Enrolling in an online degree program will provide you with the same level of education as you would achieve from a “brick and mortar” campus. You will still have to complete coursework and participate in online forums but you’ll find that the flexibility and affordability options are a terrific way to achieve a higher education without causing a major disruption to a current job or family obligations. All of this means is that the search begins. This is what to consider when searching for the best online degree classes for your situation:
Global Campus or Distance Only
What you consider to be a traditional college with classrooms and labs is referred to as a global campus. Just think of literally any college you’ve ever heard of from UCLA to Harvard. They are global campuses but they nearly all also offer online programs. Often, these programs are conducted with the same curriculum and faculty. Enrolling at a global campus for an online program also means you can gain access to that institution’s resources.
A distance-only institution is just that. There might be an administrative office but there is no campus and no classrooms. A distance-only university provides a different approach to their curriculum but the end result is the same: An earned degree.
Support for Online Students
Obtaining an online degree will have you working almost exclusively at your computer. However, that doesn’t mean you will technically be “alone.” Your choice of online degree program should also provide support not only for the technical aspects of the program but also for your own concerns and questions. That support can come through a variety of “real-time” sources such as:
• Online chat
• Instant messaging
• Toll-free phone number
• Web conferencing
• Virtual meetings
There should also be digital support such as:
• Social media updates for groups and events
• Discussion boards for classes
• Online libraries
There are more specific support areas that should be part of the program. These include admission help, financial aid advisors, veteran liaisons, and academic counseling. If you get the sense that you’re really alone, then this might not be the best online institution to consider.
Self-Paced vs. Real-Time
Finally, selecting the perfect online degree program for your lifestyle will come down to the Self-Paced issue of self-paced vs. real-time. A self-paced or asynchronous format allows you to study at your own pace. This means that your instructor won’t ever be in class with you. How would that work? You might be assigned reading materials or prerecorded lectures to view. That would lead to assignment work involving essays and participation in online group forums. There might be deadlines for turning in the assignments but those would also be extremely flexible.
A real-time or synchronous form means attending online classes at specific times. Think of it as a Zoom experience where you’ll be in class with your professor and classmates at the same time. The only difference is that you’ll all be on the computer.
There are also hybrid programs that offer a combination of online and in-person classes. These might be required for certain programs that require hands-on work in a particular field.
Ultimately, the best decision that you can make for an online degree program is an informed one.