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A Guide to Online Degree Programs

There are many reasons people opt for online class over traditional classes. Online degrees offer flexibility. You can work your classes into your schedule and not the other way around, which is why many of the best degrees for working adults are online. And you get to go at your own pace. You can take accelerated courses, or accelerated programs, meaning you can go through your classes at a faster pace, if that’s right for you. Alternatively, you can take your time. Either way, learning at your own pace has been proven to be the most effective way to learn.

You are not limited by location with an online degree. Not only do you not have to worry about the time and cost of commuting to class, you can pursue a degree from a university in California when you’re living in South Korea. You can literally do your course work anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection, of course.

Because they are not bound by a physical location often all required material is available online, making online degrees sometimes less expensive than their traditional counterparts, though not always.

Today, there are so many degree and class options available in online format; almost any degree you would pursue in person you can find in an online format too.  Since there are so many programs now, it’s easier than ever to find one through an accredited institution, making your online degree just as valuable as a traditional one for getting a job.

Here are some things to consider, if you are thinking about pursuing an online degree:

  1. Make sure to choose a degree from an accredited institution. While an online degree is just as valuable as a traditional degree, not all online programs are created equal. Degrees from accredited schools ensure the highest standards of education are being reached.
  2. Take a look at the technology required ensure you have the right resources to allow you to participate fully in the program.  Things to make particular note of are a fast internet connection, a webcam, and a printer, for example.
  3. Figure out how payment works. Some require full payment upfront, while others will let you pay in installments.
  4. Scholarships are not limited to traditional degrees anymore. See if you can find scholarships that apply to your online degree to help defray the costs.
  5. Know what kind of structure you need and what is expected in the various.Different courses allow for students to work entirely at their own pace, provided they finish the work by the end of the quarter or semester. But others offer more of the structure found in traditional classes, with deadlines for particular assignments, virtual class sessions students must attend, and some level of required interaction (via email or chat rooms, generally) between students and professors.
  6. Consider using a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA). PLAs offer the option to test out of some classes while giving you course credit for the knowledge you already have. There are several ways to earn PLA credits, including through the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP), DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST), and the Excelsior College Examination. These examples range in cost, from around $80 up to $445.  PLAs are typically aimed at non-traditional students who are self-starters, since they do require preparation and study.

If you’re not sure an online format is right for you, consider checking out a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).  MOOCs offer free courses in a variety of subjects, so there is no financial risk. While you can’t earn credit towards a degree, some of them, such as MOOCs through Harvard and Stanford, do offer certificates of completion. Other programs you can check out are Coursera, Udacity, and edX