computer skills for many. Depending on the area of study you are considering, you will need to know if you are comfortable and able to hand in your papers and other class assignments using such tools. And if not, will you have the time and dedication to learn these on your own? Having a friend to give a hand may help, but remember, they will not always be available to guide you in your computer software endeavors. Some students may feel very overwhelmed in having to learn software such as G Suite or Microsoft Office 365 besides everything else for their classes.
These five considerations should help you decide whether online study is right for you before you take the plunge. By considering your financial situation, your preferred learning style, the accreditation of the course provider, and your technology limitations, you will make an informed choice to help you stand at a good spot for your future career.