How to Gain a Credible Online Education

Find out how you could gain the benefits of education through accredited online learning.

Online learning is growing in popularity. According to the Sloan Consortium’s 2010 Survey of Online Learning, enrollment on online programs rose by close to a million students since the 2009 survey, and almost thirty percent of higher education students now take at least one course online. The popularity of online learning is unsurprising when you consider the benefits.

Online colleges and programs greatly increase the accessibility of education, and higher levels of education have been shown to correlate to higher earnings and lower unemployment rates. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2010, the employment rate for people with a bachelor’s degree was approximately twice the rate for those with a high school diploma, and weekly earnings for graduates with a bachelor’s degree were almost $400 more than for people with a high school diploma alone. But is online learning the best way to gain those advantages?

The benefits of studying at online colleges

Online education offers flexibility for when and where you study, enabling people to further their education even though they may be unable to attend a traditional, classroom-based program. Thanks to the technologies that make online learning possible, people with full-time jobs or family commitments have a wealth of education opportunities at their fingertips that may not otherwise have been open to them. Choice is also expanded since students no longer need restrict their choice of programs to those offered by schools and colleges near where they live.

Online learning is also growing in prestige. Online colleges and schools in the for-profit sector are increasingly being joined by the more elite, non-profit schools, which are beginning to embrace the possibilities of online education. Employers also recognize the additional skills that online degrees bring. Online learning requires self-motivation, independent study, time-management, and virtual collaboration and communication skills that are highly relevant to the modern professional environment.

Accreditation: reduce your risks

If you are considering earning an online degree, it is important to check that the program or institution you are interested in is accredited. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Post-secondary Education publishes a Database of Accredited Post-secondary Institutions. There are some fake accrediting agencies out there too, but the U.S. Department of Education also publishes a list of recognized accrediting bodies so you should check out the accreditation of an online college that claims to be accredited.

You can also do a quick credibility check by asking a few big-name universities if they accept credits from the online college or institution you are considering. Speak to your employer, potential employers or professional bodies within your career field to find out whether they recognize online degrees from the school you are considering. These steps can help take the risk out of online learning so you can enjoy the benefits.