What to Look for When Considering Online Graduate Programs
If you are like many people who must squeeze an advanced college education into everyday responsibilities like working and raising a family, then you will be pleased to know that there are a host of reputable online programs that could be a great match for your needs. As a matter of fact, online degrees are much more common and widely accepted than they used to be, considering that these days, even well-established traditional colleges (like Penn State, for example) offer Master’s and Doctorate programs on the web. If you are interested in furthering your education in this way, then here are some things to look for when considering online graduate programs:
Your program of choice should be accredited by an appropriate accrediting body. Also, the institution should have been around for long enough to establish a good reputation for itself. The more well-established a school is, the better internship and employment opportunities it will be able to offer you.
Who will be your instructors, and what are their qualifications? From your research, are their careers in line with what you hope to accomplish? Also, is the administrative staff well qualified enough to offer the advisement and guidance you need.
Some programs are discussion-based, which means that you get to interact a lot with your instructor to get the guidance you need, while some programs leave the bulk of the learning to you. It is a good idea to ask about how much time, exactly, you will have to spend with instructors while in the program, as this can greatly improve the quality of your education.
Most online graduate programs require a residency of some sort – some spread out over the course of several weekends and some lumped together as a string of weeks out of the year. As you residency requirements will have to fit into your schedule, you need to find out about these before you enroll in a program.
Class structure and format
The structure and format of your courses can have a considerable positive or negative effect on your quality of education, depending on what your learning style is. Be sure to ask about the type of web interface you will be using (WebCT, for example), as well as whether or not you will have access to things like video lectures, virtual classes (using a webcam ), chat, etc.
Will exams be open-book tests that you take from home, or will you have to travel to a testing center to be administered your examinations by a proctor? How often will you have to take comprehensive examinations? How will your instructors help you prepare for these?
As you can see, there is a lot to think about when considering online graduate programs. Use this checklist as a guide when weighing out all of your options.
Alvaro Dibari is currently comparing online graduate programs and is getting ready to start San Francisco GMAT classes. He hopes to one day obtain his Master’s in nursing education.
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