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Should You Get Your Degree Through Distance Learning?
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You may find that you are comfortable with more than one learning style, though you will probably be stronger in one area than another. There are several resources online to help you find your learning style and use it to maximize your academic success.

Some colleges and universities provide online questionaires to help students decide if distance education is for them; i.e. University of Maryland University College and Kansas State University. The University of Maryland University College also allows students to test drive an online class to experience how online courses work. Such demonstrations allow you to view online coursework, discussion boards, and quizzes.

Choosing a Distance Learning Program

If you decide you are interested in getting your degree through distance learning, there are several things you should find out about the college or university before enrollment:

  1. What is the college or university's program accreditation? In general, it is important to make sure the college is accredited by an established and accepted accrediting body, as well as any specialized accreditations. To learn more about accreditation and why it's important, see Accreditation: Frequently Asked Questions.
  2. What are the admission and registration requirements? These may include age, academic qualifactions or prerequisites, required testing, transfer of credit and other academic policies.
  3. How new is the college's distance program? Some new Internet degree programs may contain glitches in technology that can result in frustration instead of efficiency for distance learners. Some online programs are experimenting with new technology such as video streaming and whiteboard capabilities which can be troublesome with slower modem connections to the Internet. (If unsure, look for more reliable distance technologies such as the use of e-mail, bulletin boards and Web sites.) Look for a program that has a proven success rate, satisfied current students or alumni, or a history of providing quality programs for the adult learner. If you don't know a graduate of the university, ask the university to provide some names of graduates you can contact.
  4. What are the technical (hardware and software) requirements for the program and is any technical support available?
  5. What are the qualifications of the faculty and what type of academic support is available? Do most of the faculty hold advanced degrees from a variety of schools, or did they most obtain their credentials from the school itself? Is the distance program designed and offered by regular faculty members of the college? Is the instructor experienced and knowledgeable in the delivery of a productive online course? What are the performance requirements for student coursework or other study or work assignments? Is advising and tutoring provided?
  6. What library materials and other needed resources are available for distance education students?
  7. Look at the faculty-student ratio, and how the faculty and student interactions take place. Is the program self-paced or on a fixed schedule? Look for a smaller class size, as courses with a smaller number of students can help you receive more personal attention from the instructor if needed. It is also important to know the school's total student enrollment, as a large student enrollment is an indicator of a strong program with many graduates. Ask the college how many students have successfully graduated from the program and if they can provide information about job placement rates. (You can also get indepth college profiles in the Admissions section.)
  8. What are the school's tuition and fees, including payment schedule? What is the reimbursement policy upon withdrawal? What kind of financial aid, financing, or grants and scholarships are available?
  9. Does the college or university provide good customer service? Before application, make sure the school is highly customer service oriented and will provide a personal academic advisor to assist with any questions and help facilitate your course of study from matriculation to graduation.
  10. Get a program outline and a timeline or estimated graduation date. This can be invaluable in keeping you on track and meeting goals in your distance plan of study.
To locate distance schools and learning opportunities, see Degree Programs.

See also Online Education Gets Accolades, Tackling Online Degree Programs, and How Do Employers View Online Degrees?

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