On-campus education puts you in a productive, academically focused bubble. This bubble makes it easier to focus and dedicated your entire time and energy to your degree. It is not, however, always the best way forward for your career. Juggling personal responsibilities, especially if you have financial responsibilities, can mean that taking time off to pursue a master’s degree just isn’t feasible – even if you can get a loan.
There are many, many reasons to choose an online degree instead. You can spread it out further, allowing you to accommodate work and your education. You can also better manage your own expenses as you can continue to live in your current home, rather than move closer to the university in question.
Being able to remotely study also means being able to study at some of the best universities, regardless of where in the country they are located.
There are many reasons to choose an online education, particularly the older you get. Studying online, however, can be a big transition, so use this guide to prepare beforehand.
How to Check the Quality of the Online Degree
Just as programs themselves vary in quality from institution to institution, the same applies to the quality of online support. There are so many innovative ways that you can learn online today that anything less just isn’t worth your time.
To start, unless there are formal requirements that require you to be on campus, your degree should be 100% online. Being part-online, part-campus does not help you save. You will either be spending a small fortune on travel costs or be forced to move near your university. One of the biggest benefits of online degrees is the fact that you can continue to live in your current situation, or even move to somewhere cheaper (and more remote) to offset the costs.
You will also need to be able to download your course material at any time, at a minimum. From there you will also want a virtual learning environment that mixes up learning strategies to include lectures, discussions, assignments, and projects.
It isn’t just the quality of your degree, either. You will also want to look at the institution and even the faculty. The best ways to do this are to:
Investigate the University
Choosing a well-known, world-renowned university is a great place to start. An excellent Masters in Education from Exeter is going to going to mean a lot more than an MA in Education from a university that no one has heard of, but that isn’t the only consideration you should make. While a university that is over a hundred years old and is within the top 200 universities in the world does give you some reassurance, you’ll also want to check:
Check testimonials and reviews. You don’t want to just rely on what the institution publishes, but to look to third-party review sites to learn first-hand what students are saying. Even with a great option, there may be really interesting advice and suggestions to help you get an even better experience with your online degree.
It also doesn’t hurt to find alumni who recently graduated from the program you are looking at. You can find these alumni online, and can get in touch with them to ask questions. There is no guarantee they will answer, but you’ll be surprised at how many people will be happy to help. Once again, they’ll be able to give you their opinion, and also advice on how to get the most out of your educational experience.
Though looking through reviews and getting in touch with alumni will help you understand what resources are available (and how to take advantage of them) it doesn’t hurt to check for yourself. Having mental health services, as well as a great careers service available to you, are two of the most important resources that you will want access to through your university. They can make a big difference in your experience.
Investigate the Faculty
Another great way to determine if the degree is right for you is to see who will be teaching it. Explore their resume and the experience they bring to the table. Careers-focused degrees often have a mix of educators, both with academic careers, and professional careers. Knowing what they specialize in and where they have come from can help you get the most out of your education with them, as you can ask them questions specific to their experience and to get insight not available to most.
How to Narrow Down Your Options
You should go through the above checklist for all your options. To help you really narrow down your options, however, you are going to want to:
- Explore Job Listings
A great way to ensure that the degree you are going for will help you with your career goals is to explore what job listings say. Find dream job roles for yourself and make a note of the qualifications that they ask for. You won’t necessarily have all the qualifications they ask for just by graduating, but they will be a great roadmap that you can use to get started.
Make a note of the qualifications that are mentioned again and again for the roles that you are interested in, as these are the minimum requirements for you to get started.
Try to choose the degree that helps you learn and prepare for as many of those requirements in your list as possible.
- Ensure Your Degree Works with Your Life
The best part of the online degree is that you don’t have to spend your life in order to complete one. That being said, the degree in question can still be difficult to manage with your existing responsibilities. Always get in touch with the enrolment officer before you enroll, so that you know if the degree in question is feasible with your non-negotiable responsibilities (like children or your career). The entire point of an online degree is flexibility and greater accessibility, so the one you choose needs to offer you both.
With this full guide of quality checks, you’ll be able to find an online degree that suits your goals and helps support you throughout your education. You need both to succeed and thrive, so take the time to research and find the right degree for you.