In addition to expanding your educational horizons and enriching both your personal and professional life, pursuing college coursework or completing your degree is a smart way to recession-proof your career.
One of the most convenient ways for busy working adults to finish school is by pursuing a degree in an online format.
Online degrees have gotten a bad rap by some. Often, this is just a case of being uninformed about what it’s really like to earn a degree online. The truth of the matter is that online instruction, online degrees and distance learning provide a highly flexible and creative way to finish your education.
Here are 5 common myths about online degrees—and the real truth behind them.
Online Degree Myth #1:
You’re in it alone.
Well, yes and no. Yes, there is definitely a level of personal responsibility that comes with this type of learning. But no, you’re not without community. The fear of being left to your own devices is a valid concern, to be sure. But if you’re envisioning that it’s just you and your computer (possibly at crazy hours of the night) with seemingly nobody to talk to or ask questions, you may be pleasantly surprised at how some of today’s online learning platforms help keep you connected to classmates and professors. Even though there is no classroom, chalkboard or lectern, there is plenty of interactivity happening within the virtual walls of online learning environments. With chat rooms, forums and 1:1 instructor feedback, as well as phone, text, email and office appointments (depending on your location and the program you choose), suffice it to say that many online degree students feel infinitely more connected online than they do in the regular classroom. Make a list of what’s most important to you in this area. If you come out on the side of “con” more than “pro,” consider traditional classroom learning. Better yet, take one online class to see how you fare. Hybrid classes are also quite popular – take some classes online and others face-to-face. See what you like by getting a feel for both formats.
Online Degree Myth #2:
Your degree won’t be taken seriously by prospective employers.
A commonly overlooked fact is that grads of online degree programs earn the exact same degree as face-to-face students. Unless you volunteered this information during an interview, the prospective employer would rarely know the difference. What employers are more often looking for when weighing your qualifications is the reputation of the institution. Employers may be suspicious of a degree from one of those large, for-profit diploma mills (and sometimes rightly so), but most are not at odds with online degrees in general. To ensure that prospective employers will take your degree seriously, explore your school’s relationship with the local business community. A recent survey of members of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) indicated that 79% of those surveyed had, within the previous 12 months, hired a candidate with an online degree.
Online Degree Myth #3:
You’re guaranteed to have professor problems.
There are no guarantees; however, some say gaining the attention of your professor may be even easier in the virtual world given the variety of contact methods at the disposal of today’s online student. There are plenty of ways to interact with professors, including phone calls, texting, email, instant messaging, group work and chat. Some online learning environments, like Franklin University’s LMS (learning management system) platform, incorporate online learning tools and faculty profiles and blogs into their curriculum, giving students unprecedented access. Before choosing a program, ask how the school facilitates the working relationship between professor and student and between student and classmates.
Some questions to ask include:
- How do I contact my professor?
- Can we meet face to face, if necessary?
- Are there required in-person meetings?
- Aside from email, what other ways is course information delivered?
- Will I receive feedback from my professor? If so, what kind and how will I receive it?
- How do I get technical help?
- What if I need technical assistance in the middle of the night?
- How can I get academic help or tutoring?
- Can I work offline?
Online Degree Myth #4:
Classes are too easy. You won’t learn or be challenged.
This is a common misperception. And one exacerbated, in part, by the prevalence of search engines and the help they potentially provide. In reality, you can’t just “Google” your way to test answers or a degree. There is just as much oversight in the virtual classroom as in the regular one. Rigorous standards, such as proctored exams, ensure you’ll earn your grade through hard-earned knowledge and skill. Also, with accredited online degree programs, the coursework is equally challenging regardless of whether classes are taken online or offline, as both modalities are held to the exact same educational standards. As in the classroom, the level of difficulty for each online class depends on a number of factors, including the nature of the content being taught and the professor who’s teaching it.
Online Degree Myth #5:
Online degrees are not accredited, which means you’re not earning a “real” degree.
This one’s tricky because there are some institutions that are not accredited at regional and national levels. Steer clear of these diploma mills, and opt instead to pursue your online degree through an accredited institution. To become accredited, a university or college must be evaluated and validated by a reputable third-party accrediting agency as having met established education standards. According to the U.S. Secretary of Education, “accreditation of an institution or program by a recognized accrediting agency provides a reasonable assurance of quality and acceptance by employers of diplomas and degrees.” A great place to check for accreditation information is the U.S. Department of Education website at http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation. If the school is accredited, it can be found in that government database.