When considering postsecondary options, many students find themselves asking the question: “Is online college worth it?” We are in the peak of a digital age, yet still students worry whether an online education is as credible (and valued by employers) as a traditional degree.
From career certificates to graduate degrees, most online colleges award legitimate distinctions that are just as valid as traditional, on-campus institutions. Apart from scams and unlicensed credential mills, students can earn official diplomas, certifications, and undergraduate and graduate degrees online. This is all to say that, when you choose the right online college, the investment is well worth it.
Although implemented nearly 150 years ago, distance learning has become significantly more mainstream in recent years. Especially since the start of the COVID-19- pandemic, remote knowledge, resources, and virtual learning experience has expanded, and the previous stigma attached to online degrees is lessening. Now, online classes are more sought-after than ever.
According to federal data, in the 2019-2020 academic year, 52% of postsecondary students took at least one online course (not including remote classes due to COVID-19). That same year, 23% of learners participated in entirely virtual programs.
Online environments have become a new norm in the workforce, too. Today, remote employers seek to hire online degree holders, often due to their invaluable digital experience. In an article from Forbes, a study found that high-paying remote opportunities increased from 4% to 9% by the end of 2020, with 15% of high-earning jobs being virtually available today. The study predicted that 25% of all professional positions in North America would be remote by the end of 2022, and it’s expected that the climb in professional prospects will continue until 2023.
The Credibility of Online Colleges
So, how do you choose the “right” online college? Which factors should you assess before deciding that an online school is worthwhile? Below are some considerations to keep top-of-mind when researching prospective colleges.
Academic accreditation acknowledges that an educational institution meets the standards outlined by the Department of Education. To avoid schools making false accreditation claims, prospective students seeking online degrees should do their due diligence and research to ensure the U.S. Department of Education approves the college’s listed accrediting agency.
A Curriculum that Counts
Potential students should also examine the online college’s program curriculum, keeping in mind questions like — Does the coursework align with my goals, and will this program adequately prepare me for my field?
Analyzing Student Support Services
Students can still feel like part of their college community with an online-only education. By analyzing the online student support services, learners will better understand how the college they’re considering will serve them for future success. These services may include:
- Financial Aid Planning: Between filling out your FAFSA, finding scholarship opportunities, selecting student loans, and beyond, financial aid offices can support students in finalizing the application process.
- Academic Support: While academic advising assists students with mapping out an action plan to pursue their career goals, academic success centers can provide tutoring to students having difficulty in demanding subjects.
- Counseling: Also, counseling sessions offer learners comprehensive mental health assistance. Career counseling services can help students build professional resumes, write cover letters, build professional connections, and land a job they love.
Common Questions about Online College
In addition to the qualities that make a great online college, there are a few internal factors to assess when contemplating an online degree. For instance, every student should ask themselves:
- Can you succeed in an online learning environment?
- Does your mental health benefit from being home?
- Would an online degree enable you to continue working or caring for your family?
Also, consider asking a college representative the following inquiries:
- Is the program curriculum optimized for virtual learning?
- Despite being an online program, is there any in-person component? (For example, clinical or service-learning requirements?)
- Will my online classes be synchronous (live virtual courses) or asynchronous (prerecorded)?
- Does the school offer student-centered learning or competency-based learning?
- What kind of technical support can I expect? · What are the institutions’ graduation and job placement rates?
Why You Should be Optimistic About Online Learning
Online Skills that Stand Out
Online graduates demonstrate determination, self-sufficiency, and a solid work ethic to potential employers. Additionally, digital degree earners are habitually well-organized with excellent time management talents.
Remote learners also have the technical aptitudes for today’s workforce. Graduates have extensive experience with collaboration platforms, digital presentations, project management tools, virtual discussion boards, and software applications specific to their industry.
Developing Relationships Digitally
With virtual confidence to connect, learners can use technology to network with diverse degree seekers. From classmates in different states to peers with unique life experiences, inclusive online environments have the power to enhance engagement and cultural competencies in higher education environments.
A Flexible Format
Online courses are accessible and can fit most busy schedules, including learners in the military. Consequently, students can complete classes at their own pace while still adhering to their active lifestyles. Whether working full-time or raising a family, the adaptability of online programs makes earning a degree possible.
Enrolling in an online college offers reduced stress and a more restored life balance. Remote students have the convenience of being in the comfort of home while honing their degree dreams, and this luxury can lead to a rewarding career.
Are you considering an online college? Learn more about the online programs offered at Goodwin!