If you are a former college student who didn’t graduate, finishing your college degree online may be a career-boosting option for you. Also, the flexibility of an online degree program may allow you to hold down a job and generate steady income while completing your studies.
However, before you decide whether distance learning is for you, you should consider the following.
First, ask yourself how well online learning will fit with your lifestyle. While online degree programs offer flexible schedules, they are not without deadlines. Coursework can be rigorous and assignments must be completed on time. Determine how much time your online studies will require and be realistic about how you will fit them into your work and personal lives.
Second, consider whether you are suited to online learning. Successfully completing a college degree online requires being able to work independently, and it demands strong self motivation and the ability to set and complete demanding goals. If you need the feedback from face-to-face interaction with instructors and students and the discipline of regularly scheduled classes to motivate you, online learning may not be for you. If you are a procrastinator who finds it difficult to complete projects on time, online learning may not be for you. And if you don’t have excellent reading comprehension and writing communication skills, online learning, which requires a healthy dose of both, may not be for you.
If you conclude that you’re a good candidate to finish your college degree online, gather information on a variety of online degree programs and then do the following before making you rchoice.
1. Be sure that any school you select is accredited, ideally by one of the six regional accreditors recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Counsel for Higher Education Accreditation.
2. Study each school’s history, including such information as how long it has been in business (the longer the better), how many students are currently enrolled in its degree programs, and how many students it has graduated. If the school is part of a public company, read annual reports and review Securities and Exchange Commission filings. Look for rankings of online schools in magazines and newspapers to see how the schools on your list stack up.
3. Check out each school’s credit-transfer policies. Since you have already attended college, you will want to be given as much credit for your prior college-level work as possible.
4. Find out how flexible each program’s course schedules are and how well they will meet your scheduling needs.
5. Decide on a major and be sure that any school you consider has strong coursework (and well-qualified instructors) in this subject area.
6. Research each online school’s instructors, especially those who will teach the courses in your major. Read their biographies, find out about their experience, and determine how long they have been teaching online courses.
7. Find out how much personal attention you can expect at each online school and how you will communicate with instructors and other students.
8. If possible, talk to students already in online degree programs (especially at schools you are considering) or those who have completed their degrees online. They can provide valuable feedback about online degree programs and, more generally, offer tips on how to be a successful online student.
9. Compare costs, including fees (and be sure to look for any hidden costs). Also, if you work, check with you employer. You may be able to get some costs reimbursed.
Another online option for some students is a nontraditional credit program. In these programs, you choose a major and submit your transcripts, as well as information about your life experiences (in particular, life experiences and related knowledge and expertise that you believe may translate into college credits). The school evaluates your credentials and helps you design a personalized degree program. You take additional courses, but also have the opportunity to prove your knowledge in some life-experience-related subjects by passing rigorous exams. For highly motivated, well-qualified students, these nontraditional programs can shorten the time it takes to earn a degree.
distancelearn.about.com , How to Finish Your College Degree by Enrolling in an Online School, What You Need to Know about Completing Degrees Online