Sunday, June 21, 2015

Warning ~ Check for these 3 Criteria before You Pursue Your Online Degree!

Earning an #OnlineDegree

Employers and HR/Screening Professionals need to take notice. Earning a degree either partially or solely “online” does not make it any less an achievement than one awarded to a student that attends class “in person”.

The reality is, if it wasn’t for the availability of online classes, many would be unable to pursue a degree at all.  

The high cost of education makes it necessary for some to hold down a full time or at least a part time job in order to pay for it. Online classes offer these students the only viable option to fit it all in.

There are also times when other responsibilities, like having a spouse or children, can make it hard to fit traditionally scheduled classes into their lives.  Even the commute to and from school can be a challenge.

In addition, there are many adults who have lost their jobs due to lay offs or failing companies.  Going back to school is often a great option for gaining new skills, brushing up on existing ones, or even exploring new fields.  Online classes are perfect for these “non-traditional” students.

For these types of students, the flexibility of earning an Online Degree shines.  

Despite the obvious plusses of earning a degree online, there still exists the question of whether they are really as good as a more traditional degree.  And worries that they are not respected by employers are not completely unfounded. 

The bottom line is, not all Online Degrees are created equal.

This is where being diligent and doing your homework before you apply to any online university is crucial.  Finding an online university that fills these 3 Criteria is key. 


3 Criteria Your Online Degree Needs:

Your Online Degree Needs to Come from an Accredited Institution
This is Number One for a reason.  Where you get your online degree matters.  Only fully accredited institutions carry the weight necessary to garner respect and get you the job you want.

Before applying, you should be absolutely certain to verify (ideally through the department of education) that your school has been accredited.  If not, don’t apply.  

Only schools that are accredited have successfully fulfilled all the strict standards necessary to earn that status.  They have been evaluated on their mission and goals, admission requirements, education quality, faculty, and student services.  They are also subject to peer review for renewal of that status.

Going to an accredited school protects students and graduates. Students know that they are attending a reputable school. Graduates have earned a degree from a respected institution that can lead to better employment opportunities. 

Accredited schools carry with them a measure of credibility and a stronger reputation.

These same benefits apply to an accredited online degree.  And it should not matter whether you earn your degree from a solely online institution or one that is attached to an existing “brick and mortar” school.

Your school being accredited is what matters.  In my experience, most employers do not focus on how you earned your degree (online or not).  What is important, however, is the university’s reputation and quality.  Being accredited goes a long way towards establishing this.

That is why doing your research before applying will save you from problems later.

Your Online Degree Needs to be Easy to Verify
If your online degree is difficult to verify, it can be frustrating to employers, screeners, and even to you.  When you apply for a job, often the first impression you make is through your resume.  Having information that is easy to verify is a great start.  (Read more about Making Your Resume “Background Check Ready” here).

Before you enroll in any online university, make sure there is an easy way to contact them online and by phone.  Ideally, there should be a dedicated Registrar, or equivalent, that will handle verification and transcript requests.  

I know from personal experience that attempting to validate a degree where there is no clear contact information to be found causes problems.  In fact, I have seen employers simply move on to another candidate when this occurs.  

After all your hard work, losing a job because of this makes no sense.  Once again, do your homework before you apply! 


Your Online Degree Needs to Fit Your Goals
No matter what kind of degree you pursue (online or traditional), make sure that the school you choose specializes in programs to match your goals.  

Just being a good school is not enough.  You need to know that when you graduate, you will have the strong skills you need to get the job you want.  

This is even more important to non-traditional students who are often older and more focused on their goals.  Meeting those goals should be your ultimate priority.

This is really what employers are looking for.  They want to hire candidates that bring with them the initiative and dedication it takes to earn a degree and the knowledge and skills necessary to excel at their job.  

That is why graduating with a degree that helps get you there makes sense.

According to a U.S. Department of Education study, online education can actually be more effective than “face-to-face” learning, especially at the college level.  

In “Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies”, it was discovered that; 

1) Distance higher education is more effective and than traditional face-to-face learning; 

2) Distance higher education combined with some traditional learning (blended or hybrid learning) is the most effective; 

3) Face-to-face learning alone is the least effective method among the three types studied.

In addition, online education can often take a higher level of motivation and discipline than traditional education.  Having to work on a degree in addition to meeting your “real-life responsibilities” is hard.  Being successful at it should be respected.

The truth is, Online Education is not a thing of the future.  It the reality of the world we live in.  More and more of our lives are “online”.  From our work to our personal lives, so why wouldn’t education follow suit?   

As long as it is from an accredited institution, Your Online Degree counts!  It should be given the same respect as any other degree earned.

Employers and the Screening Industry need to understand, accept, and welcome this....and the time for this is Now!

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