A college degree is almost a requirement to get any job these days.
Employers want to see an Associate’s degree, at a minimum, but a Bachelors degree is generally preferred.
At the same time, college costs continue to skyrocket making getting a great education an expensive proposition for many.
One of the ways you can improve your education is to go online.
Many schools now offer online courses which can help you work toward your degree.
Even schools like Harvard offer online courses.
While you want to make sure you are taking a trustworthy online course, and getting it at a good rate, you might also want to decide if it fits your personality.
Getting an Online Degree: First of All, Is It Really Worth It?
Here are some things to consider before you jump straight into an online degree program.
Just as Much Work — Or More Work — Than a Traditional Course
Eric Chen is an Associate Professor of Business Administration at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut. “Perhaps the biggest misconception about online programs is that an online course is less work than a traditional course,” he says. “Online course offerings are often more work.”
Even though many online courses allow a student to work at his or her own pace, the reality is there is a lot of work which needs to be done.
And, a student has to be motivated to complete the assignments and engage in self-directed study.
“It is still up to the student to participate online and document the student’s learning activities,” Chen points out. “In fact, online course offerings actually require the student be more disciplined in order to successfully complete such a course.”
While there are degree mills out there, offering unaccredited courses and degrees that don’t take as much work, a legit course will likely come with its own challenges and require that you put in as much — or more — time as you would if you were taking the class on a traditional college campus.
Who is Suited for an Online Course, Then?
If you want to take an online course, whether you are trying to finish up a degree, or whether you are trying to achieve a specific certification in order to qualify for a raise or promotion at work, it’s a good idea to make sure you are well-suited for an online education.
“The best online learner is one who takes responsibility for his or her learning,” Chen says.
He says the students who often do well with online courses have the following traits:
- Technological Familiarity
“The best online learners I’ve seen at the college level happen to be adult learners,” Chen says.
“Those who have embraced technology, those in management positions who have the incentive to finish degrees quickly in order to get promoted up the chain, and those whose travel schedules do not allow for regular meetings at a predetermined time every week.”
He says many younger students struggle with online courses. They may have more technology savvy, but they don’t often have the maturity to understand what it takes to be successful.
“Younger students often get tripped up by the illusions the flexibility [online] learning offers,” Chen says.
I can see his point.
The idea that there is “plenty of time” to catch up and the idea the online class can be finished later often means many students never end up finishing since many online courses still require you complete the work (and take the exam) within a predetermined period of time.
“Students should carve out dedicated time to devote to their learning, whether it be in an online or traditional classroom,” Chen suggests.
With a traditional classroom, though, carving out this learning time is often easier, since it’s part of the daily routine.
To succeed at online coursework, you need to carve out regular time to work on your assignments, and add the online learning into your routine.
In the end, only you can decide whether online learning is right for you.
Before you take the plunge, carefully consider your situation, and whether or not you really are cut out to take online classes.
If you aren’t, online courses are little more than a waste of money.
Are Online Degrees Just As Valuable As Others?
Getting a degree with an online school has gained a lot of traction lately.
It wasn’t that long ago when online degrees have a certain amount of stigma attached to them, but ever since people starting flooding the workforce with degrees from online schools, employers have started to take notice.
Online schools have to go through the exact same accreditation process as any traditional higher-education degree program.
Now that online schools are growing in both number and popularity, many people aren’t sure about how much it actually costs.
Tuition costs are a very cost-prohibitive and many people simply can’t afford the tuition of a lengthy degree program.
Now that online degree programs are so accessible, many people wonder: is it cheaper to get an online degree?
Are Online Courses Cheaper?
The answer to whether or not an online degree cheaper than a traditional one is a little more complicated than a simple “yes” or “no.”
There are many factors at play on both the national and local level. You can research quality degree programs like, Everest University, which have programs that can be completed in only a year.
Of course, going to an online school might be cheaper than a big named school, but there are some instances when it would be far less expensive than going to a local community college.
For the 2010-2011 school year, CollegeBoard.org released the figures for the trends in current college pricing. It varies greatly depending on which type of institution you’re going to.
If you’re comparing brick-and-mortar institutions, the pricing applies as follows:
- For a public (two-year) degree the average cost is around $2,700 dollars
- For a public in-state (four-year) degree, the average cost is about $7,60
- For a public out-of-state (four-year) degree, the average cost is around $20,000
- For a private out-of-state (four-year) degree, the cost is $27,000
Note: These figures aren’t set in stone and vary depending on the institution. With that said, this gives you a pretty good idea of the relative cost of traditional schools and how much it would cost you compared to an online degree.
When you’re trying to ascertain the full cost of an online program, it gets a little bit more complicated.
Taking Online Courses Does Give You Options
When you’re taking an online college course, it doesn’t really matter which state you live in, you’re never an out-of-state student.
This is a factor which can be a deciding factor for many thinking about the online option.
This is an area for potential savings because when you’re an out-of-state student at a traditional college, the price goes up quite a bit. The average markup for these students is, on average, about $12,000 dollars. When you attend an online college, you pay the same tuition, regardless of your location within the country.
After you go over the various expenses of going to traditional schools versus online programs, you then get down to the dollars and cents where things really start to become more clear.
When you’re getting an online degree, there are many ancillary costs that people usually don’t factor into the equation.
When you’re attending class online, the only things you need is a computer, Internet connectivity, and source materials.
After that, you don’t have to think about food, transportation, on-site living expenses, and all the other costs.
If you’re factoring in all of the costs, if you want a four-year degree, online programs are usually less expensive.
However, if you’re just going for an associate’s degree or basic training in a trade program, you might want to look into local options.
The cost difference really comes into play depending on your specific educational goals.
There is a never-ending assortment of online courses to choose from, and many people are turning to them to learn from the comfort of their own homes.
They are easier to attend as well when most people have a very busy schedule and don’t have time to go to a university or other location.
But… just because they are easier to attend, does that mean they are easier to pass?
My experience is a big fat “No.”
I’ve attempted a few online courses, one in college and one for my professional career and both failed miserably.
As I’ve learned, I need to actually be a classroom environment if I have any hope in learning anything.
Despite my struggles, online courses are even gaining in global popularity because of the flexibility there is in training from your own home.
Plus the other great advantage to these online courses is the fact you can learn at your own pace while you continue working, and online courses are updated regularly and are usually very affordable.
Where Can You Find Your Courses?
In the education world, Virginia and Washington, D.C. have some of the best colleges and centers for education.
This holds true for the online course community as well.
When looking for an online course to study from your home, you will find that the ones based out of training centers in Virginia and Washington, D.C. will have the best education, career placement and diploma programs.
This is because they work with education professionals to create these courses, so you will get the best training that you could get from the comfort of your home.
These online classes also keep you updated on the latest curriculum available so that you stay informed and are able to choose a career that will do well in the world.
Who Takes Online Courses?
Many people want to take online courses because they want to learn a new career path while they are still working their current job. That is why, again, the convenience of these online courses has risen in popularity.
People do not have to quit their jobs to take them and can set their own schedule and pace. Other people who like to take these online courses are people looking to further their knowledge in their current job for career advancement or just improve their overall knowledge.
What to Watch Out For!
Although there are many other good places to find online courses, there are as with just about everything else, people out there who are trying to scam you to take your money. It will depend a lot on what the area of your study is as well.
Don’t get fooled into thinking that there are any completely hands-off courses in areas of study such as nursing. If you find nursing courses online that claim this, then they are most likely a scam and you should find a different one.
Also, do your research and make sure you find out about the university or place of education that is offering the online courses. You can easily find information about them online and reviews from other students.