The COVID-19 pandemic has brought online classes and e-learning to the forefront of the educational landscape. Perhaps, in your experience, it has been more convenient for your busy life to attend online classes and it may be something you’re considering long-term. For example, this decision may be convenient for your work schedule. In-person college courses may not be ideal for everyone, but it’s worth weighing the pros and cons of an online college program before you commit. 

What to look for when browsing online degree programs (adapted from Fastweb):

  • Does the institution have accreditation? There are institutions like traditional colleges like Pennsylvania State University with its World Campus division and the University of Washington that offer online degree programs, but there are also other completely or mostly online degree programs at Southern New Hampshire and the University of Phoenix. This will be vital when earning your degree online because it’s what employers at when you apply for jobs in the future. Overall, you want your degree to count after spending time and money on it!
  • Check out the faculty. Are they full-time or part-time? Mostly adjunct professors? Is there a mixture of these? Depending on your major, you may seek out one program over another based on what kinds of courses they offer.
  • Look into what students from the degree program/college are doing after they graduate. You’ll want to know this to see if they have good jobs and were able to pursue a career in what they studied in the program.
  • Are the courses asynchronous or interactive? Asynchronous means that you are simply on your own, downloading the course materials, studying it, and taking an exam on the material rather than having a live professor, which would be interactive. While asynchronous can be convenient for busy individuals, it may make you feel more on your own with less support from professors. 
  • How are the courses organized? Is there a strict structure or is it flexible? How are you graded in the courses? 
  • How much will you interact with the faculty? Do the professors have office hours? Will they only be available by email? 

What to ask yourself when you’re considering an online degree program:

  • How good are your time management skills? Are you able to stay organized and juggle multiple courses at once without constant reminders from professors? If this is something you excel at, then an online degree program is definitely suitable for you — and it’ll prepare you for the workforce!
  • Are you self-motivated? You’ll need this skill to get through online courses because there won’t be other classmates or professors checking in with you in person to make sure you’re doing what you need to do. You will have to be your own cheerleader! Of course, if you have family and friends to support you, definitely take the support you need to achieve your goals. 
  • Are you comfortable asking for help? You’ll need to be excellent at communicating with your professors, advisors, and other classmates via email or other forms of communication. This includes asking questions when you’re unsure of something or need to clarify an assignment or instruction. Some people don’t have this soft skill, but it’s important when you don’t have in-person interaction with others.
  • Do you have a private space at home to do online learning? You’ll need space with minimal distractions for you to focus on your classes, coursework, and studying. Distractions will definitely impact your motivation and time management skills negatively.

Hopefully you consider this advice before deciding on whether or not an online degree program is for you! You may decide to pursue a traditional in-person degree program or a hybrid program instead. There are a lot of options for earning a degree, just make sure you weigh your own preferences beforehand.

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