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Online University Review: What You Need To Know Before You Go!

May 17 2011 at 5:52 pm by

Are you considering attending online university full time? Do you want to get ahead (or catch up!) on some classes over the summer so you can graduate on time? Taking classes online can be a great option, but like any big decision, like what to eat for lunch, before you take the plunge you should do some research!

Since we know you’re busy studying, duct taping your friends to walls and coordinating your theme party outfits with your roommates, we’ve jumpstarted that research for you and put together a comprehensive online university review! You’re welcome.

We’ll cover the advantages of distance learning, how to transfer credits to and from online universities, how to choose the online program that’s right for you and we’ll even break down the schools by numbers and rankings.

Online Universities

Let’s start with the basics. According to the Sloan Consortium and Babson Survey  Research group, The 2010 Sloan Survey of Online Learning reveals that enrollment rose by almost one million students from the previous year. The nationwide survey found that nearly 5.6 million students were enrolled in at least one online course in fall 2009. Elaine Allen, Co-Director of the Babson Survey Research Group said that this represents the largest year-to-year increase in the number of students studying online. What that means for you is that since nearly thirty percent of all college students now take at least one course online, online classes are more commonly accepted, and you can take advantage of that. The full report can be found here.

Many students currently enrolled in online classes prefer them to traditional classes for the following reasons:

  1. You can work around your own schedule at your own pace. This is particularly advantageous for non-traditional students who have families or full time work to attend to. This is also a perk for student’s who find they skip showers and meals because they get lost in a “Call of Duty” trance.
  2. You have access to professors across the globe. So maybe you live in Cowsoutnumberpeople, USA but a top Economics professor lives in Connecticut. Well, with online university, you can be a student in that professor’s class from your farm. Pretty cool right?
  3. Anonymity makes it easier to participate for some students. Since you’re not face-to-face, shy students who fear rejection can comfortably share their ideas and participate more actively than a traditional setting.
  4. Online programs are often cheaper. There’s a real kicker. Besides the program usually costing less, you also save on commuting costs and student fees. To save even more money, you can buy cheap textbooks online since online universities may not have a brick and mortar bookstore. Textbook rentals are also a great option for distance learners because you can just ship your book back for free once you’re done with your course and you save a lot of money in the process.

Clearly, there are definite advantages of distance learning and one can receive an excellent education, however the unfortunate reality is that there are still some degree mills and distance learning scams that you need to know how to avoid.

The best way to ensure you are enrolling in a legitimate program is to verify that it is accredited. Online Education Database, currently contains reviews of 1,025 programs from 83 accredited online colleges. The key word here is accredited. If you do a search online for “online universities” you will not lack search results, however many leading online education directories will list both accredited and unaccredited institutions. While some may argue that you shouldn’t turn away from a university just because it has not been accredited, if you want employers to take your degree seriously, or if you want to transfer your credit to a traditional accredited university, you should.

Accreditation is a process in which a government-endorsed third party reviews an educational program to see if it actually prepares students for a job in their field. You can search for all colleges that have been accredited by a legitimate national service.

OEDb puts out rankings for online universities. For each college, they gather data for eight different metrics- acceptance rate, financial aid, graduation rate, peer web citations, retention rate, scholarly citations, student-to-faculty ratio and years accredited. The following are the top 5 ranked colleges.

  1. Nova Southeastern University
  2. Regent University
  3. Champlain College
  4. Upper Iowa University
  5. LeTourneau University

According to the Department of Education, these are the 10 largest schools that enroll the majority of their students online as of fall 2009:

  1. University of Phoenix
  2. Kaplan University
  3. Strayer University
  4. Ashford University
  5. Liberty University
  6. Walden University
  7. University of Maryland – University College
  8. Grand Canyon University
  9. Capella University
  10. American Public University System

Bottom line is that there are many different programs available and you can use the resources presented here as a jumping off point to find the online program that’s right for you.

Some of you may not be interested in enrolling full time to an online university or technical training, but you may want to earn college credit over summer break or supplement your schedule with relevant and interesting courses, overachievers! If you are going to go this route and currently attend college, it’s crucial that you verify your credits from online classes will transfer so that all the work you do won’t be in vain.  As a rule of thumb, first and foremost make sure the online program is accredited.  To learn the specifics of transfer requirements, you need to turn to your specific college. Some colleges have very high transfer standards and include certain conditions. The most popular conditions to look out for are:

  1. The credits you are looking to transfer are from a similar course you would have to take on campus.
  2. The credits you are looking to transfer would fulfill a general education requirement.
  3. The credits you are looking to transfer only make up a small percentage of your total credits earned on campus. Usually no more than 30%.
  4. The credits you are looking to transfer are recent and relevant.

Again, it is critical to check with your specific college and program to get the exact transfer requirements. Not every college accepts transfer credits, but most colleges that do will accept online transfer credits just as they would accept traditional transfer credits provided they’re from an accredited college and you meet your program’s specific requirements. The best way to initiate a conversation about transfer credits is to go directly to your school’s admissions office as well as the admission office from the online university you’re planning to attend. They can help you coordinate the credit transfer.

Do you have any tips for students looking to enroll in an online university or for students looking to supplement course work over the summer? We’d love to hear from you in our comments section below! Share your own online university review!

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