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A decade or two ago, it was common for people to hear “online degree” and think “diploma mill.” But with each passing year, distance learning technology continues to improve. More and more well-respected universities are adding more online degree programs to their offerings.

In an interview with ThoughtCo, Dr. Corinne Hyde, assistant professor for USC Rossier’s online masters in teaching degree, said, “We now see top-ranked schools taking their degree programs online and delivering very high-quality content that is equivalent to, if not in some cases better than, what they’re delivering on the ground.”

Online degrees widely accepted by employers and students

Today’s tech-savvy employers are far more inclined to grant online degrees the same credibility as those earned in on-campus programs than they were a decade ago. Consequently, we’re seeing what Inside Higher Ed refers to as “a steady march in the normalization of online learning.”

Inside Higher Ed cites the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics report published in late 2018 showing that the proportion of all students who were enrolled exclusively online in 2017 grew to 15.4% (up from 14.7% in 2016), or about one in six students. That’s quite impressive when you realize that online education really only got rolling in the mid-1990s.

This increase in online enrollment is especially noticeable in master’s programs. An analysis by Kristin Blagg, a research associate in the Urban Institute’s education policy program, found that 31% of students enrolled in master’s degree tracks in 2016 reported that their program was entirely online, according to ThoughtCo.

In explaining the reason for this, Inside Higher Ed notes, “Online education may be particularly well-suited for students in master’s programs … because these students tend to be proactive and self-directed learners who are more likely to be educated and employed.”

Things to consider when evaluating online degrees

Despite the wide acceptance and ever-increasing enrollment, not all online degree programs are created equal. Here are a few things to take note of when deciding which school to align yourself with.

1) Ensure the college or university is appropriately accredited.

An award of accreditation confirms you’ll receive a high-quality education that will hold credibility with employers. It also means you’ll be more easily able to transfer credits to other schools or be accepted into graduate programs.

“Accreditation at Post is never taken lightly,” says Jeff Olsen, Post University’s Vice President of Student Experience.

“A school’s accreditation is their badge of honor, a testament from the accrediting body of its confidence in the school’s mission, direction, and ability to properly serve its students.”

Not only should you look for regional accreditation, but you also want to confirm that the specific program you’re enrolling in has a prestigious accreditation. For example: Look for the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs if you’re considering an MBA program or accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education for your prospective BSN-to-RN program.

2) Verify that you’ll get the kind of high-quality instruction and support you want.

While Best Colleges’ 2019 Online Education Trends Report found that 32% of online students had no concerns about choosing an online program over an on-campus one, those who did have concerns worried about the “quality of instruction and academic support” they’d receive.

Check out the faculty of any program you’re considering and confirm they are respected leaders in their fields who bring real-world experience into the virtual classroom. Additionally, will you have a team of academic and student support specialists who focus solely on your academic success?

You’ll want to look for an interactive learning environment that uses the latest technologies and techniques to let you exchange ideas with your classmates in group discussions. You’ll also want an online degree program that keeps you connected to your instructors with one-on-one videoconferencing and real-time feedback on your work.

When asked about the level of support students can expect at Post University, Mr. Olsen said, “the delivery of our instruction, and the support we provide at Post, are second to none. Our faculty and staff are truly dedicated to the experience of our students. We take the approach to make our students feel like they are sitting next to us, or across the room when we interact, personalizing the interactions and delivering a unique experience to everyone. It is all a part of how we ‘Make It Personal’ with each and every student.”

3) Do your due diligence before enrolling in any program.

When Best Colleges asked online program graduates what they would do differently before enrolling if they had it to do all over again, the most popular answers were:

Let their hindsight be your foresight!

Now, what does this all really mean for you?

According to Mr. Olsen, “remember that this degree is about you. Look for a school that focuses on the student experience and how it provides students with the experiences that help them succeed. Also, keep in mind a school’s ability to fully understand your goals and then its ability to find the best path for you to reach them (this includes an efficient academic path and a clear and simple financial path)”.

Interested in learning more about Post University? Contact us today.