It is true that online education has gained some popularity within recent years, but it is still relatively new concept and many people question which online colleges provide the best program. There are many different schools and many different types of online degrees. With so much choice, many prospective students wonder which online school they should apply to.
While a flexible schedule is the reason why most students who choose distance education look for online colleges, it is still important to look into different colleges before making a final decision. In addition, while some students choose online colleges because they simply learn better with a more flexible schedule and they don’t cope well in a more traditional institution, shopping around and seeing what others have said about the various online institutions is an important part of finding an online program that will meet your needs.
In a recent poll conducted by USA News, they ranked online education programs based on a number of criteria.
Based on Student Engagement and Assessment, the top 5 schools were as follows:
1. Bellevue University (Bellevue, NE)
2. Newberry College (Newberry, SC)
3. Troy University (Troy, AL)
4. University of the Incarnate Word (San Antonio, TX)
5. University of Phoenix (Phoenix, AZ)
Based on Faculty Credentials and Training, the top 5 schools were as follows:
1. Westfield State University (Westfield, MA)
2. United States Sports Academy (Daphne, AL)
3. St. Mary’s College of California (Moraga, CA)
4. Pace University (New York, NY)
5. Sam Houston State University (Huntsville, TX)
Based on Student Services and Technology, the top 5 schools were as follows:
1. Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ)
2. Sam Houston State University (Huntsville, TX)
3. Florida International University (Miami, FL)
4. University of North Dakota (Grand Forks, ND)
5. Troy University (Troy, AL)
It should be noted that while for-profit institutions such as the University of Phoenix, DeVry University, and American Public University are among the schools with the highest enrollments in online programs, non for-profit institutions provide high quality programming as well. This is illustrated by the rankings listed above. However, there are a number of important indicators that prospective students must inquire about prior to enrolling in an online institution. They are as follows:
1. Regional vs. National accreditation
Accreditation is the best way to find out what the type of institution, the prospective school, is. Put simply, regionally accredited institutions are institutions whose main focus is academia. Alternatively, nationally accredited institutions are vocationally centered and mainly focus on career training. There are seven regional accreditation associations in the U.S. and it has been traditionally understood that regionally accredited institutions are more widely recognized in the U.S. than nationally accredited institutions. What does this mean for students? Those who attempt to transfer their degrees from nationally accredited institutions to regionally accredited institutions, do not find a lot of success in doing so. On the other hand, some online colleges will offer national accreditation which means that if you want to transfer to your local university later on, you may not be able to. To ensure that your online college has the right accreditation, check out the school’s “About” page or contact their main office for more information.
2. Course Format
While many people believe that online courses are always in a “go at you on pace” format, many online colleges offer course work that comes in several formats. Video, conference, correspondence, web-based or even face-to-face format are some of the various types of programming prospective students can expect to see at different online colleges. If a course’s format presents a problem for you, you may need to do your research. For example, it may seem great to have 24 credits of web-based format coursework but finding out that your last 6 credits will have to be face-to-face format when you live over 1,000 miles away from the college location could be a problem. It is important that you research exactly which courses will be required of you, in your given program.
3. Online Tuition
More and more schools are starting to offer out-of-state online students incentives, such as tuition waivers and special rates. This can make it easier for students to afford to take part in an online program that is within their budget even if you are out of state. Check with the institution to see if there are any monetary incentives that they offer for their online students.
As great as online colleges are, they may require more research to ensure a smooth college experience. It is important to investigate online colleges before you enroll. Please browse through www.academies.com for a better understanding of the various online education programs available.