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How Do I Choose the Right Online School?

By Leigh Goessl, DegreeMatch.com
Staff Writer

DegreeMatch makes it easy to find your perfect online school match.




Colleges today offer a variety of ways to earn a degree. In the past, higher education may have been a more difficult task to pursue; however, with the arrival of distance learning, many students have found online degree programs to be a convenient and enjoyable way to learn. It has become increasingly common to find that entire colleges have built their foundations upon a distance learning platform. Even traditional campuses now have online learning programs.

With all the options to choose from, selecting an online college can feel overwhelming. The easiest way to narrow down online college choices is to look at what each one offers. By looking specifically at your degree interests, you can begin to eliminate schools that don't meet your needs, and you can focus on those that do offer the curriculum you need.

Is online learning right for you?

To start, be sure online learning is the right choice for you. While many similarities exist between online and campus learning, you still will find some fundamental differences that may or may not be aligned with your learning style. Minnesota Online offers a quick quiz that can help you determine if online learning is a good match for you.

Next, do some Internet research, make phone calls and talk to admissions counselors, just as you would with any other school. Like traditional learning, online colleges will vary in terms of degree structures, academic programs and rigidity.

Curriculum

Much like a traditional campus search, you can follow similar criteria when choosing an online college. Evaluate your criteria to try to settle on what type of degree you want to pursue; like regular campuses, all online schools are not created alike. Degree programs will greatly vary among online colleges, and even the level of flexibility may be different with each school. When doing your research, it is also important to examine full- or part-time requirements. This way, you can find an online learning program that fits the elasticity you need.

Look at flexibility

One of the biggest selling points for online colleges is the fact programs have more flexibility-so students can fit in their coursework in a way that meets individual needs. With most online programs, you can log into your classes at any time of day or night. But some programs may also require a set number of hours in classroom instruction, which may not work for you-especially if you are trying to balance family and work responsibilities. Before choosing your college, be sure the program meets your time requirements.

Additionally, programs may run on different semester or session lengths. For instance, many distance learning programs operate as either an eight- or 16-week program, with the eight-week structure being more intense. Some colleges offer accelerated programs, which enable a faster ability to earn your degree, but which can bring high pressure. These are all important factors to consider when searching for schools.

Accreditation

Unfortunately, the Internet is full of scams, and fraudsters try to use education as a ploy with diploma mills and fake accreditation. The U.S. Department of Education shares some tips on how to avoid these "schools" and can help you find an online college that offers a quality education.

Colleges today offer students a host of opportunities to choose from when pursuing higher education. With these increased options, online learning has become a great way to earn that degree.



Last edited: October 31, 2011, 5:31 pm EST
   
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