Online Degrees: Increasing Popularity and Credibility
If there’s one thing that the Great Recession has taught us, it’s the fact that a good education is valued even during the toughest of times. While some may question the wisdom in investing in a college education in these recessionary times, statistics reveal that the jobless rate for people with a Bachelor’s degree stands at half of the overall jobless rate in the country. If that’s not a reason enough to open your eyes to the growing reality that education is your most potent weapon against economic downturn, then nothing will. Unfortunately, many of us may find it difficult to get a college degree due to a variety of reasons. Financial responsibilities, domestic circumstances or lack of funds could pose barriers to a college education. For such people, online degree programs are a huge bonus. Online degree programs are gaining popularity not just with working professionals, at-home mothers, and single parents, but it’s fast becoming the chosen mode of higher education for many full time students as well. Sloan Consortium, an organization focused on improving the standards of distance education in the country, released a report claiming that 3.2 million students took at least one online course during 2005. Keeping pace with the times and to meet the growing demand, many international universities are now offering online degree programs. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 66 percent of the Title IV (eligible for Federal Student Aid) degree-granting postsecondary institutions offered distance education courses in the academic year 2006-07. So, why have more and more students started to prefer online degree programs? The reasons are many. These courses are often self-paced and provide students the flexibility to devise their own schedules, which works well for those who have jobs or families to care for. Since the students can access the learning resources from home, they are not bound by geographic limitations. Online degree programs are naturally much cheaper than their traditional, on-campus versions and the courses available range from diplomas and certificates to higher degrees such as Bachelor’s, Master’s, and even a Ph.D. Moreover, many universities offer financial aid to deserving students. However, one niggling question that remains in the hearts and mind of those armed with an online degree program is their market value. Perception about online degrees has definitely changed for the better over time. According to a report released by Sloan Consortium, the percentage of academic leaders who rated learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face increased from 57 percent in 2003 to 62 percent in 2006. A survey by Distance Education and Training Council revealed that 70 percent of corporate supervisors rated online or distance degrees just as valuable as or more valuable than traditional degrees in the same field. However, one must consider the fact that some online degrees are more readily embraced by employers than others. Among these are degrees in healthcare, business, and technology. With changing perception and growing acceptance of online degrees, the world is yours to conquer. All you need to do is make sure you earn the degree from a university of repute and avoid dubious institutes or “diploma mills” that offer fake degrees at a cost.