May 19, 2011 | cstewart Online education can be difficult to wrap your head around. What is it really like? Is it easier or harder than going to a brick-and-mortar school? How do I know which online schools will give me the education I want? Those are great questions. And we have great answers. Online school is not as elusive as you might think. We tell you what you should expect from the enrollment process, what obstacles you might face as well as the benefits of an online degree. Get the information you need before you make decisions about your education. Download our Free Guide >> Lazy Guide Overview Below is an overview of what to expect from our free lazy guide to an online education. How to Begin Your Online Education Where Do I Start? It can be a daunting task to find an accredited online school that offers the programs and features that are important to you. The Lazy Guide helps you walk through the process with two students who recently went back to school online. The Enrollment Process Learn how two students went through the enrollment process: Step 1: Research Step 2: Speak with Education Counselor Step 3: Speak with a Financial Advisor Step 4: Start Courses Requirements Requirements and eligibility vary across each online school. What You Should Know Before Enrolling In An Online School Accreditation Is your school of choice accredited? The reason for accreditation is to ensure that higher education institutions are providing education that meets acceptable standards of quality. You want to make sure the school you decide to attend is accredited. If a school is not accredited: Potential employers may consider your credentials fraudulent. It is ineligible to participate in Federal student financial assistance programs. If access to financial aid is important to you, make sure to enroll in an accredited school. You probably won’t be able to transfer credits to another school if you choose to switch schools. Financial Aid Does your school of choice offer financial aid? Ask the school you’d like to attend how much to expect for tuition. This may determine whether you need financial aid. Financial aid is only awarded to students enrolled in an accredited school. If you’re not sure where to start in receiving financial aid, check out the FAFSA website and fill out an application Can online students receive financial aid? Yes! Check out the top online colleges that received the most federal Pell Grant funding in the 2008-2009 school year. Programs and Degrees Does your school of choice offer the programs that interest you? Do your research. First, find out what you want to study. Then make sure whatever school you are considering offers that program. Faculty What are the required credentials for instructors? Your instructor’s credentials should be comparable to those at traditional universities. Most junior colleges require their instructors to have a master’s degree in the area they teach. Most universities require their professors tohave a doctorate in the area they teach. Credit Transfer Talk to your school and find out if the credits you are receiving will transfer to other schools. Warning: Self-Discipline Needed There’s this rumor that online degrees are easier to earn than traditional degrees. Not true. You have to remember that you are earning a college degree; it should be difficult. In some ways online degrees may be more difficult than traditional degrees because you don’t have face time with professors or the social pressure from peers and instructors to complete course work. It’s important for online students to be self-motivated and disciplined. Without those characteristics, it will take much longer to earn your degree if at all. You can’t knock the online degree just because you can earn it in your pajamas. Benefits of An Online Degree The obvious benefit of online schooling? CONVENIENCE. But there’s more…. Anywhere: You decide when and where you take courses. All you need is a computer and internet connection. Forget about your commute and parking pass, everything you need is in your living room. Anytime: You can easily schedule your courses around family and work responsibilities. Online education is perfect for working students, parents, or those limited by other restrictions. Any Way: Learn as slowly or quickly as you want. You can choose to earn your degree in 4 years or as little as 6 months. It all depends on your schedule and personal preferences. In general, it takes less time for students to earn an online degree than a degree from a traditional school. Any Style: Implement learning styles and mediums that help you learn best. Contact your professor or other student through email, wiki pages, chat rooms, and video conferencing. Study what you want; skip over material you already know. Any Speed: An online education is totally customizable; and that applies to the time it takes you to earn your degree. Obstacles to Online School Little Social Interaction: The nature of an online schooling doesn’t allow for a lot of face-to-face interaction between students and instructors. If you learn better when interacting with other people, online education may not be the best option. Possible Difficult Transition for Instructors: For instructors who are more accustomed to teaching at a brick and mortar school may have a hard time transitioning into an online setting. If they’re not comfortable with the technology, it may be difficult for you to get the most out of your schooling. No Immediate Feedback: A lot of your interaction is done through email with professors. So you have to wait up to a day to hear back from your instructor. This kind of communication also requires that students not procrastinate so they’re not waiting for a response right at deadline. Ease of Cheating: Since it’s much easier to cheat at an online school, some institutions or employers may not trust the credibility of your degree. Online Degrees vs. Traditional Degrees: Online degrees from accredited schools are becoming more acceptable by employers and traditional schools. Credibility: An online degree has the same credential as a degree earned from a traditional school. They have actually found that the quality of work from online students is usually higher than students attending courses in the classroom. Job Placement: As a rule, online degrees from recognized institutions carry more credibility with employers than degrees from obscure schools. Online degree programs are becoming more acceptable to hiring managers. More and more corporation are open to hiring applicants with online degrees and offering tuition reimbursement for student employees. Advanced Degrees: More and more online schools are offering graduate and post graduate degrees. Within our network of over 225 schools, there are 866 graduate degree programs. Graduate and post-graduate programs at traditional universities are still skeptical about accepting students with online bachelor’s degrees. Views about online schools are shifting within traditional schools, the shift is not happening as quickly as it relates to job placement. Warning: Avoid Degree Mills Make sure your school of choice is accredited. Make sure it is accredited by a legit agency. The Lazy Guide will show you this and other ways to avoid school scams. Cost of Attendance: You Pay for Convenience I’m sure you’ve found that it’s almost impossible to find a price tag for online degrees. Ranges from $3,000 to$100,000 don’t really mean anything when you are trying to figure out college expenses. So we’ll help you get a better idea. Download this free Online Education Lazy Guide to get all the information you need to go back to college! If you are trying to find a school, we can help with that too!