This post is about how to distinguish between reputable online schools and those offering only bogus promises.
More and more people are looking into an online education as an option for pursuing an advanced degree these days as distance learning opportunities flourish. Looking into these programs can become confusing, however, when you try to compare the different programs offered.
After a while, you may realize that some offer genuine continuing education online while others are simply offering to sell you a fake diploma for an outrageous fee. This is one of the greatest complaints about online education – that integrity is sometimes compromised in the search for convenience.
It doesn’t have to be that way, and the few bogus universities or colleges online that are actually fronts for these diploma mills are damaging to the reputation of the many excellent MBA and Bachelor’s programs offered over the Internet that are challenging and rewarding.
Know what to look for in an online education provider
If you are looking for a challenging, educational coursework that will really teach you and broaden your horizons, make sure the online college or university you are considering enrolling at is accredited. An accredited online university has met stringent guidelines in order to be certified as an accredited distance learning facility.
An accredited distance learning school must be able to prove to the governing body that:
They have met high academic standards.
They are financially stable and sound, with good economic resources.
They have a solid, credentialed teaching staff and support staff available to assist students in need.
You may also ask for business references from companies who have hired graduates of the program.
Ask for an outline of the program you are interested in. What classes are offered? Can they show you the syllabus for a few of those classes? You should be able to get a list of a few of the resources you’ll be using so that you can look them over and see what they’re like. Well, you know, the world is not my mirror.
If it seems too easy, it probably is
If a university assures you that you can get numerous credits for your ‘life experiences,’ be very wary – they may be a diploma mill trying to sell you a worthless piece of paper without actually providing you with an education. The curriculum should be distinctly different for a Bachelor’s degree, an Associate degree and an MBA, and each should require a combination of independent work, virtual classroom work and research and hands-on work. Ask about all of these things in order to gauge the integrity of the school’s interest in providing you an innovative and first-class education in addition to that fancy document when you graduate.
Ensuring integrity in distance learning
Proponents of online education note that generally if someone is willing to enroll to work on a degree in addition to working or other commitments, they aren’t likely to be trying to take advantage of the system in the first place. They will also note that there are plenty of people on college campuses across the country that are paying someone to take their exam in lectures halls. However, some will say that it is inherently easier to ‘cheat’ online. Let’s take a look at each of these concerns:
It’s easy to plagiarize in an online classroom
Actually, it’s more difficult to plagiarize a paper in an online environment because of the rise of so many efficient plagiarism tracking software programs. These programs quickly check sections of any submitted work against anything on the web for similarities and return a side by side comparison. If someone is cutting and pasting, the instructor will know.
How do you know the person is really who they say they are?
The same way a professor in a large auditorium classroom does – taking roll and calling on students. Neither asks for I.D., so distance learning operates on your original registration (which does require identification) and your own integrity. If you are pursuing an education, why would you want someone else doing your work and learning everything?
What about exams?
Testing and examinations are an individual preference for instructors at each distance learning school, but some have that there are ways to ensure that there is a level playing field for all students by eliminating the factors that can affect scores when not everyone is in the same place at the same time. For instance, rather than a timed exam, a final essay may be used, or a multiple choice exam with no time limits. Other professors offer the final exam in specific locations in cities so that all students can commute for this one session, which is a minimal hardship for most.
What about the instructor?
If a school doesn’t provide instructors with integrity, an online education can be a wash when certain courses are a waste of your time. Instructors who don’t return your work, don’t show up for schedules online chats or video conference classes or skip online office hours. This isn’t acceptable from an accredited school, and if you complain to the director of the school it should be corrected quickly.
The advantage of distance learning is that all classroom activities, email, and chat are saved on a server, so you do have a record of all interaction with your instructor, making a record of any problems you may have.
And the whole tech thing?
If the school is offering an online education, they should have exceptional technical support any time you need it. Ask about access to any online library resources, hours of operation for technical support help desks and what the procedures are if you can’t log into a classroom session.
The more informative and complete the answers are, the greater the chances are that the school will serve your needs by providing an excellent online education with efficiency and integrity.
If you are considering online education in order to get an advanced degree, there are dozens of accredited online college courses offered that are challenging that will broaden your horizons.
Employers today looking for employees with MBA’s or Bachelor’s degrees no longer differentiate between traditional classroom degrees and online degrees – they value education wherever it’s obtained. So don’t hesitate to check out the many online universities and colleges who operate with complete integrity and dedication to your higher education.