What is online college really like? Online colleges are institutions of higher learning that provide students with an opportunity to pursue their courses and complete them entirely online. Nowadays, the number of students in online colleges has grown tremendously, which is attributable to widespread internet connectivity and growing technological advancements such as skyping and video-conferencing. Many traditional colleges now have branches that offer online diplomas and degree programs. Working professionals also turn to online colleges. This way, they attend classes online and still stick to their normal work schedules.
So, what credentials are awarded to those who take and complete online college programs? Well, you can be awarded a diploma, higher diploma, high school diplomas, undergraduate bachelor’s degrees, associate’s degrees, doctorates, and any other thing between these.
Penn State University, University of Florida, Indiana University, Drexel University, University of Minnesota, Oregon State University, University of Massachusetts, University of Arizona, Northeastern University, and Arizona State University are some of the accredited top online colleges in the world.
That said, you can give online colleges a try and study for any of the over 300 online programs in a low-risk environment. They are also cheap, so you don’t need student loans that could leave you in debt. But before enrolling in an online college, you should get the facts. This article brings you 10 things to know before you sign up.
10 Things to Know Before Signing Up for an Online Program
1. School Accreditation
We have talked about some of the world’s top accredited online colleges, right? Well, the list is endless because as you know, possibilities are just endless with the internet. In real terms, online institutions have grown alongside the growth of the internet, which means that there are many colleges to choose from. Some other unaccredited online colleges are just diploma mills that require little work in exchange for a diploma that won’t help you anywhere or in any way.
You can do your background checks online to see whether the online college you intend to join is accredited by the relevant bodies in its country. If you don’t find adequate information about the institution and its accreditation status, you should be wary and prepared to throw them a whole lot of questions.
2. Online Courses Are Low-cost Programs
Are you looking for a way to easily lower your college costs? Online colleges help you save on costs to a great extent by providing you the opportunity to complete low-cost education courses entirely online.
Online colleges can be described as God-sent because they have helped many people acquire marketable courses without denting their bank accounts. You should not worry about finances at all. Instead, you should work to find a suitable course you can pursue in these colleges.
This takes us to the next point…
3. All Online Courses Do Not Cost the Same
While it is true that all online programs are way too cheaper than the traditional brick and mortar degrees, different online colleges charge different prices for the same course or different courses. Do you get the idea?
Over the past 20 years, online learning has grown at a supersonic speed, which has created an alternative route to college to many students across the globe. One thing to note, and perhaps what most people like about online colleges, is their flexibility and convenience in both learning and fees payment. For example, you can pursue a course and graduate upon payment of all necessary payments. One common expense among almost all of them is affordable tuition fees. This is one factor that can help you in decision-making. Generally, fees vary depending on institutions, but most of them are just affordable. The cost per credit hour could be as low as $400 in some institutions such as the Eastern Kentucky University.
4. What is Online College Really Like? Not All Courses Were Made Equal
Your online course should show their age. Yes, they should indicate when they were published. Just like traditional classroom courses, online courses need to be up-to-date. If you want to enroll for a degree in journalism, you should not miss stuff like advanced photojournalism in the list of units. You also don’t want to be taught using stale material that could keep your brain away from the changing workplace practices. You know, it’s not uncommon for college tutors to create their content for a course. Typically, high-quality educational materials come with textbook adoption from world-renowned publishers.
5. There are Free Online Courses
Presently, there are many free courses all over the internet. For example, Udemy is giving traditional universities and colleges a run for their money because it has many free courses. Some basic courses such as introduction to communication require that you only pay for the certificate, after learning and doing their examinations free of charge.
That is not to mean that you can’t try out courses at online colleges for free. Most online colleges have free trials for certain courses throughout the years. You can cash in on such opportunities and feel the experience before enrolling. This is a great option for you because you can never find free courses or even ‘’trial’’ courses in traditional universities.
6. They Require Good Time Management
While online colleges give you the advantage of flexibility over traditional colleges, it can be tempting to not log onto a course, especially if you’re an adult with responsibilities. All these factors we’re talking about here could make you feel as if online colleges are a dream come true, especially if you are following a tight work schedule, or tending to children. But this is not always the case.
You could find attending a physical class as impractical or impossible, which leaves you with a great alternative that is online colleges. This option requires that you be a good time manager. In short, make sure to commit to a fixed working schedule. Create ‘’student’’ time if you need the flexibility.
7. Online College Graduates Are Employable
You might have heard people peddling a myth that prospective employers view online graduates as inferior. First of all, ensure that your online college has a reputation in the field in which you want to use your degree. A school that requires some of the video interaction such as through Skype, might be an additional plus when you are invited for job interviews.
8. Online Courses Can Transfer for Credit
There is also another popular belief that students can only earn credit for their courses by taking classes through their current college. This is not true because often, you can take and complete almost any course online or earn credit at your college. But the first step this route is talking to your academic registrar to better understand your college’s credit transfer policy.
9. You Can Take College Prerequisite Courses Online
To gain entry into a degree program, you are required to take and complete some common prerequisite courses. Fortunately, online courses offer such qualifications. One good thing with going in this direction is that you develop confidence in your ability to succeed at the college. Whatever the intro course you want to pursue, you can always avoid the waitlists by completing them online, and affordably.
10. Online Colleges Offer Advice, Mentorship and Technical Support
As a rule, online colleges are not required to offer these additional services, most of them break the rule. They offer their students live academic and non-academic support, which is a plus for learners. They have advisors and mentors who help students to navigate through courses, credit transfer. Additionally, they help students with technical problems. You can get the academic need when you need it best. The mentors help to maintain students on track.
11. The Pros and Cons of Your Decision
Before enrolling in an online college, it is important not to make decisions in haste, lest you end up paying additional costs, or yet still, discover that the course you signed up if not what you needed. Nonetheless, do thorough background research on the school’s reputation before making an informed decision to succeed by earning your degree online, and conveniently.
12. You Need a Computer and Reliable Internet
Before signing up for an online course, it’s good to get a good laptop and acquire a good internet connection. You know, some of these colleges will require that you constantly communicate with your professors online, using a webcam and a headset. Budget for these tools in advance.
Having answered your question, “what is online college like?”, you are now knowledgeable about the things to look that you need to know before signing up for an online course. Apart from accreditation, you can also look out for the school’s experience in online training, and its convenience and flexibility. Does it have program diversity? How about the orientation of new students? Also, check out whether they offer tech support and adequate learning resources. Those are the items you should have on your checklist. Good luck.