Finding an online degree program is about as difficult as plugging the term into your favorite search engine. Finding a great online program that will be the best fit for you takes a little more effort. You need to plot your direction, identify possible courses, and evaluate each for maximum benefit.
The first course of action is to determine what type of program you are looking for. Have you already determined what type of degree you are looking for? Whether associate, bachelors, or even masters or doctorate, there are opportunities available. How about your career path? What kind of training is needed? What are the requirements of study to prepare for such a field? Is there a lot of practiced skills that may need a more direct presence while you pursue your studies, such as a tutor or a partner in training? What is your learning style? Do you need to be told, shown, or given directions and then told to go try it?
The next step is to determine what you want out of an online curriculum. Do you need flexibility in hours? How about the ability to work at your own pace? Maybe you are not into lectures and just like to work in the privacy of your own home.
Now it’s time to determine which institutions offer online. Put the following search terms (with quotes where applicable into your favorite search engines):
Be sure to bookmark each link to an institutional page as you will be looking at each one very carefully. As you evaluate the results, ask yourself the following :
1) Is this school accredited?
2) Does it offer streamed courses at specific times? If so, are they archived somewhere for later reference by students?
3) What is the cost of tuition? Does it include books? Materials? Shipping? Are there additional charges?
4) Is an online campus provided? If so, does it allow you to interact with fellow students to share experiences and to network?
5) How do you communicate with the instructors? Do they rely on a message board? E-mail? Can you call and talk to anyone?
6) Does their Financial Aide office answer queries promptly? Can they offer a competitive package to help break any ties with other campuses?
7) Does the program cover the necessary background builders for the skills that you need for your planned career?
8) Do you know anyone else who has taken courses from the site? What was their experience.
9) Does the site provide work placement assistance to graduates?
Contact your top three picks (hopefully, accredited) and ask them any questions that you have. Don’t be afraid to drill them on the hard questions of curriculum. Try to work with their financial aid department and don’t forget to submit a fafsa (www.fafsa.gov). You should not feel pressured to accept just because the admissions office has accepted you. It is only after you agree to the finance terms that you are obligated. You can work with two or three schools in this manner to determine which one will meet your academic and post degree needs while not leaving you severely in debt upon program completion.
Staying on top of these questions and knowing where you want to be will ensure that you remain the captain of your own course!