The world of online degrees is full of scam artists who are just looking to earn some cash by issuing fancy sheets of paper that look like degrees to "students" who are desperate enough to rely on purchased credentials. Online degrees and classes offered through accredited universities are almost always reliable, unlike those offered through non-accredited institutions. Here are some suggestions that will help you determine if the course you have chosen is a legitimate class for which you can earn college credit that your employer will recognize.
Well Defined Objective
What is the central focus of the course? Before beginning the course you should be able to articulate exactly what you are supposed to learn from participating in the class. This information is critical because it will help you focus your attention in the right direction and use the course materials efficiently. If the information provided by the college or the instructor doesn’t make the course objective clear, you may want to compare that course to another online class at a different institution to see if there is a better alternative.
Support Systems For Communication Within the Class
How easy is it to connect with the instructor or other students? In an online course it is critical that students be able to access instructor assistance without marching all the way to campus. You will likely complete coursework at all different times during the day; it should be easy to get in touch with the professor and other class mates via e-mail or even over the phone. Consult with the instructor directly before enrolling, and ask him if assistance is readily available. There is also typically a significant amount of virtual interaction expected between students; if the system that the course relies on is poorly designed it may be difficult to participate in discussion forums or live chats with other students. The purpose/objective for interaction between the students should be clear, if it’s not other students won’t be engaged in the course discussions and likely, won’t get as much out of the course as they should.
Before you purchase the books and other materials for the course, make a trip to the college if the school is nearby and view the materials first. Are they books that you feel you will be able to learn from without direct help from the professor? When students are considering enrolling in an online course, they sometimes forget that it isn’t an instant credit—it’s an earned credit, and that just because you aren’t required to fill a seat in the classroom, you are required to complete coursework, meet deadlines, and learn the material. If you aren’t self-motivated and capable of understanding course material without a professor present, no online course will be adequately suited to your learning style.
Still unsure about the online class that you plan on taking?
Find out what course alumni have to say. Ask around. If you’re having a hard time finding students who have taken the course, you may want to ask the instructor if he knows of a student that could tell you a bit more about the course. The professor won’t be offended; he knows that you are just making sure that the class is right for you, and likely appreciates your interest.
Make sure that the institution you are taking the class from is an accredited university. To be accredited, a college must meet the standards for post-secondary education outlined by the state or federal government. Don’t waste your time or money on a program from a university that is not accredited, it could be a legitimate course that an employer would recognize, but if it’s not, you’re out of luck. There are an abundance of accredited colleges both private and public that offer distance learning programs that you can benefit from without the hassle of researching an institution that has not been accredited.
It’s not a bad idea to ask your boss if an online degree from the institution that you are considering would be recognized. Many people, who don’t want to leave their career to go back to school, choose to pursue their masters or doctorates degree online. This is a great idea, but if you want to ensure that the extra degree will benefit you, confirm that it is a program that employers will generally recognize.
FAFSA is an acronym. It stands for "Free Application for Federal Student Aid". Please take note that the first word in the acronym is "Free". You do not need to pay to fill out the FAFSA but there are certainly websites out there that will charge you for their assistance. If you are asked for a credit card at any point in the process, you are at one of these sites. If you do not want to pay to complete the FAFSA, be sure to apply at https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa. The FAFSA must be completed by you and your family each year if you wish to be considered for need-based grants from the college or university you are or will be attending as well as subsidized student loans. [...]
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