Choosing and Evaluating Your Online Degree
After sorting out the accredited from the non-accredited, there are still a number of questions you need to ask before making your final choice.
School's Reputation: Check the school's reputation for its online courses, not just as a traditional school. A long established bricks-and-mortar school may have an excellent reputation in general, but its e-learning programme may not have been online for long and may not be up to scratch. Find out! Even great schools have occasional weaknesses.
Course Format: The presentation of the course can be just as important as its content. You will absorb great content more easily if it's presented in a dynamic, innovative way involving interaction between you and the instructor and between you and the content itself. You need a programme that takes advantage of all that interactive online technology has to offer. You need to ask: How does the instructor give lectures? Are they simply put online as text? Are there accompanying images? What interaction is there? What video or audio is there? How are assignments turned in? How are exams given?
Instructors' Qualifications: Online learning is relatively new, so check not only the credentials of the instructors but also their knowledge of online learning and how it differs from classroom learning. What support do the instructors receive from the school for their online courses? What happens when technical problems arise (as they surely will)?
Library Facilities: With online courses it is vital that the school has a good system for students to access reference materials and texts from anywhere in the world. Your ability to do assignments should not be hampered by lack of up-to-date electronic reference materials.
Student Assessment: Naturally, you want a degree that you've earned, not just received. But to earn a degree students need to be properly assessed to ensure that they have learned and understood. Find out what method of student evaluation is in place and whether it is rigorously applied.
Student Interaction: There should be as much interaction with other students as possible, often through chat rooms, instant messaging and tele- and video-conferencing. Find out what the established method for interacting is. Avoid schools that offer little or no student interaction.