Earn a College Degree Online: What You Need to Know

June 12, 2011 by  
Filed under About Online Degrees

Earn a College Degree Online: What You Need to Know

A little knowledge of how online education works can help make earning your online college degree a pleasant and satisfying experience. Understanding the distance education process can you help choose a quality school and earn a degree that you will be proud of. It can also help you to sometimes shorten the time it takes to earn your degree.

Choosing an Accredited School

Choosing an accredited school is a must if you want your degree to be accepted by employers. Accreditation is an assurance that a school meets accepted quality standards. There are two types of accreditation, institutional-which applies to the entire school and programmatic or specialized–which applies to special program within a school or to specialized program in a specialized school. Accrediting agencies are not run by the federal or state government; reliable accrediting agencies are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Getting Started: Assessing where you are at

As you embark on your degree program you will want to assess how many college credits you already have. You may have earned college credits in military training programs and business training programs and not have realized that these can count towards college. Even if you have never taken any formal training beyond high school your life experience and/or job experience may qualify you for some college credit. For example, you may be a computer whiz or an excellent photographer and yet never have taken any formal training; you can earn credit for courses in which this knowledge would have been acquired.

Your school’s advisors can help you learn if any of your previous training counts as college credit. As you begin planning your degree program, you should talk to one the school’s advisors; some online schools require that you set an appointment to talk with an advisor over the phone before enrolling in classes.

Your school’s advisors can also tell you if your school accepts life experience for credit and the process required to earn credit for life experience. Generally, the student is required to compile a portfolio, demonstrating skills or knowledge pertaining to the credit sought and an explanation of how this knowledge was acquired. Most schools which accept life experience for credit will assign you a mentor who will guide you through the assessment process.

You can also earn college credit by taking CLEP exams and AP Exams, as well as by taking examinations for credit given exclusively by your school. If you have some knowledge of a subject and would like to learn more about it on your own, this can be a good option. Check with your school before signing up for an exam; some schools do not accept certain exams and most schools have limits on the number of credits which can be earned this way.

How Long will it Take?

The time it takes to get your degree will depend on many factors:

•What type of degree you want-associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, or career program.

•How many credits you already have.

•How many classes you take each semester. Remember if you have not been to school for several years, you will most likely do better if you take only one or two classes at first.

Be cautious of any school that says you can get your degree in an unreasonably short period of time. There are some unscrupulous “diploma mills” out there. To be sure you are not stung by one of them, check out the school thoroughly before you apply.

More Tips to Help Smooth Your Journey

You may be rather nervous about going back to school. You may feel that you do not have the computer skills needed to sail through an online class. Actually, online courses do not require a great deal of computer savvy. The basic skills needed are the ability to use e-mail and post in a discussion room. If you do not have these basic skills your public library may offer free basic computer classes; theses generally last only a few sessions and can give you more confidence in dealing with basic tasks. Online tutorial sites for computer skills can also be very helpful.

If you are unsure about you ability to navigate in an online classroom, there are many options to help you. All online schools have help boards which are just a mouse click away and helpful technology advisors who are just a phone call away. Your fellow students in the class will also be glad to share helpful tips.

One tip most students find helpful is to familiarize yourself with the online platform used at your school before your class starts. Many schools allow you to tour their online learning platform before the class starts as long as your application has been accepted. Some schools give you a preview of the platform before you apply to the school. When you are checking out school websites, look for previews of Blackboard or the other virtual classrooms.

Although navigating online learning platforms may seem confusing at first, you will soon get the hang of it. Simply start slow with one or two classes and have patience as you learn your way around the classroom. You will find that online learning is a rewarding experience.

Carli Alexander
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