4 Things the best online programs have in common
There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding whether to enroll in a degree program. Busy students like you typically look for flexibility that allows them to balance their studies with all their other life commitments. That’s why, despite an overall drop in college enrollment in recent years, participation in online courses continues to rise. Online learning, also called distance learning, is convenient. This makes it a sought-after option for working adults, particularly those with children.
If you’re considering enrolling in an online program, the good news is that colleges and universities across the nation are investing more into those offerings. In fact, the 2019 Online Education Trends Report from Best Colleges reveals that 42 percent of schools increased their budgets for online program development in the last year. The same report found that 89 percent of online program graduates surveyed would recommend distance education to others.
This data indicates it’s a great time to see whether the virtual classroom could help you enhance your qualifications and boost your career prospects. But it’s a good idea to first get a good handle on what you should be looking for when selecting a high-quality education. Read on to learn about four things the best online programs have in common.
4 Things you’ll find in the best online programs
Because there are so many online education options, it’s important to do your research to ensure you’re enrolling in a high-quality program that meets your unique needs. You’ll soon start to see which programs are a good fit for you.
One of the very first things you’ll want to look into when comparing different online programs is whether or not they’re accredited by an organization recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. This is important for both baccalaureate and graduate programs.
While you might assume accreditation is a requirement for all higher education institutions, it’s actually voluntary. But accreditation serves as an important sign to both students and employers that the school meets or exceeds the minimum standards of quality for a particular program. With that in mind, many employers will only hire job candidates who have earned a degree from an accredited college.
Accreditation can also be an important factor if you end up transferring schools at some point during your journey toward earning a degree. Generally speaking, credits from a regionally accredited institution or program are more widely accepted than those from a program that’s nationally accredited.
2. Positive student outcomes
The Best Colleges report indicates that 69 percent of survey respondents have career-minded motivations for enrolling in online courses. “Career accelerators” — students who are pursuing online education to advance within the industry in which they currently work — are the majority. This may be why 80 percent of surveyed school administrators regularly encounter potential students who are curious to learn about how a given school’s online program graduates fare.
While not all schools track metrics related to employment rates, you may want to keep an eye out for an online program at an institution with a strong career development center. The career services professionals at Brandman University, for instance, assist students and alumni in their career planning and exploration processes. This can include help with assembling portfolios, learning how to network, navigating the job search, practicing interview techniques, negotiating salaries and more.
It’s also a good idea to look into a school’s graduation and student loan default rates. Both can serve as important indicators of how the institution is doing. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the national eight-year graduation rate for non-first-time, full-time undergraduates at four-year institutions is 61.1 percent at public institutions, 63.1 percent at private nonprofit institutions and 41.3 percent at private for-profit institutions.
Armed with that information, it’s easy to see how a school’s numbers – such as Brandman’s impressive 81 percent graduation rate for non-first-time, full-time students – compare to the national average.
Student loan default rates are important because most students, including online learners, need to take on some debt to help fund their education. Evaluating a college’s student loan default rate — the percentage of students who fail to make timely repayments — can indicate how well that particular school prepares its students for success in their careers.
In your search for the best online program for your needs, you’ll want to look for schools that openly share their student loan default rates on their websites. You can then compare that metric, which is 5.2 percent at Brandman University, to the national average, which currently rests at 10.1 percent.
If you can find an institution with a strong career development team, a higher-than-average graduation rate and a low student loan default rate, you can feel much more confident about the outcomes that await you in your online learning endeavors.
3. National and regional rankings
The majority of survey respondents in the Best Colleges report indicate that, in addition to contacting schools directly and perusing their websites, they selected their respective online programs based on student reviews and college ranking websites. You can often find a handful of authentic student reviews right on a school’s Facebook page or on college search hubs like Niche.
4. Online student resources
One final aspect you’ll want to be sure you don’t overlook in your pursuit of the right online program is how user-friendly the online learning experience is. The technology incorporated into learning management systems has grown increasingly easy for students to navigate, so you certainly don’t need to be a tech whiz to find your way around most virtual classrooms.
But as you research different programs, you may want to look into the additional resources that may be available to you as an online student. Good distance education offerings stand out for supporting online students. For example, if a student is struggling with one or more of the technological tools utilized in the virtual classroom at Brandman University, there are technology support services available to help answer whatever questions they may have.
There are also writing and math tutors who hold virtual office hours to assist online students who may need some extra help in those areas. Brandman even offers multimedia and design support — a resource that can teach you how to present information in alternative ways.
Find the right online program for you
To enhance your career prospects, you want to make sure you make the most out of going back to school. It’s no wonder you’re in search of the best online programs you can find. Now that you know what to look for when comparing choices, you can start narrowing your list.
If you’re drawn toward a school that supports online students while preparing them for successful career outcomes, you may want to explore your options. To learn about Brandman University’s student-centric approach and peruse the abundant online degree offerings, head over to the Online Campus page.
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