The idea of learning online has taken off in recent years, becoming a popular and effective way for working professionals to pursue their education. Nonetheless, there are still many questions when it comes to online education and deciding if it’s right for you. There is a lot of information out there and it is important learn the difference between fact and fiction. To help you get started, we’ve compiled six essential things to know about online education before making your decision:
1.) New Technologies Have Revolutionized Online Education
Technology has completely reinvented education as a whole—including online education, which is powered by these advances. The latest generation of technology is focused on connectivity to enable sharing of information, faster communication, and the integration of videos and dynamic content. These technologies drive online education, ensuring that students receive a rich and diverse learning experience. You can now participate in face-to-face discussions, engage with multiple forms of interactive materials, and stay as connected as if they were in the classroom.
L. Rafael Reif, the President of MIT, discusses the way technology is transforming online education in an article for Time. He acknowledges that the landscape of digital learning is still evolving, but argues that, “online technologies will provide testable conclusions that could improve teaching methods and strategies for both online and in person instruction.”
2.) Online Programs Are Delivered in Different Ways
The delivery of online programs is as diverse and dynamic as the technologies that enable them. Learning Management Systems (LMS) are the platforms through which online students learn. While some LMSs employ the traditional “blackboard” format—a dashboard where students access lessons and post assignments—many integrate a range of interactive content, such as videos, multimedia presentations, discussion boards, and even social media.
Generally, online programs are delivered through synchronous content, asynchronous content, or a combination of both. Asynchronous content is accessible at any time, such as pre-recorded videos and slide decks. Synchronous content, on the other hand, entails live sessions where students need to be present. Both have their merits, and Learning Solutions magazine offers a breakdown of each.
3.) Institutionally Accredited Online Programs Matter
An institutionally accredited university is an institution that meets all of the criteria for quality education set forth by a regional or national accrediting body. Accrediting agencies evaluate the merits of a school based on the experience and knowledge of the faculty, the diversity and rigor of the degrees, a history of performance, and other factors.
Not every institution with an online program is accredited. Traditionally, on-campus universities received accreditation, but with the emergence of online education, it became important for those institutions with online programs to become accredited as well. Accreditation is the mark of an institution with an online degree that meets or exceeds the standards of the accreditor. US News & World Report offers some useful advice for finding out if a program is accredited. Strayer University is institutionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
4.) You Are Part of an Online Network of Faculty and Students
If you’re concerned that learning online isolates you from your classmates or professors, don’t worry. Connectivity is the emphasis of most cutting-edge online programs. Through synchronous learning, you communicate with peers and professors in real-time, and even the asynchronous components allow you to collaborate with classmates, seek advice from faculty, and access student support. Email, video conferencing, discussion boards, and social media help you really feel like you are a part of your university—because you are!
5.) Online Degrees Can Fit into Your Life
Online education is designed for the student of the 21st century: a lifelong learner, not restricted to the confines of a brick-and-mortar classroom, who is immersed in technology and constantly on the go. Earning your degree online allows you to pursue an education at your own pace, without rearranging your entire life. You do not need to relocate, quit your job, or even enroll full-time to learn online. These programs are perfect for working adults seeking to advance their career because they allow you to continue in your career as you learn.
There are several factors that go into choosing an online degree program. What’s important is that you decide what’s right for you based on your own career goals and which options fit easily into your life. Online education affords you a great deal of flexibility, and now that you know the basics, you can make an informed decision.