More people than ever are taking online classes. A 2009 report by the Sloan Consortium indicates that over 4.6 million students took at least one online course in 2008 – a 17% increase over the year before. That greatly exceeds the 1.2% growth rate of the overall college student population*.
And yet rumors about distance learning – many of them quite negative – abound. So here are the top five myths about earning an online bachelor’s degree – busted!
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1. Online bachelor’s degree programs aren’t accredited. There are certainly some distance learning programs that lack accreditation, so the first thing you need to know about any online school you’re considering is whether or not it is certified by one of the six national U.S. accrediting bodies. This is called regional accreditation, and it’s the highest form of accreditation a college or university can posses. Many online schools are regionally accredited, especially those associated with traditional brick-and-mortar institutions. Just make sure the one you select is among them.
2. Credits earned online won’t transfer to a campus-based program. One of the main reasons to choose an accredited online bachelor’s degree program is to make sure you can transfer your credits if necessary. One accredited school will typically accept credits from another – up to a point. Each institution sets its own limits on transfer credits; some accept an unlimited amount, but many set a maximum. Regardless, credits earned from an accredited online school should transfer just as well as those from an accredited on-campus school.
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3. Employers don’t recognize online bachelor’s degrees. This particular myth held some truth at one time, but no longer. An Excelsior College/Zogby International survey released in 2008 found that 83% of CEOs and small business owners who were familiar with distance learning strongly agreed that a degree earned online was just as credible as one earned through a traditional campus-based program**. Once again, accreditation is the key; if your online bachelor’s degree comes from an accredited institution, a significant majority of employers will accept it.
4. Online courses are less challenging. This is simply not true. Accredited distance learning institutions offer a wide variety of undergraduate programs - including bachelor's degrees in healthcare administration, software engineering and web development - that require discipline and hard work. You will be expected to keep up with the same course material as students who attend on-campus classes, and you must do so without constant reminders from an instructor. Online education provides a great deal of flexibility in when and where your do your coursework, but it places the responsibility for success squarely upon your shoulders.
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5. Online students can’t interact with their instructors or peers. Also patently false. At minimum, you will engage your instructors and advisors through email. But more often than not, online education involves participation in chat rooms, group projects and Internet forums. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) software such as Skype and Ventrilo is also frequently used, allowing real-time voice communication over the Web. Today, most distance learning programs do not merely encourage interaction – they require it.
* Learning on Demand: Online Education in the United States, 2009
** Online Degrees Earn Wider Acceptance in the Business World, Excelsior College 2008