10 Tips for Choosing an Online Education Degree Program
by All Star Staff
Search for a teaching program that fits you
Because your online teaching degree has such an impact on your career, it’s important to consider your options carefully.
With nonprofit and for-profit colleges, synchronous and asynchronous classes, and a list of other choices to contend with, it can be hard to arrive at a secure decision. We can help you understand how online teaching degrees work, and how to make an informed decision when researching programs.
Read on for our helpful list of the most important things to consider when choosing an online education college:
1. Know Yourself
Are you a scheduled, self-motivated person with a good sense of follow-through? If so, you will most likely thrive during your degree in education online.
But if being responsible for large chunks of material—all due at a far-off date—sounds like a recipe for personal disaster, you’ll want to look for an online education degree program that follows a typical quarter or semester system and have mandated check-ins to keep you engaged with the material. These programs are called “synchronous” because you take them in sync with other students on a common time schedule.
However, if you enjoy internalizing new material on your own, you may be a good candidate for “asynchronous” courses, which are completed on your own schedule, usually independently of other students.
2. Determine Your Timeline
An important element in deciding between synchronous and asynchronous courses is your desired timeline for finishing your online education degree.
If you are already busy with other commitments and are pursuing your degree in education online because of its compatibility with part-time study, asynchronous courses will offer you the flexibility to take a break from coursework when you need to give priority to your other responsibilities.
And if you are interested in an accelerated pace that will get you down the graduation aisle and into a teaching position more quickly, asynchronous learning will benefit you as well. On the other hand, if you anticipate pursuing a typical full-time schedule, synchronous programs can usher you through the process with little trouble.
3. Check on Accreditation
Always be sure your potential online education college is accredited by an approved accrediting agency. This will ensure you may receive financial aid or that your credits will transfer to another school.
4. Understand the School’s Policy on Transfer Credits
No one wants to take a class more than once because of a strict credit transfer policy. Some online education colleges offer official transfer estimates to potential students, so start by asking for that. Talk to an admissions counselor to make sure your credits will transfer directly to your degree requirements instead of as elective credits.
Schools may also give credit for work or life experience, so think about your experiences with the age group or subject you wish to teach. If you think you may qualify for honorary credits because of your experience, inquire about it at your potential schools.
5. Compare Certification Requirements
Since degrees in education online accept students from across the country, they can’t be designed to meet the teaching certificate requirements in each and every state. Many states have specific requirements for teacher education courses. It’s your responsibility to check the program’s coursework against the requirements in the state where you’d like to teach.
Use our teacher certification page to learn more about what you’ll need to get a license in your state.
6. Research Cost and Financial Aid
Getting a degree in education online generally costs about the same as a degree from a similar on-campus university. But the best way for you to start estimating your costs is to contact the school for specific information about their online education programs.
When you do, make sure you ask about their financial aid options. Often, online students can fund much of their education through grants, loans and scholarships. For more information, see our school financial aid guide.
7. Get Savvy to Tech Support
The one thing each and every degree in education online has in common is its connection with technology. Understanding the technological requirements of your program is important, especially if technology isn’t your strongest suit.
While some schools do offer courses with more stringent technological requirements than others, the technology should never interfere with your learning. Guarantee a successful experience by finding out what kind of support your online education college offers.
Do they offer a 24-hour help desk that you can reach via email or phone? Do they provide tutorials for new students? Many colleges offer demo courses so prospective students can try out the online learning environment before enrolling.
8. Uncover the Details of your Program
The small things that make up your day-to-day existence as an online student have a huge effect on your experience getting your degree in education online. Ask about things like online book purchasing and class registration. Make sure advisers are available and helpful, and see if your program has tutors or mentors available. Also, inquire about the availability of an online library with a staff dedicated to helping online students navigate it.
9. Ensure You’ll Be Heard
Just like on-campus programs, a degree in education online has a certain faculty-student ratio. While the typical number of students per class may not seem as important when you don’t have to sit in a room with them, remember that you will still need personal attention from your professors or instructors at times. Inquire about class size, instructor office hours and their availability via both email and phone.
10. Check the Grapevine
When you are researching degrees in education online, you can’t schedule a campus visit and expect to get a feel for what life as a student there will be like. But you can ask around to find out what former and current students think. If you don’t know people you can ask personally, try looking at reputable online forums, such as www.Unigo.com. Some helpful statistics are available straight from the school you are looking at, such as graduation and job placement rates.