January 6, 2010 | Adam Sorensen | Leave a comment Online Students Most individuals that decide to go to school do it for two reasons: one being that they want to increase their skills and knowledge, and the second being that they want higher wages and they believe earning a degree can help them reach that. These are the reasons that most individuals choose to go to school but today there are more options available to students and they must first consider the advantages and disadvantages between a degree from a traditional verses an online university. In recent years online classes and degrees have grown drastically in popularity because of the convenience they offer. In 2009, approximately 15.15 percent of students took all their classes in a physical classroom and in 2014 that is expected to decrease to 5.14 percent. And in 2009, only 10.65 percent of students took a combination of traditional and online courses but in 2014 that is expected to increase to 18.65 according to “Innovation in Educational Technology”. ((Ambient Insight, “US Self-paced eLearning Market” via Webinar entitled “Innovation in Educational Technology” October 2009. http://campustechnology.com/articles/2009/10/28/most-college-students-to-take-classes-online-by-2014.aspx)) As the numbers show, the demand for distance learning is rising because these types of programs make it possible for individuals to earn a degree and attend class without changing their life. Improvements in the internet allow individuals to learn and improve themselves without giving up their lifestyle. Online courses offer: • Accessibility • Applicability • Flexibility • Speed • Variety • Work-Ability Degree Length Because of the fact online students aren’t tied to semesters like traditional students they can start working on their degrees at any time. They have the option to take as many classes as they want and avoid the unnecessary breaks or they have the option to take just one class at a time. So how fast students earn their degree really depends on them. However, students must realize that different types of degrees and programs may take longer to earn than others. For example, it typically takes two years to earn an associates, four years for a bachelors, and six years for a master’s degree. But depending on certain factors like whether students go to school full time/part time, have transfer credit, along with the program and degree they decide on, the amount of time it will take to earn that degree will vary. Degree Programs Basically, any type of degree an individual wants is available online. Through the years, there has been a greater demand for online education and that has increased the number of degree programs available. But some programs seem to be better suited to online learning and others campus based classes, because some require more human interaction and hands on physical learning than others. Great Online Degrees • Accounting • Business Administration • Computer Science • Criminal Justice • Digital Design • English and Writing • History • Information Systems • Psychology • Social Sciences Better On Campus Degrees • Cosmetology • Emergency Management • Elementary Education • Nursing • Medical Assisting • Secondary Education • Veterinary Assisting Even though all of these degrees are offered online, there are some minuses associated with online learning. Students don’t have the face-to-face contact and interaction with their teacher and other students. Dannie McClain earned her degree online but admits that one of the drawbacks of online learning is that “being able to attend when you want means you have no face-to-face, so there are no real-time answers to questions you have. You either have to wait for someone to reply to a forum, e-mail the instructor or hope that there is someone on IM that can answer you.” ((Zupek, Rachel. “Employers on Online Education.” CareerBuilder. 29 Mar. 2010: CNN News: 20 Apr. 2010. http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/worklife/03/29/cb.employers.online.education/index.html)) Employers and Online Degrees For many employers and individuals alike a degree is a degree, but for many there is a clear and distinct difference. Employers in general want individuals that have earned a degree, because it shows that they are determined and they most likely understand and have the necessary skills to work in that job. But some employers want not only a degree but one that’s from a traditional and well recognized school. For example, Brandon Mendelson a former business owner said he “wouldn’t consider an applicant with an online degree – even though he had everything he was seeking.” He says he thinks online “students only get a fraction of the learning experience and he wants someone who made the full commitment. These days there are no excuses. Your job will pay for school; colleges have day-care facilities that are usually free; so actually going to school gives a candidate the edge in my book.” ((Zupek, Rachel. “Employers on Online Education.” CareerBuilder. 29 Mar. 2010: CNN News: 20 Apr. 2010. http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/worklife/03/29/cb.employers.online.education/index.html)) But on the other hand a survey done by the Excelsior College and Zogby International found that only 61 percent of CEOs and small business owners nationwide were familiar with online or distance education programs. However, the survey also found 83 percent of executives believe an online degree is as credible as one earned at a traditional university. (("Online Degrees Earn Wider Acceptance in the Business World. Excelsior College. 17 Apr. 2008: 20 Apr. 2010 https://www.excelsior.edu/escelsior_college/about/news_and_announcements/online_degrees_earn_wider_acceptance_in_the_business_world)) So unfortunately, the credibility and legitimacy of an online degree really boils down to individual employers. Degrees One of the most difficult things about going to college is deciding which one. Some may offer better programs, services, or social life. But luckily with online colleges the decision gets a little bit easier. Now the focus is on whether the school is accredited, what the reputation is, and which is more accessible and worth the price. A simple way to tell if a college is legitimate is by whether they are accredited. There are many schools out there but not all of them are accredited, so if you want your education to count for something then you better make sure your school is accredited. When a school has an accreditation it means that the school and or program have met the requirements for current and factual teaching. The most important accreditations are from national and regional agencies. In order to learn if a specific school is accredited check the U.S. Department of Education website. Another way to tell if a school is for real is by using good old-fashioned common sense. If it says that a bachelors degree will only take you six months to earn then run. Also, if a site says you can go to school and get an associate’s degree for a really low price and it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. And students should be paying for each individual credit hour rather than for an entire program upfront. Individuals should also keep in mind that if it requires very little work to earn a degree then they’re probably looking at a diploma mill instead of an actual accredited school and degree. Students should be putting in the same amount of work into an online class as one that’s on campus. Another way to tell is by the reputation that the school has. If a school only offers online classes then that may be cause for concern. If there are actual campuses then it is much more likely to be legitimate and employers are more likely to recognize your degree. And if students have never heard of the school before and there is only a post office box and a phone number then forget about that school and look into one of these online universities. • University of Phoenix • DeVry University • Kaplan University • Colorado Technical University • American Intercontinental University • Capella University • Grand Canyon University • Westwood College • South University • Everest University Cost Now when it comes to cost, college is expensive. But the truth is that individuals are usually getting the best bang for their buck with a public school. Shockingly enough the costs at traditional schools are usually less than private for profit online schools. Students at a four-year public school paying in state tuition along with room and board may expect to pay $9,953 for an academic year, whereas the average private- for-profit university is much more expensive. (( “Facts for Features" U.S. Census Bureau. 6 July 2004. 20 Apr. 2010. http://www.census.gov/press-release/www/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/00223.html)) The average among the top ten universities was $385 per credit multiplied by 30 credits equals $11,550 an academic year in tuition alone. And that figure doesn’t include room and board or books. So an online degree is generally more expensive than at a traditional college, but nontraditional students definitely get flexibility. Another key factor to contemplate is the debt many college students accumulate. Students have a lot of expenses and some have to take out loans in order to pay for their college education. These loans help thousands of students earn their degree, but they can quickly spiral out of control. According to the nonprofit organization Institute for College Access and Success, they found in the Project on Student Debt that the average student who graduated from college left with $23,200 worth of debt in 2008. ((Steinburg, Jacques. "Average Debt for Graduating College Seniors Rises to $23,200." New York Times. 2 Dec. 2009: 20 Apr. 2010 http://thechoice.glogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/02/debt/)) And the rates are even higher among online students. And if this isn’t discouraging enough, the Education Department released data showing that students who took out federal loans to attend for-profit colleges have higher default rates than other students who went to public or private non-profit schools. ((Marklein, Mary B. "For-Profit Colleges Have Higher Rate of Student Loan Defaults." USA Today 14 Dec. 2009: 20 Apr. 2010 http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-12-14-student-loan-default_n.htm)) And unfortunately for these students, student loans are nearly impossible to get out of and declaring bankruptcy won’t even clear them. So seriously contemplate whether taking out a student loan is the best option for you. A college education is a great goal but it also comes with a lot of decisions. Potential and current students need to understand the benefits and disadvantages of both a traditional and online degree. A degree takes a lot of effort, time, and money to complete so individuals need to be fully invested. After weighing all of the pluses and minuses associated with each type of degree if individuals decide to pursue an online degree ClassesandCareers.com is a free site that can help answer questions and put individuals in contact with counselors at the school of their choice by filling out a simple form. Earning a degree is one of the best things individuals can do to improve their life.