As technology has improved, the concept of distance education vs. attending college on campus has changed dramatically as well. Most universities now offer degrees through distance learning; the term most often used today is “extension studies,” because the classes are an extension of the programs offered at the actual brink-and-mortar campuses (most schools will have an extensions studies tab or link on their website as well). These degrees are no longer looked at by employers as having been earned at a second-rate institution or bought from a diploma mill, but rather as true degrees earned with the same, or more, amount of effort as those earned on the campus itself.
Certainly distance education is a means for earning a degree that becomes more and more popular every year. It is a great way for many people to finish college who could not have returned to school full-time otherwise (because of job or family commitments, for example). Whether it’s an online program through the University of Texas or through the ubiquitous online-only University of Phoenix, college enrollment among working adults is at an all-time high. Many companies have tuition reimbursement programs for their employees, so be sure to check with your Human Resources department before enrolling.
There are also more and more ways to interact with other distance learners, which helps you build both relationships and the all-important network of connections crucial to the business world today. And when you study by extension at a state university or other well-known institution, the diploma you receive says nothing about extension studies on it. It is exactly the same one you would receive if you spent four years on campus.
For those entering college straight out of high school, this may not be the best way to go, except for getting a few classes out of the way that won’t fit anywhere else in your schedule. Distance learning can give you the knowledge you gain from earning a degree, but for things like football games, frat parties, leaves turning colors as you walk across the campus, and finding a good sleeping spot in the library you have to actually attend classes on campus. And everyone should have to experience dorm life for a semester or two.
Many of us have actually done both. Having overindulged in the “college experience” the first time around, ultimately leaving after five years with no degree and 1.3 GPA, a person can now finish what they started 20 years ago through distance learning. Look at it as the best of both worlds.