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Choosing An Online Degree Program
College degrees have long been available by correspondence but with the growth of the internet, students can now pursue college degrees online. There are hundreds of schools offering online programs for everything from Masters Degrees in Business Administration to advanced degrees in the fine arts. Because of the large number of schools offering online programs, it can be difficult to know what to look for in a quality program.
There are two basic types of institutions offering online degrees: Colleges and universities with physical campuses and online-only institutions. Online-only institutions do offer single courses, but tend to focus on degree programs. Colleges and universities with physical campuses offer both complete degree programs and single courses, which are often taken by on-campus students as well as online-only students.
Many of the same questions students ask when investigating regular colleges also apply to online degree programs. For example, a prospective student might ask how many courses are taught by graduate assistants rather than professors. In assessing an online degree, it is equally as important to determine how many of the courses are taught by full professors and how much experience those professors have with teaching online courses.
However, there are questions that are specific to online degree programs. One of the most important, particularly for graduate-level degrees, is how much contact you will have with other students. There are two basic types of online degree programs, those where you work at your own pace and those where you are admitted with a cohort, or group of peers, and proceed through the degree program with them. One is not necessarily better than the other. The learning style of the individual student will determine which type of program fits their needs best.
Accreditation is also an important thing to look for. All colleges and universities are required to be accredited by a regional governing body in order for the degrees they issue to be considered valid. If an online degree program doesn't give accreditation information, prospective students should move on to the next program.
After determining the credentials and structure of an online degree program, prospective students should research the details. How can books be purchased? What equipment, software and hardware is required to access the courses? How much time should a student expect to spend per course? Is financial aid available? Typically these questions are addressed on the degree program's website.
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