Online Degree Programs: Separating the Good From the Bad

Over the past decade or so, technology has evolved and advanced at a very rapid pace. Apart from inroads into communication, engineering, networking and many other aspects, one of the foremost segments that has seen a sea-change is education. Colleges and universities are increasingly finding themselves in the online realm; the online education market place has been overcrowded leaving students in a tizzy about making the right choices.What is important to remember that not all education programs and courses are a safe bet.Online colleges and educational institutions have received much criticism for marketing education as a commodity; accusations ranging from enrolment for profits to misrepresentation and fraud have put many online colleges in the line of lawsuits.To overcome these hurdles, students have to be as savvy as consumers researching and buying products online before making their choice of an online college education or degree program.

What speaks for a good online school or collegeSome of the factors that can aid them in their research of picking the right education program are:• Accreditation: This is a stamp of approval on the institution which indicates to students that a particular online course or college meets the required academic standards. It also helps employers identify prospective candidates for their workforce. Specialists in online education caution students to look for regionally accredited institutions and do proper background checks on accrediting agencies because cases of phony credentials and fake agencies are also known to exist.• Curriculum: The curriculum is an all-important factor for the online program being considered. Comparing the modules of a program with that of another online college or a regular college or institution will give an idea about the components of the program and the subjects covered.• Credits: Flexibility to transfer credits to another college or program should be an option for the students to exercise. If that isn’t an option, the question “Why?” may provide the answer that perhaps the course that they are opting for does not meet required standards.• Support services: Students take up programs, regular or online, to advance their career prospects. Academic assistance and counseling should be at hand to answer any questions the student may have not only regarding academic counseling but career progression as well. Any school that fails to provide answers or if the support service is lacking, then it may be because they don’t want to be too vocal about things upfront. Such schools are best avoided say online education experts.

What doesn’t

A red flag area that students need to be cautious about is financial aid. A student may encounter a pushy and aggressive financial aid counselors exerting pressure to take out a loan to pursue an online degree. Every student should be fully knowledgeable about financial aid packages and their implications and not succumb to what seems like a very helpful measure.Another equally important area to closely watch is the graduation rates or loan default rates of an online school. High dropout and low completion rates could indicate that the online program lacks academic counseling support for prospective students and a high loan default statistic could indicate gaps in financial aid counseling.So, the need of the hour is research. What separates a good online school from the bad are factors like low default rates, high retention and success.