Today, a simple click opens the door to a huge world of possibilities for online degrees and distance learning courses. However, you should not take them all for granted. Some might not be top quality while others might simply be scams.
So how can you tell the difference between a good online degree course and a less efficient or even a fake study programme? Here are 5 steps you should take before deciding on an online degree you will apply to.
1. Make sure you are applying to accredited universities
The main thing on your ‘To do’ list is to verify if the university is accredited. Usually, you should be able to do a simple check of the accreditation by looking on the website of the university, as they always include logos of the accreditation bodies at the bottom of the main page or they have a special tab/icon dedicated to accreditation. To double check, click on the logo and see if it takes you to the same accreditation body presented in the logo.
You can also do a quick Google search and check if there are any scam claims from students who applied to the same university you are thinking of applying to.
There are several non-governmental agencies that manage accreditation issues in the education field. You can simply access the websites of these agencies, enter the name of the university you intend to apply to and you’ll see if they are accredited or not.
If you want to reduce the time spent on this step, here are a few accredited universities you can check out right now:
- James Cook University, from Australia
- York University, from Canada
- University of Essex Online, from the UK
- Kettering University Online, from the USA
- London School of International Business, from the UK
2. Make sure you study what you pay for
Even if you’ve got the accreditation issue off your shoulders, you should still have a look on the curriculum for your chosen online Bachelor’s or Master’s. Although the degrees may have the same title, the curriculums often vary depending on universities.
Look at how consistent it is and what topics it includes so you have an idea on what the focus of the programme is. If you believe it suits your expectations, then you’ve got a perfect match!
During this step you should also research the credit system a bit. You’ll want to go for online programmes that have transferable credits. These programmes allow you to use credits earned in a professional certificate towards another full-time degree – on campus or online.
3. Explore funding possibilities
Many universities provide some form of financial aid to students, including to students who enrol in distance learning degrees. An important thing to check is whether the university offers government funding. If it does, this is a sign of recognition by the government, so your chosen programme is legitimate.
This element clearly adds to the overall quality score for the offered degrees and the university itself. You should also check for scholarships offered by the university or if they offer to counsel you on how to pay for your studies.
4. Check out the university student support services
In the case of online courses or degrees, the need for academic assistance is far greater and a highly important aspect of your study experience. As a future online student, you need to be able to contact the staff from student support services at any time for any concern or issue related to your study programme.
You should also verify or try to find out details on the technical support the university provides, such as:
- if the online learning platform is available and functional 24/7
- if you can easily access online learning materials and the online library
- how diverse and extensive the online communication options are. Most universities provide students access to use Blackboard – a platform where you can view course materials, but also chat you’re your colleagues and professors.
5. Research your chances of getting hired after graduation
Information on the employability rate may be more difficult to track or to find regardless how much you search for it. However, some universities post these statistics on their website and when they do, you should be confident the results are real or very close to real. A low graduate employability rate or even a low completion rate can be a hint of various negative aspects you’ll want to avoid, such as:
- There’s no strong academic support for students
- The university does not have a career services department
- The quality of the study programmes is questionable
Do a little homework before you start your online study
Before you embark on your distance learning journey, whether for a full degree or a short course, make sure you do your homework. Analyse and evaluate the elements mentioned above and they should provide a clear image on the status and quality level of the online programme you’re considering applying for. Have an open mind and remember to check out several options before reaching a conclusion!