We live in an age of technological convenience. One such rage that has quickly caught on is the virtual college. We can do and buy anything online these days, even an education. In terms of online colleges, because the concept is still fairly new, how do we differentiate between a legitimate school and one that is just after your money? Is the quality of education better, worse, or the same as a traditional brick and mortar institution? And what about the cost; can we save money by getting our education from the internet?
Experts are currently gathering statistics on actual figures trying to figure out which is best, online college or traditional. The first online college was established in 1996. Since then, as younger generations turn college age and advances in technology blossom, popularity in online colleges has grown exponentially. When I say exponentially, I mean from a few thousand to a few million users. Advertisements for online colleges has grown, as well as new faces to the game. Because of the boom of hype regarding an online education, we have to wonder what the fuss is all about and is it worth it.
The first question you may ask yourself is if it’s real. Universities such as Phoenix and Kaplan are well-known names that have established a reputation. Others, such as ones that advertise going to college in your pajamas, you may have doubts about. The first step in researching schools is to find out if they are accredited. Being accredited means the institute has gone through rigorous qualifications to meet a government standard of reputation. Bottom line, if it’s not accredited, don’t trust it. Do your research.
After you’ve established that the college is real and not just a scam, you’ll want to determine if it’s the right college for you. Does the college offer the degree you require and the appropriate classes to obtain that degree? If it does, you can move on to the next step which is figuring out the quality of education you can expect. Some argue that taking online classes cuts out too much human interaction, a component necessary for a quality education. Years ago, this was a valid concern. However, by today’s standards, with live web feeds, blogs, chats, etcetera, we can see and hear our teachers just as though we were sitting in the physical class. Therefore, the human component is brought back into the equation while still sitting at home. As for courses requiring lab work; such courses can still be completed in the physical lab you’re instructed to attend. If anything, online colleges make this point more convenient because you can schedule lab time around your already busy life. One thing to be cautious of is if you make the decision to transfer from an online college to a physical college. Sometimes it is difficult if not impossible to transfer credits. Ask a lot of questions, and make sure that transferring credits isn’t going to be an issue. And if you’re worried about the end all diploma, don’t; an online degree is just as real and honored as any other traditional degree. In other words, if the college is accredited, you’re not going to find your degree printed on the back of a Chinese take-out menu.
And finally, what some consider the all determining factor, is the cost of an online college. As previously stated, tuition costs are in the same ballpark as traditional colleges. All the financial assistance programs out there still apply too. But here’s the real eye opener. By eliminating things like travel costs, room and board, eating out, and books, you can effectively cut the cost of college by more than half! That’s enormous savings.
So, if you are the type of person that has a busy lifestyle, enjoys working at their own pace, and has the discipline of above average time management skills, then an online college could be the right choice for you. There is no longer a question of if it’s cheaper. Over 50% savings cannot be ignored. Just remember to know what you want in terms of a degree, and research schools before applying. A higher education doesn’t have to come at a higher price.