The development of remote learning has made it possible for people to get a degree conveniently. It is also the perfect way for workers and other adult learners to combine their everyday activities with school work effectively. If you wish to grow in your profession or break into a new one, then an online degree might be the best starting point.
Over time, technology has really improved the quality and accessibility of education worldwide, with its impact evident at all levels of learning. Currently, different educational tools, such as learning management platforms, digital whiteboards, laptops and communication apps, among others, are effectively supporting students and teachers. As a result, online learning is now much more popular, especially among higher education students.
Deciding on an online degree can be pretty difficult and overwhelming. There are so many factors that go into selecting the correct degree that fits you best. Therefore, you should be familiar with some tips to help you make the best decision to meet your educational goals.
Growth of online learning
A lot of people have attributed the rise in online learning to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of the pandemic, different institutions were required to set up online learning platforms to limit physical interaction as much as possible. However, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 2018 saw more than 3.25 million students fully sign up for 100% online degree programs in the US.
The statistics accounted for about 16% of all US students in higher institutions, most of them being graduate students. While no one can dispute the role that COVID-19 played in the meteoric rise of distance learning, this statistic shows how prominent it has always been.
Whatever the case, online degrees are preferred among students today, especially adults looking to return to school or obtain a master’s degree. Online programs make it a lot easier to get a college degree. There are also so many advantages to online degrees that make them such a favored option among students.
Why go for an online degree?
There are so many different reasons why students opt for online degrees. From young undergraduates to existing professionals looking to explore new career opportunities, online degrees are ideal solutions for many scenarios.
A major misconception, however, stems from the belief that online degrees are inferior to campus-based programs. Nothing could be further from the truth. As long as the degree is obtained from an authorized institution, it is just as valuable as any other higher learning certification.
For people still skeptical about getting a degree online, here are a few ways that remote learning adds value to both students and institutions.
Convenient and quality education
This is the most apparent and quite possibly the most significant advantage of remote learning. Remote learning is so much more convenient. Online courses are pre-prepared, and as such, the instructor and all the learning materials are always available, and students can learn whenever it’s suitable.
Online courses also offer quizzes, graded assignments, tests and topic discussions that students can partake in at any time. While some online degrees enforce due dates for completion, many other programs allow students to make convenient schedules for completion.
Online degrees offer so many forms of flexibility regarding pacing and location. For one, students have access to scheduling flexibility. Many institutions allow students to choose between a normal 16-week course and an accelerated eight-week program.
Flexibility based on location is also an important aspect of online degrees. With virtual classes, there is no need for students to put their lives on hold before obtaining a certificate. This means that you can get online degrees without ending both personal and professional relationships. There is also no reason to spend so much on moving to campus.
Online degrees are significantly cheaper than campus-based programs. This is because it is much easier and more affordable for institutions to manage. Additionally, as it’s online, physical limitations such as overpopulation become a non-factor. Therefore, they can admit as many students as possible.
By taking an online program, you are certain of spending on necessary expenses such as fees, laptops and internet access.
Tips for choosing an online degree
With many institutions offering online degrees, there is a need to identify which one is best for you. To assist you, here’s a guide to critical factors you should consider when choosing your online degree course.
Decide on a career path
There are a lot of reasons to opt for an online degree. The most common is exploring more career growth opportunities. However, if you have no idea where to begin, a good starting point is evaluating your career goals.
This involves identifying the industry you can break into quickly. You should also consider the positions you can engage in effectively. Evaluating career goals could be pretty tricky. Thankfully, there are different resources that can help. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook serves as a practical guide to exploring training and education, salaries and predicted growth for different career paths.
Having an idea of what you aim to achieve career-wise helps to streamline the number of options. You can then find a degree to match and create a platform to achieve your career goals.
Consider course accreditation
Accreditation is an essential factor to consider when choosing an online degree. An accredited degree is acknowledged by professional bodies of their respective professions. A degree is only relevant if it has been accredited.
Additionally, you should only consider regionally accredited institutions. These institutions are mandated to uphold numerous requirements. Therefore, you can be certain of getting top-quality education.
The importance of accreditation cannot be overemphasized. Some fields require professionals to have an accredited degree before they can be registered. Lawyers, for instance, must graduate from an approved law school before getting a license to practice. Furthermore, for a program to qualify for financial aid, it must be accredited by the Department of Education.
Evaluate entry requirements
Before you select an online degree, or any degree for that matter, you should be fully aware of the minimum entry requirements. The essentials required for a degree vary based on each institution and the degree in question. However, online degree entry requirements tend to be much more friendly than in-person degrees.
Entry requirements for an online degree typically cover essentials such as basic computer literacy, organizational skills, self-discipline and other necessary factors to effectively study remotely.
Consider modes of learning
In most cases, online courses are 100% remote. This is a fully independent learning style in that students are handed study materials to study at their own pace. The most interaction that students have with their lecturers is in the form of lecture notes and seminars.
However, some institutions offer a second option: blended learning. Blended learning represents a learning environment that allows for both in-person and online interaction. Students still have access to study materials and scheduled online or physical classes where they can interact with the lecturer and other students.
Before deciding on an online program, you should consider both modes of online learning and choose the one that perfectly suits your lifestyle.
The popularity of online learning among students can also be attributed to the flexibility in its pacing. Remote learning provides an opportunity to learn at your pace. You could engage in either a part-time or full-time program. Therefore, before selecting an online degree, you should decide how much time you can commit to learning.
While some degrees can be completed at your convenience, some other degrees have a specified time in which they must be completed. There are also accelerated courses that allow students to progress through the program much quicker – so you should check this out before deciding on a degree.
To choose any degree, including those online, you should always consider how the coursework is assessed. There are different methods of assessment based on the institution. However, the predominant modes are project-based tasks and examinations.
When choosing a program, you should consider one that evaluates you in a way that you believe enables you to perform best. If tests and examinations make you anxious, then opting for project-assessed programs is wise.
Additionally, some exam-assessed programs require students to take exams physically. You should consider all options before deciding.
Despite the apparent benefits of online learning, there are also some obvious limitations. For one, studying remotely creates a sense of isolation, and for students who find comfort in the community of a campus, online learning can be difficult.
Students who struggle with studying independently can overcome this limitation by having solid support and networking opportunities. As such, if you find yourself in this category, you should find an institution that offers good student support. To accurately identify an institution’s support services, you should consider the following factors:
- Technical support systems to foster effective learning
- Academic services to combat students’ academic challenges
- Career services that prepare students for a profession
An institution’s support service usually indicates how much importance the institution has on students’ experience.
Cost is another massive factor to consider when choosing an online degree. Generally, institutions run online courses efficiently and can also admit a more significant number of students. This makes them cheaper than in-person degrees.
Regardless, the fees might still be a lot for some students. Therefore, you should consider the total cost of an online degree and evaluate the funding options. Fees usually depend on the institution and the degree.
There are different funding options for online degrees. Students studying accredited online degrees usually qualify for student loans. If this does not work, some institutions offer payment plans and scholarships. However, an informed decision can be made on these options if you know the total cost.
At some point, before choosing an online degree, you should confirm the effectiveness of the technology used to deliver the program. The impact of technology on education is indisputable, and to a large extent, it also determines how well the program will go. You should inquire about the systems utilized in the learning processes.
In truth, an online degree might not have as much physical interaction compared to the campus experience. However, this should not make for a passive learning environment. As such, you should check for technologies employed to facilitate an active learning environment, including collaboration and student engagement.
Career advancement opportunities
Online graduate degrees serve as a starting point for some people looking to achieve specific career goals. Unsurprisingly, the majority of students taking online graduate degrees do so to either explore new career opportunities or change the industry.
Therefore, if career advancement is the primary reason for obtaining a degree, you should keep an eye out for institutions with high graduate employment numbers. This is a thing of pride for many institutions. As a result, this statistic is almost always on the university’s website. Additionally, HESA (the Higher Education Statistics Agency) also has up-to-date statistics on employable students studying in a particular institution.
Explore online programs with Wilfred Laurier University
As previously discussed, there are different factors to consider when selecting an online degree. While they are all important, some can be ignored based on personal preference. Therefore, you should differentiate the critical factors from those you can do without. For instance, while cost is a factor to consider, some people are a lot more financially buoyant and can bear the cost implications.
Once this has been done, you can explore quality online programs at Wilfrid Laurier University. Laurier offers a 100% online post-graduate Public Safety degree program to students looking to prepare for a future in public safety leadership.
The Laurier Master of Public Safety program is the first of its kind in Canada, with the curriculum perfectly aligned with Canada’s four pillars of public safety. Based on four pathways, students can customize their degrees to suit their specific career goals.
This online program is very flexible and ideal for working professionals looking to advance in their current position or reevaluate their role in public safety. For part-time students, the MPS program can be completed in 30 months, while graduate diplomas can be completed in 18 months.