Guide When to Choose an Online Degree

Find out if an online degree is the right choice for you

  • Overview
  • Discussion
  1. Carolyn
    Taking an online degree can be a viable option when faced with certain obstacles that would otherwise prevent you from accessing higher education.

    Up until recently, there was a certain stigma attached to online degrees which were not seen as “real degrees”. However, with online education on the rise, times are changing and some of the most prestigious universities are now offering fully online degree programs.

    The improved standards in online education, advances in technology and the growth of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are key factors behind the increasing availability of online degrees which in turn is making higher education more accessible and affordable.

    Nowadays, accredited online degrees offer the same quality, instruction and employment opportunities as equivalent campus degrees. It is important to note, too, that often universities don’t include an online status on the diploma, making it exactly the same diploma that a campus student would receive. Rather than attending classes in person, online students access content via videos, presentations, live lectures, chat rooms and video conferencing. These tools allow students to interact with peers and have live sessions with their instructors.

    When is an Online Degree the right choice?

    Although enrolling on a campus degree course is still the most popular choice for most students, this may not be the right solution for everyone. So, let’s look at when taking an online degree becomes the better choice over a traditional campus degree course:

    You have a limited budget
    It is no secret that the cost of higher education can be prohibitive, and even with the availability of financial aid schemes, students still need to consider the additional costs associated with enrolling on a campus-based degree course. Although tuition fees for an online degree may not necessarily be cheaper than those for a traditional degree course, students can save on other costs, such as relocation, travel and housing costs.

    The degree you wish to take isn’t offered by a university in your area or country
    Not everyone has the luxury of living in an area or country with good universities or a university offering the degree they wish to take. If this is the case for you, then it is worth looking at online degree options. With an increasing number of high quality online degree programs becoming available, this form of study provides a viable alternative to the traditional campus option.

    You have work or family commitments
    Enrolling on a traditional campus-based course often involves moving to another city. For those of you who have family and/or work commitments, moving away from home may not be an option. The flexible nature of online degrees make them very well suited to students who work or have young families. Typically, students can start at any time, set their own study schedule to fit around other commitments, study at their own pace and often can finish their degree in less time than a traditional program.

    You aren’t comfortable in social situations
    You may be put off going to university because you have anxieties associated with the “social” aspect of campus life. This can be quite a daunting prospect for some people, and an online degree offers a less threatening and competitive environment to study in without forgoing opportunities to interact with peers should you wish to do so.

    You have strong environmental principles
    Taking a degree online is a much “greener” way to study than enrolling on a campus-based course as it considerably reduces your carbon footprint. A study by the Open University found that “on average, the production and provision of distance learning courses consumed nearly 90% less energy and produced 85% fewer CO2 emissions per student than conventional campus-based university courses.” This is achieved through a reduction in the need for paper, saving energy from a reduced use of campus facilities, and reducing pollution associated with travel and student housing.

    Things to consider

    If your personal circumstances fall into some of the above categories, then taking an online degree could be the right solution for you. Many reputable and prestigious universities now offer accredited online degrees, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. If you do decide to opt for an online degree, though, there are some important factors to consider first:


    Fees & Funding
    This is an obvious one, but online degrees can vary significantly in price. Make sure you are fully aware of the costs (including any hidden ones) before enrolling on a program. Many online programs also offer financial aid. You can usually find information on fees and funding on the relevant website or course page, but if anything isn’t clear, be sure to contact the university or college providing the course to ask any questions.

    Computers & Tech
    As online degrees are typically entirely computer based, access to a computer and a reliable internet connection is vital. You will also need to be comfortable with using a computer and working in an online environment. If you are unfamiliar with this type of learning, taking a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) first will give you an idea if it is for you.

    Credibility
    Beware bogus online degree programs! Make sure the university offering the degree program is officially recognised and that the course is accredited. If your degree isn’t from an officially recognised university or college, there’s no guarantee it’ll count in the eyes of an employer. Universities usually provide information regarding their accreditation status on their websites or on the individual program page. If you can’t find information about accreditation on your program’s website, then contact the university or college to check.

    Curriculum, support & schedule
    Study the degree course curriculum and schedule closely to make sure it matches your needs. You’ll also want to know how the course is delivered and what support is offered. Often, the degree provider website will have contact details for an enrolment advisor who will be able to answer any specific questions you may have. It is important to do your research thoroughly before committing to an online degree program, so ensure you check out several different offerings which will allow you to make comparisons and pick out the best course for you.

    Discipline & Motivation
    Studying in an online environment requires more self-discipline and motivation than in a traditional setting. You’ll need to consider whether you believe you have what it takes to keep on track and stay motivated. Find out if Online Learning is right for you.

    The Takeaway
    The availability of online degree programs is growing rapidly and, with higher standards and more advanced technology, these programs now rival the traditional campus degree. Choosing to go down this educational route may not be suitable for everyone, but studying for a degree online can provide a solution to certain obstacles that would otherwise prevent you from taking a degree.

    See MoocLab’s Directory of Top UK Online Degree Providers

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