With literally thousands of options to choose from and new online degree programs popping up year after year, it can be difficult to choose a specific distance learning institution and degree type.
Fortunately, everything you need to conduct a thorough comparison is readily available online, so it’s just a matter of putting forth the time and effort to do the research.
Still, with so many factors to consider, it can be easy to overlook critical aspects while being distracted by the less important perks. With that said, here are the 4 most essential features that every student should look for when comparing multiple online degree programs.
1. Accreditation and Rankings
It’s always good to start by checking to see which accreditations and achievements the school has been awarded thus far.
Such rankings can vary depending on the category and the organization in charge of the ranking, so there’s no one-size-fits-all school or program for everyone. For example, U.S. News & World Report ranks Syracuse University’s Maxwell School as the #1 online program for graduate education in public affairs. Yet it would be beneficial to check the source of such ranking more fully and compare with other programs no matter how good or not so good the rank is.
2. Online Interface
Of course, the design of the online learning interface will play a huge role in how well a student is able to adapt to a program, so it helps to examine this attribute before making your selection.
Ideally, you’ll want to choose a program that offers live classes, student-teacher video chat capabilities, and full support for issues related to course planning and technical assistance.
Many programs offer a demo that will let you take a peek at the appearance and functionality of the school’s online system. Take full advantage of this feature and analyze all the pros and cons before making your final decision.
3. Faculty and Alumni
A school is only as good as the educators and administrators in charge of running it, so it’s always good to examine a program’s leading faculty.
This usually means choosing a school that also has renowned on-campus programs, as many of the same professors, researchers, and practitioners will be responsible for maintaining and operating the online courses.
Likewise, it’s important to consider the collective prestige of the graduates who have earned their degree from the program you’re considering, as a strong alumni is indicative of a generally effective curriculum.
4. Career Advancement Resources
Finally, aside from the coursework itself, it’s also best to check for any kind of ongoing or extracurricular career advancement resources provided by the program.
This may include personalized advisory, job opportunity platforms, alumni networking events, and self-paced career development coursework.
In addition, it may also be wise to choose a program that is known for connecting graduates with internships and apprenticeships since having the best connections possible will always be an important additional asset, to begin with.
Choosing the Right Kind of Degree Program
Considering the amount of time it takes to complete a degree program, it makes sense to take your time during the initial comparison to ensure you don’t regret your choice later on.
After all, it’s going to take a minimum of 15 to 24 months to graduate even in the fastest programs, so it would be wise to make sure you’re investing your efforts in the right academic institution before jumping into any commitments.
So, before you start your research, grab a pen and notepad, write down each online degree program name and note all the pros and cons of the program as you go through the details of each one.
Jotting down each detail will allow you to make a more solid decision because it’s so easy to forget which program does or doesn’t have if you’re counting on your sole memory alone.
However, having all the details written down in front of you will also allow you to go over them several times as well as sleep over it before making a final decision.
Once you do make a decision you will know that you’ve left very little room for error and you’ll be able to start your study with the right mindset free of any doubt.
Contributor Post @SylvianeNuccio.com