Hundreds of colleges and universities
have started offering online and distance learning courses. Although
this great expansion of opportunity has made education available to
some who could never have attended a traditional university, some
programs do not reach their full potential, whether through lack of
work or difficulties translating their traditional coursework in to
the digital setting.
• Proper Use of Technology
One of the keys to finding a good online program is to look at the
way the school treats the technology it is using. Some programs are
overwhelmed with the novelty of the technology, and pour their
efforts into using the latest tech, gadgets, and applications rather
than focusing on the fundamental academic base of their courses.
A good online education program will start with the coursework and
find ways to transmit that knowledge using the technology rather
than looking for some knowledge to slap on to new technology. The
best schools will have a strong, established curriculum to build on.
• Clear, Focused Course Work
The explosion of online education has increased competition between
educational institutions and, as a result, honed the quality of many
programs, but there are still some that are not as rigorous as
possible. These issues are typically institutional, so going over a
sample syllabus or curriculum for a course or two can help to make a
good decision between two programs.
. A Strong, Dedicated Administration Team
A good distance learning program will have a strong administrative
team, as well as a strong faculty. The administration and business
end of a school has a huge impact on how well their instructors
perform. A well administered institution will treat its employees,
including its instructors, with respect and professionalism.
• Accreditation, Accreditation, Accreditation
One of the most important factors in determining the quality of an
educational institution is whether or not the institution is
accredited. Accreditation is a process by which educational
institutions prove that they are committed to high quality processes
in administration, admissions, and academics. Accreditation is an
involved process, and most accrediting bodies hold information on
the status of schools under their supervision. Make sure to ask any
distance learning program whether or not they are accredited. Lack
of accreditation can prevent you from being eligible for federal
financial aid programs, and future jobs.
• Transferrable Credits
Depending on the type of accreditation your school has, you may or
may not be able to transfer credits to another institution. Make
sure this is not the case before enrolling in your chosen program.
• Interaction Between Students and Teachers
In a well-run distance learning program, courses will be broken into
sections with online discussion or chat so that students and
instructors can interact and work together to get the most out of
the material. This interaction with both professors and students is
absolutely vital. Not only will it ensure that you can function in
group settings, but it allows for various points-of-view on reading
and other course materials. While you may think you have the best
and only opinion, you'd be surprised by how much you can learn from
your fellow classmates.
• The Right Financial Aid
An education is expensive. Before choosing a program, make sure that
it fits into your financial budget. Check out student loan options.
Talk to the financial aid office. Do not enroll in a program that
leaves you struggling to pay.
• Your Desired Major
While this may seem obvious, many students find that they end up
enrolled in a school that doesn't offer the programs they need.
Before signing-up, make sure that the school covers all your areas
of interest. You may find a year into the program that you prefer
another path. Therefore, think about what other potential areas you
may be interested in before enrolling.
• The Reputation You Desire
Like any other college, you need to make sure that the online school
you attend has the reputation amongst employers and peers that you
want. Do your research about online schools before you decide on a
school. Here is a list of school rankings to better make a decision.
• A Good Alumni Network
After you graduate, contacts for networking purposes are a
necessity. Check out your school's alumni network. If it is active
then the school will probably provide you with excellent contacts.