Online education: How to choose the best web-based schooling based on your career path, finances, learning style, and many factors.
College-level institutions offered 11,200 programs intended to be completed through distance education. When we stop to consider that this statistic does not include hybrid or blended programs meant to incorporate both web and campus learning experiences, the fact is undeniable; “webucation”, formal education processes where students and instructors are not in the same classroom, is here to stay.
The current economic climate has many new and continuing students exploring distance education as a viable choice over conventional schooling. With so many options out there, it can be difficult to feel confident in your choice of untraditional schooling. Additionally, because of their nature, online institutions seem to have cornered the market when it comes to the information readily available on the web for students to base their decisions on. This article developed by the essay writing service DoMyWriting outlines several of the points to consider before selecting any schooling, but they address online schooling in particular.
Your Career Path
The first aspect to define in your search is what you would like your career path to be. Will it require multiple years of schooling or a quick certification? For example, heart surgeons, veterinarians, and nurse’s assistants go through very different training. Choosing a school that specializes in your field is wise and starting at a school that also offers basic courses to guide your career choices is also a plus. Speaking with a career counselor can help you narrow down, or even pinpoint your professional direction. Explore the different local requirements of professionals in the field you are considering, which in fields such as teaching, massage therapy, and nursing, can vary from state to state.
Next, you will need to assess if and how you can pay for your continued education. Many web-based institutions offer assistance and scholarships to particular student types, such as veterans and their families, low-income students, and in-state residents. Other eligibility factors might include your work experience or academic history. It is important to note that while scholarships and financial aid are available in many degree-granting programs, other certifications and training may not be covered by government funds. Additionally, some institutions only grant aid to students attending full-time, while others allow both full and part-time learners to receive aid. Always check with the school before registering for classes, otherwise you’ll end up with unexpected expenses that could interfere with your study.
Explore the curriculum of your field of study at a few schools. There will be many similarities and differences which will help you choose the right school based on your learning style, schedule, and life structure. Some schools offer programs that take place purely on the web and other a blended approach. It would be terrible to learn that to get the degree you have been working toward that you need to move to Utah for a semester! Besides its geography, another factor to consider is the program’s overall format. Are most of the courses based around independent study or group work? Will you be required to write a lot of papers, complete large projects or take multiple tests and quizzes instead? What suits you best? Last, be sure the school will allow you to complete the program at the pace that fits you. A full-time sequence suits many students, while others with outside work and family obligations may prefer a part-time enrollment plan. Never bite off too much or too little.
Institutions That Are Not Solely Web-based
Consider looking into lesser-known programs, many of which exist within or in conjunction with traditional brick and mortar institutions. Just because some of the school’s programs require on-campus study, does not mean they all will and the option to meet with your instructors in person can prove to be very beneficial. You might also consider exploring distance education through conventional institutions that are not located nearby. These programs may prove to be better than those local to you and those through strictly web-based companies. Interestingly enough, ivy-league universities such as Columbia University, Harvard University, and Cornell offer online degrees, training, and professional certifications at surprisingly affordable tuition rates.
Finally, accreditation is one of the most important if not MOST important factors to examine when comparing schools. A reputable school will either be regionally or nationally accredited. What’s the difference? Regionally accredited schools are evaluated by one of six regional accrediting agencies in the United States; meaning they are linked through the standards of respective geographic locations. National accreditation agencies began through the association of schools with a common theme, evaluating served schools that were not originally founded as colleges or universities. Less reputable schools or flat-out scams, however, typically have neither accreditation.
To verify an institution’s accreditation, check out the U.S Department of Education’s database of accredited post-secondary institutions and programs. Verifying this information will prevent you from wasting valuable time and money with a “diploma mill”, businesses that allow individuals to purchase false degrees that require little or no study, sometimes claiming to grant degrees based on “on life experience”. The Federal Trade Commission warns against acquiring credentials from these companies because those who do face unemployment, getting firing and prosecution… not to mention the humiliation that accompanies those situations. Specifically, the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) accredits colleges that offer distance education.
Good luck with choosing the best path for your online education and future!
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