What’s Important in an Online Program?

You know you need an educational program that supports your career goals. But you also know that the hundreds of choices before you are making your eyes glaze over. Are they all really as good as they claim? Probably not. Here’s what you need to know to find a distance learning institution or program that’s as good as its claims and that’ll meet your needs.

Accreditation

The importance of enrolling in an accredited online program can’t be stressed enough. Employers take accreditation seriously, accrediting bodies take it seriously, and you should too. That’s because its purpose is to assure quality in the institution, academics and the administration. To become accredited, the institution must meet certain eligibility requirements as defined by the accrediting body. The accreditation process is involved, time-consuming and it’s voluntary. Any institution willing to invest the time and effort in getting accredited is worth a closer look.

Technology

Distance learning is first and foremost about learning. It’s not about which institution has amassed the most cutting-edge gizmos and gadgets. How can you feel confident that the institutions you’re considering emphasize learning? By evaluating the curriculum. Technology’s only role should be in delivering the curriculum to students in the most effective and efficient way possible.

Curriculum

Distance learning’s rapid growth has led to more competition. And that’s good news for you since competition usually causes online institutions to put more focus on improving the quality of coursework offered. But this isn’t always the case, and some online learning programs won’t be as challenging as others. To get a better idea of the institutions offering better-quality learning, you can always ask to review syllabuses for the courses you’re considering.

Administration

An online learning institution can only be as good as the administrative team that oversees it. Look for a strong and involved administration. When you find it, you’ll likely also find employees and instructors that are professional and well-respected.

Credits

If you’ve already earned credits, you want to know whether or not they’re transferrable. Find out before enrolling.

Interaction

Interaction between instructors and students is a crucial part of the educational process and even in distance learning, such interaction can still take place. Using chat and other online discussion tools, students can voice their opinions and be heard by instructors and other students. They can also hear other points of view. This type of interaction helps students learn to function within group environments and better understand the presented material.

Reputation

The online learning program’s reputation can go a long way towards enhancing or inhibiting your future. Learn what it is, and make sure you’re satisfied with what you discover.

Financial Aid

If you need help paying for your online learning education, find out how to get it. The institution’s financial aid office can review your available options so you can focus on learning, not struggle with paying.

Major

Of course, the distance learning program must offer coursework in the discipline you’re interested in pursuing. But remember, it’s not uncommon for students to change majors after a year or so. To better prepare for this possibility, think of other career paths you might be interested in pursuing. Then check to see if the online institution you’re interested in offers both.

Alumni

A good alumni network can go a long way towards providing the contacts you need to further your career goals. That’s because networking is still the most effective way to land your dream job. Always check out the alumni network.