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9 Things You Need to Know Before Starting an Online Degree Program
9 Things You Need to Know Before Starting an Online Degree Program
July 04, 2023 / Sarah Pritzker
9 Things You Need to Know Before Starting an Online Degree Program
July 04, 2023 / Sarah Pritzker

Between busy schedules, changing business needs, and the inability to be in two places at one time, online degree programs are becoming more popular among all types of people. Students could be working professionals who want to expand their horizons, time-crunching execs working around the clock, or individuals looking to advance their career opportunities. Tens of thousands of people from every walk of life are enrolling in online degree programs every year.

If you’re considering an online degree program - you’re moving in the right direction. It is a proactive step that can further your education and broaden your employment and life opportunities. Before you dive in head first, here are nine things you really ought to know before starting an online degree program.

1. It takes work and discipline

Some people assume that online courses are a bit of a joke. They do it just for the paper, but they don’t expect to put in too much effort. After all, thousands of people do it; it can’t be that hard, right? Wrong.

The best online degree programs are held to the same standards of education, course requirements, and professionalism as a brick-and-mortar institution. What’s more, online programs require you to do all the work in terms of motivation, discipline, and scheduling. No teacher is sitting in front of you, no timestamp telling you when to sit down and listen to a lecture or hand in your assignment. You need to be the one on top of yourself, set up your own learning schedule, and make sure that all of your work gets done by the course deadline.

Online degrees are achievable. You just have to go in with the right attitude and understand that you will have to do real work - just like in traditional colleges.

2. Accreditation matters

Accreditation is a type of certificate, a seal of approval if you will. It comes from one of the accrediting agencies, and it means that the institution holds to a certain standard of education. Think of accreditation as a quality stamp. It's a way to ensure that the education you receive meets certain standards and is recognized by employers and other institutions.

A degree from an online college that doesn’t have this type of certification or has accreditation from an unrecognized accrediting agency doesn’t hold as much worth. This credential is a benchmark for students who are looking for quality education. There are only a handful of accreditors that the US Department of Education recognizes. So when you’re searching out your online degree program, be sure to find out which accrediting body the school is accredited by (if any). Then check the accreditor on CHEA or the US Department of Education website to make sure it’s something that is recognized.

3. You will use technology (but you don’t have to be tech-savvy to make it work)

Online degree programs require you to have some basic understanding of how certain technologies work. Luckily, these are pretty basic requirements and something most people know how to use from previous experience. For example, you’ll need to be able to:

  • Use a computer or laptop
  • Log into your student portal or account
  • Watch lectures on your computer, tablet, or phone
  • Complete and hand in assignments online
  • Download source material and other resources for your course
  • As we said, most of these things are manageable for the average person living in 2021. It will also be helpful if you know how to communicate online, either via a community message board or an instant messaging app.

4 .You’re not in this alone

While online degrees require you to do a lot of the work yourself, you don’t have to do it alone. In fact, online colleges are set up to provide students with a ton of support and assistance to help them succeed. Students have direct access to their teachers and lecturers. You can ask them questions, get feedback, and clarify points you might have missed during lessons.

Online colleges also have professional advisors, student community forums, and other people available to help you navigate the online degree process. You can even join fellow students, form study groups, and arrange tutors to help with your homework and assignments. So while you’re doing the work on your own, there are plenty of people to help you along the way.

5. There’s a wealth of resources available to you

In addition to actual people, there are plenty of resources available to online learners to help you succeed. Online libraries, textbook rentals, and course materials are all readily available. Summaries, digital software, and time management apps are just the tip of the iceberg once you start looking. And online degree programs are excellent at providing these helpful resources to their students.

6. Online degrees are just as good as on-campus ones

Let’s debunk a common myth.

The myth: Online degrees aren’t as good as on-campus ones.

The truth: Online degrees earned from an accredited college provide the same level of education as in-person institutions. They are also becoming more and more recognized by employers everywhere.

Online degrees are growing both in popularity and in recognition. As with brick-and-mortar colleges, the quality of an online degree program has to do with its accreditation, professors, and educational platform. So if you go with a reputed online college, you are good to go.

7. There are financial aid opportunities for online degree programs

Many students turn to online degree programs because they are known to be more affordable than traditional classes. It makes sense since virtual learning programs don’t have the same overheads to cover as in-person schools do. But some students worry about losing out on beneficial financial aid opportunities by going the remote learning route. Fortunately, this isn’t the case.

Online learning students are eligible for federal, state, and institutional financial aid programs just as their in-person counterparts are. Online schools will generally offer information regarding financial aid application processes, and you can check the Department of Education’s database for further information.

8. Online degrees are very flexible

Flexibility. It’s a beautiful word. And more importantly, it means the difference between successfully earning your degree and never actually getting there. Earning a degree requires time, money, and a ton of commitment. This is why many people never even start or give up before they complete the program. Online degree programs provide a much-needed dose of flexibility, just the ingredient most folks need to succeed.

When it comes to remote learning:

  • You choose the time. You can take your classes whenever you want (during meetings, after work, on the train)
  • You choose the place (at work, on the treadmill, in your PJs)
  • You don’t have to commute
  • You’re not tied to a specific degree because of location
  • You aren’t bound by specific deadlines or assignment schedules
  • You call all the shots. This kind of flexibility is what is allowing tens of thousands of students to complete their degrees (on their own schedules) when there was simply no way they could do it before.

9. You’ll develop important life skills by taking these classes

Online degree programs are a golden opportunity that not enough people take advantage of. The remote learning aspect, flexible course schedule, and ample resources and tools provide you with everything you need to succeed:

  • Gain a deeper and broader understanding of their field
  • Earn a higher degree which will, in turn, make you eligible for other positions, promotions, and higher pay grades.
  • Show your employers that you are taking your career seriously
  • Open up to new fields and interests that you may not have been aware of previously.

Check our top choices of online colleges for online degree programs and launch your career today.

By Sarah Pritzker
Sarah Pritzker is a professional writer who loves scouring the web looking for the coolest products and services at the best prices. Sarah writes for Sarah has lived and traveled all over the world, but has finally settled down with her family in the Middle East - and yes, she misses winter!
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