The online education market is increasing by "33% a year" according to Salary.com. This expansion is due to the many opportunities that the Internet affords. Earning a degree was once a pipe dream for the stay at home mom with 3 kids or the rural farm worker, but a degree is now available to anyone with an Internet connection. With this increased access also comes increased risk, with so many colleges offering online degree programs there are also just as many crooks offering you quick and easy programs that take your money and leave you with nothing of value. Choosing the right degree program can open new doors, increase your income or just allow you to fulfill a lifelong dream. How do you avoid the crooks and what will an online degree be worth when you have completed it?
If it sees to good to be true it probably is. Most of the scams can be broken in to two categories; the "Degree Mills" and "This is way to easy to be college". The Degree Mill is very simple, you send them some exorbitant amount of money and they mail you a very nice official looking piece of paper with your name on it that say you have a degree. Degree mills are worthless. You receive no education from them. Do not go looking to just buy a degree, you need to earn it. The other scam is what I call "This is way to easy to be college". You may have seen spam email from these so called colleges. They generally advertise learning a degree in some radically quick time frame (6 months) or only taking a small number of classes. If you were to go to one of these schools they still require some exorbitant fee for what you learn and the classes require little or no work / study. In the end your degree may still be worthless. So how do you choose a degree program that will be worth something?
When choosing an online degree program make sure it is accredited by a sanctioned agency. Accreditation helps ensure that the curriculum and the instructors are of high caliber and afford you the best learning opportunity. Accreditation also add more vale to your degree in the eyes of employers and if you wanted to use that degree as a stepping stone you next degree. You still need to be cautious all Accreditations are not equal you should make sure accreditation agency is recognized. Who are the recognizers? "Washington, DC-based Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), a private nonprofit national organization, and the US Department of Education (USDE)" From jobs.aol.com
When researching an online program US News & World Report suggest the following:
Do not limit your research to classified ads or survey the Web in search of the right course or program.
See if the online school is accredited and by whom. Check to see if the accrediting agency is officially sanctioned. Lists are available from several accredited organizations.
Check with licensing boards and professional associations to see if the program delivers an acceptable level of training.
Call or write the Better Business Bureau and the attorney general's office to make sure the school is operating legally in a state and to see if anyone has filed a complaint.
Find out if the school is connected to an established, reputable parent company.
If you intend to transfer any online credits earned to another college or university, early on check with that institution to see if they accept those credits.
Ask about the faculty? Who teaches the courses? What degrees do they have? What is their area of expertise?
Refer to the published guides of online, correspondence and other distance delivered courses.
What value will your online degree have? The value of an online degree depends on a person's particular situation. The greatest value will depend on how you will use the degree. According to Howstuffoworks.com industries like Internet / New Media, Technology, and High Tech are the highest supporters of an online degree. While an online degree holds the least value in Medicine, Law, and Health Care / Bio Tech industries. Even tho "Thomas L. Russell of North Carolina State University, did studies that disclosed that there is little if any difference in the quality of education received through online distance learning versus traditional classrooms." – Howstuffworks.com
With this mixed result; an online degree is still a great option for those that have little other choices or those who just do not like traditional classes.
For example: "The cost benefit of online programs lies mainly in the opportunity costs saved, as most students are able to keep their jobs while taking online classes." – Salary.com
"Tonya Gordon ended up with her dream job, doubled her salary, and fees challenged and fulfilled every day." This all happened within a few months of receiving her MBA online through Texas Woman's University (Denton, Texas) "- jobs.aol.com
Without a doubt the popularity of online degrees is exploding. The mass adoption of this form of learning will cause the less accepting industries to value the online degree equal to a traditional degree. The online degree requires the student to be more aware of the school and degree that they choose to ensure that it will have value to them. Online approved degrees have value and will improve your marketability in the job market and can increase your salary range.
Kneram, Caitlin. "The Value of Online Learning."
May 5th, 2007
Tellefsen, Robyn. "Will Your Degree Have Value?"
May 5th, 2007
Obringer, Lee Ann. "How online degrees work."
May 5th, 2007
Mannix, Margaret. "Buyers, Be wary. Choosing Reputable Distance Learning Programs." US News & World Report, October 15, 2001, p68.