With the increasing popularity of approaching post-secondary education from a virtual perspective happening over the past decade, online schools have developed into a viable and respectable means of obtaining a diploma, certification or degree in order to further employment opportunities. Due to prominent accrediting organizations now taking a role in assessing the quality of online schools, the majority of employers view online degrees as being just as respectable as traditional degrees earned at physical university campuses. When an established accreditation agency recognizes a particular online school for having exceptional curriculum, this not only benefits the school but also the students who enroll and eventually receive a diploma or degree from that school.
National accrediting entities like the Council for Higher Education
, the Distance Education and Training Council
and the National Accreditation and Certification Board
are all recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. These accrediting agencies are comprised of private educational organizations that oversee peer evaluations of each school to determine if standards regarding course material, instructor qualifications and program designs are being met. Excellent online schools will endeavor to be accredited by these agencies as well as important regional agencies such as:
If an online school is accredited by one or more of these organizations, then it can rightfully be considered a bona fide higher learning institution capable of providing students with a quality education and a reputable degree.
Why People are Choosing Online Education Over Traditional Colleges
Tuition expense and the flexibility
afforded with class scheduling are two major reasons why many students are choosing to earn degrees online
rather than commute to or live on a campus. Since there is no need to attend classes on specific days at specific times, students can remain employed while enrolled in an online school program and avoid the huge debt often facing graduates of traditional two year or four year college degree programs. Online assignments are uploaded by instructors, along with lecture notes and other pertinent information, which assists students in completing assignments in their spare time. However, opting to enroll in online classes requires students remain motivated, self-disciplined and conscientious about reading textbook material and performing all assignments and examinations given by their instructor. Failing to keep up with classwork can result in the same consequences received by students attending traditional colleges—an "F" for the course that causes a substantial reduction in a student's GPA, or grade point average.
Other advantages of online schools include:
- The ability to access online schools offering diplomas and degrees benefits many people who live in remote areas of the U.S. where the nearest community college or university may be 50 to 100 miles away. In addition to saving money from expensive fuel costs, this is especially useful to handicapped individuals who are unable to drive.
- Attending university classrooms where a variety of learning styles exists can be frustrating and boring to the quick learner or the learner who requires more time to absorb material. The self-paced method emphasized by most online schools allows students to complete courses at their own speed without the stress of adjusting to tradtional instruction that may be too slow or fast for them.
- The rise of online schools can also be attributed to the large number of single mothers searching for a way to work full-time, raise children and earn a degree in order to enhance employment opportunities. Being able to assess assignments in the evening or in spare moments has allowed many single mothers to obtain bachelors and even masters degrees in a variety of majors leading to well-paying positions.
- Students of online schools report that they find the virtual environment less intimidating and less distracting than traditional university classrooms. Additionally, many students prefer using the class's "chat board" method to discuss assignments and other relevant information with members of their class rather than traditional methods of classroom discussion. Virtual discussions appears to ease much of the tension experienced by students who feel a question or comment may seem too "stupid" or "worthless" when physically spoken in front of a professor and room full of students.
What Can Online Schools Provide
Whether a student wants to earn a high school diploma, a medical transcription certification, an associate's degree in criminal justice, a bachelor of arts in business management, a master's degree in nursing or a doctorate in social work, online schools can now provide a stunning variety of degrees
to satisfy any personal goals or employment requirements. Enrollment procedures, length of programs, textbooks, examinations and expectations presented by online colleges and universities are fundamentally the same as those presented by traditional higher learning institutions. In addition, the cost of attending online school may be considerably less than physically visiting a campus each day
when gas costs, vehicle wear and tear and other expenses not incurred when taking classes at home are considered when assessing the total price of tuition.
Accredited schools also provide federal financial aid
in the form of Pell Grants and Stafford Loans for students who are eligible under guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Education. Procedures involving submission of financial aid forms remains the same with online schools, with schools receiving and relaying information regarding status of a student's Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Scholarships and individual school grants are also available for students with financial need. Further, students do not have to pay expensive out-of-state tuition fees that accompany enrollment in colleges or universities physically located outside of a student's home state.
Beware of Diploma Mills
While the majority of online schools are accredited and legitimate providers of viable degrees, some are just the opposite. These scam online schools called "diploma mills" promise people a degree based on "life experience" and a lump sum of money usually more than $300. Be aware that you cannot receive a valid degree without taking classes, doing assignments and passing examinations, activities that take time and more than just paying a one-time fee.
There is no such thing as a "fast online degree".
With an estimated four million people now participating in part-time or full-time online school programs, the future of online education is projected to grow and gain in popularity as more people find that the flexibility, convenience and affordability of online schools represents an advantageous alternative to traditional higher learning institutions.