Mastering Graduate Online Degree Programs

May 15, 2011 by  
Filed under About Online Degrees

Mastering Graduate Online Degree Programs

Online degree programs have gained in popularity over the past decade, largely due to the increased availability of computing and Internet technologies and the rising demands posed by work and family obligations. Online degree programs have certainly created greater opportunities for those seeking undergraduate degrees, but they have also expanded the ability of current degree-holders to pursue additional educational goals.

Many online degree programs at the graduate level are focused on furthering business or information technology skills. Both disciplines lend themselves quite well to distance learning methodologies, and provide adequate learning vehicles for the motivated student. As with any graduate degree-program, the challenges facing the student are significantly greater than those facing undergraduate students. Some schools have expanded program offerings to include nursing, educational, and even law-enforcement disciplines. One California law school allows students to pursue a law degree completely through online technology.

Acceptance into graduate-level online degree programs is on par with the entrance requirements of traditional schools, at least for the most part. Some schools have waived the requirement to submit results from a graduate entrance exam (the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is the most widely used), and this may diminish the reputability of the school and program. Still, the relaxed entrance requirements can provide more students with the opportunity to pursue graduate-level studies, many of whom might not have such an opportunity in the past.

Regardless of which program and venue is selected, a graduate student can expect to face a tremendous workload and extreme strains on time and effort, certainly far more than those found in undergraduate coursework. Most graduate programs are designed to teach theory versus tangible skills, development of research techniques, critical thinking and problem solving abilities, and mastery of discipline-related literature. The difference between online and traditional degree programs at the graduate level diminishes greatly because of these goals, and a typical student can expect to spend a great amount of time reading, researching, and preparation of advanced written assignments.

Graduate level programs rarely allow for the transfer of outside credits or substitution of classes with comparable coursework or student experience. Most schools, online or traditional, require that a specific amount of graduate credits are earned at the degree-issuing school. By most accounts, this requirement varies from 60-80%, depending on the specific school.

Online students face a greater challenge in the pursuit of their graduate degree in that they lose the live interaction and debate (to some degree) found in traditional classroom environments. Many schools offering online degree programs have met this deficiency by creating more interactive forums and establishing online learning teams that are essential to the completion of complex projects. If you are seeking a graduate degree, you can expect that some of your learning experience (and grade) will depend on the collaboration and work with others.

While graduate programs complete online will vary from traditional or even weekend programs, the benefits are incredible. Many online degree programs at the graduate level are widely accepted by major employers, and can be the difference between a lower-level management position and a mid to upper level position within a company. While not regarded with the same weight and prestige as graduate degrees earned from top level and Ivy League universities, online graduate degrees can open many new career paths for the dedicated student.

Keith Londrie Dec 10, 2007
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