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03/27/2008

Online College Outlook

According to numerous organizations that monitor and study educational statistics and trends in higher learning, enrollment rates for distance learning, i.e. online education, at both traditional institutions and online-only schools have increased exponentially over the last several years.

Moreover, the popularity of online degree programs continues to gain momentum—and validity—as more and more nationally recognized universities offer them via the Internet.

The benefits of seeking an online degree program include more flexibility in terms of choosing courses that fit one's particular needs and day-to-day schedule, allowing students to study from home (or on the road), outside of the confines of the traditional classroom setting. Taking classes online is also a very attractive feature for full-time employees who would otherwise need to commute to evening classes after a long workday.

The ability to avoid childcare expenses is a financial as well as logistical benefit, particularly for single parents who may already have limited time to spend with their children.

Brick and Mortar or Point and Click?

The question is, are traditional "brick and mortar" earned degrees considered and/or valued on the same level as degrees earned online?

There are reportedly over 1,000 online and campus-based associate, bachelor, graduate and other degree programs offered in the U.S. alone, and there are varying opinions about how the value placed on these degrees.

For example, an article published on http://encarta.msn.com reported that Brian Mueller, president of the Apollo Group, which owns the University of Phoenix, the Institute for Professional Development, the College for Financial Planning and Western International University, said, "[Employers] gain a certain amount of admiration for these students...They consider them savvy and creative enough to succeed online."

The same article also quoted Murray Fetzer, director of operations for Cen-Clear Child Services, as stating, "Although pursuing an online degree is a commitment, the traditional student is committed at a different level and, I believe, gets more out of their education. Your colleagues are a critical part of the learning process."

It is important to note that according to the experts, the majority of traditional colleges and universities do not always indicate whether a degree was earned in the classroom or online, and a potential employer is not likely to ask. The latter usually only wants to know that an applicant possesses the necessary degree, along with any other required qualifications, for the position.

However, the key issue for employers seems to be whether or not an educational institution or degree program is accredited by the Department of Education, as accreditation testifies to the fact that it meets a high level of educational standards.

Do Your Homework

If you are concerned about marketability with an online degree, spend at least as much time researching data and survey results from organizations that track employer hiring trends and information, as you would looking for programs that fit your needs. ReadyMinds (www.ReadyMinds.com), the Distance Education and Training Council (www.detc.org), Back to College (www.back2college.com) and The Sloan Consortium (www.sloan-c.org) are just a few of the organizations out there that provide a wealth of information.

Lysa Allman-Baldwin possesses over 12 years of experience as a Freelance Writer. Her feature articles covering a wide variety of topics appear regularly in several print and on-line publications.





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