How to choose the best online universities
Online education is growing in popularity, with enrolments increasing each year. Employers, too, are accepting these degrees, as long as they are from the best online universities accredited by valid agencies. However, when you select an online school and program, you need to check several criteria before you make your final choice.
While accreditation is the first point that you should check, there are several other factors that you need to consider. Here is a checklist to assess the validity and value of online degree programs.
Does the school have proper accreditation?
- One of the most vital points that you should take note of while enrolling for a degree program is whether the online course from the college or university has proper accreditation from a recognized accrediting agency.
- Good accreditations are national accreditation, regional accreditations, and professional accreditation.
- The DoE or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) should recognize these accrediting agencies.
- You should look for a course with a valid regional accreditation as it holds a higher value than national accreditation.
- Program-level accreditation from professional associations or from special councils further validates the online degree.
When does one need program accreditation?
- Some career-specific degree courses like nursing, teaching, law, etc. may require approval by relevant accreditation agencies.
- Some examples of this are accreditations from professional associations like the American Bar Association for law degrees, or from special bodies like the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) for education degrees.
How can one carry out some research into the reputation of the university?
- After narrowing down your choices of the best accredited online universities, look at the statistics and peer opinions.
- If there have been many dropouts or low pass percentage, it may be a warning. So, dig deeper to find out if the dropout rates were due to personal reasons or due to the quality of the program, the support offered, etc.
- You can search for reviews of the university as well as for the specific degree program on educational portals, general review websites, etc.
- Find out if the curriculum meets the standards of a degree program, whether the faculty is highly qualified, as well as other relevant details.
How can one get financial support for an online degree?
- To finance your education from the best accredited online universities, you can follow the same path as on-campus students.
- See if the online program has financial support services that can help you find appropriate aid.
Why should one check the style of program delivery?
- Most people choose online degree programs because of the learning flexibility they offer.
- You do not attend regular classrooms at a physical location, you can avoid the daily commute, you can access learning materials from your home, or on-the-go, as per your schedule. You also learn at your own pace.
- Some accredited online degree programs require you to attend some onsite sessions. If this is needed, make sure that you choose a good program from the best online accredited university located nearby to avoid long-distance travel for each session.
- Ensure that the online student portal gives you access to many facilities such as digital study materials, reference materials, and a digital library, if possible.
- Your course should provide access to recorded video classroom sessions if you are unable to attend a live one at the appropriate time.
- You should also check if you can access the student portal and your classrooms through apps on your mobile devices.
Do online courses have strict time schedules?
- Some online programs have a specific schedule for attending an online classroom session. They may also have deadlines to submit assignments, take online tests, etc.
- However, some of the best accredited online universities offer a more flexible schedule.
- Choose an online degree program that fits your time constraints.
What is the importance of technical support while choosing an online accredited university?
- Make sure that the online university provides technical assistance.
- For instance, a live video classroom might fail to load. In such a case, you may find it difficult to access your study materials, test papers, etc.
- In these cases, the university should give you quick access to a technical support team member, through phone, live chat, etc. who can resolve the issue quickly.
Does the online course provide excellent academic support?
- A highly qualified and helpful faculty is as essential for online degrees as for on-site programs.
- To clarify doubts, for guidance on subjects, and for other requirements, you should have access to the course instructor through email or chat.
- The professors should be quick in responding to your queries.
What factors should one verify before enrolling at the best accredited online universities?
- Check if the accredited online university provides career support for students.
- Verify if they help you find a good job after you complete the degree.
- Check if the degree has a high value with potential employers.
- Ask former students if this degree helped them find good jobs.
- If you plan on continuing your education, you must check if the credits from the current program count towards higher degree programs.
- Check if reputed universities accept these credits for their programs.
All the above points are relevant, and you should be clear about them before you enroll in an online program. Choose the best online universities accredited by recognized agencies.
You might not want to spend a few years in getting your degree and then find out that employers or other universities do not regard this degree in high esteem. So, make your choice carefully.