Your Guide to Getting an Online Education Degree

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by All Star Staff

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With over 11.8 million undergraduate students enrolled in at least one online college course in 2020, and with numbers still rising for online education degrees (Prosperity for America predicts online learning users will reach 57 million by 2027), this once-fringe educational alternative has become a legitimate option for those wanting to get a college education.

If you are a future teacher researching degree options, make sure you consider online teaching degrees as you consider which type of program is best for you.

Online Education Degrees Overview

Whether you want to become a preschool, elementary, middle or high school teacher, you can learn all about how online teaching degrees work and what programs are available for your age group and specialty right here.

Even if you are planning on becoming an ESL or special education teacher, or going into educational administration, we’ve got you covered there too. You’ll find the appropriate information about those specific online education degrees as well.

Empower yourself by finding out what you can really expect from an online education degree. How different is it from an on-campus degree? Will you get the same support? Does it cost more? Will it prepare you just as well as its brick-and-mortar counterparts? If you are a working adult or stay-at-home parent, pursuing an education program online can open up a world of opportunity for you-on your own schedule, and from the comfort of your own home.

Once you’ve decided that online education is for you, you may want to know how to pick a program that fits your needs and goals. If you are thinking about a teaching degree, now may be the time to take a serious look at the flexibility and autonomy you can have when you enroll in an education program online. Your dream of becoming a classroom teacher might be more attainable than you imagined.

Online Education Degrees Today

Many education degrees are now offered online and allow self-paced study from home. Education degrees in particular lend themselves to online study because both content and pedagogy (the art of teaching) can be studied effectively in a virtual learning environment.

Plus, like on-campus programs, online education degree programs have faculty advisers that oversee student teaching efforts and ensure you’re on track to graduate.

Online degrees are evaluated in the same way as traditional on-campus degrees; they have no special naming convention or designation. They are highly revered by employers nation-wide and have been found to impart equal or better educational outcomes by study after study.

In fact, as the world is becoming more adept at all sorts of Internet activity, online degrees are becoming more and more popular. As far back as 2005, most of major universities offered full online degree programs. And we can only anticipate further growth of the industry as positive results continue to pour in. Today’s students find additional perks with online education degree programs as the workplace atmosphere becomes more and more technology centered. It is not uncommon now for teachers to routinely send instant messages to teachers in other rooms or shoot off emails to their administrators while students work on problems.

Online learning prepares them for this atmosphere in a way traditional brick and mortar institutions do not. And teachers with experience in online education find themselves with a leg up as more and more primary and secondary schools offer online education to their students.

Nearly all schools provide students the opportunity to participate in special projects that involve online research and forums-the very methods teachers with online degrees used in their degree programs.

How to Start Your Online Program

All you need to start your online education degree is a computer with reliable Internet access and the determination to follow through on assignments and projects without physical trips to the classroom to hold you accountable.

Then, from the comfort of your own home (or local library or coffee shop), you can watch video lectures, Skype, review course materials, interact virtually with the professor, discuss topics in class forums and complete and turn in assignments using LMS software such as Moodle, Slate or Blackboard.

If you are concerned about having an impersonal experience, rest assured that most online education degree students describe their learning experience as highly interactive and well supported.

Contrary to popular belief, many online college professors share their personal contact information freely and expect to interact with their students regularly via email, phone and even in person if desired. However, the freedom offered with online programs is unmistakable for students.

While some classes offer more structure and assign specific due dates for projects and have students interact to complete them, others offer completely autonomous study with a time boundary for completing the class (often four to six months) and no additional restrictions.

Questions About Online Education Programs

As you do your research and consider what type of education degree program is best for your personal and unique needs, consider these questions about online programs. You may just find that an online degree program will provide the flexibility you need to get your degree-and continue working while you attend school.

Is financial aid available?

An often-overlooked fact is that online students have access to many of the same financial aid and scholarship opportunities that on-campus students have. They are also eligible for special funds dedicated to distance learning. Look for accredited programs in order to capitalize on federal financial aid packages, and don’t forget to fill out the FAFSA.

If you are interested in pursuing your education degree online, be sure to explore your financing options with your college of choice, as well as from outside sources. You can expect to pay the same application, registration and enrollment fees that on-campus students pay. You will also need to purchase course materials and textbooks for the majority of your classes.

What is the admission process like?

Admissions for online education programs are nearly identical to those at typical universities. Acceptance to an online teaching degree program through a state university generally require the same test scores, achievements and application process as acceptance to a similar on-campus program.

Likewise, at for-profit institutions, admission processes may be harder or easier depending on the school’s standards and reputation.

What does a typical online teaching program look like?

From beginning to end, the course requirements for an education degree online differ very little, if at all, from that school’s traditional degree requirements.

The same prerequisites, courses, tests and student-teaching component are utilized to give you the most complete learning experience possible. Each class follows the same general curriculum as the on-campus version, but assignments are turned in via email, discussions take place on secure class websites, and tests are often replaced with additional assignments or written reports.

The identical nature of these programs has served to give them a high standing in the eyes of employers.

In fact, many employers value applicants with credentials from well-known online institutions over lesser-known schools. As long as the school you attend is accredited, your degree will be legitimate.

Is there support from professors and administration?

Potential distance education students often worry about the amount of attention they will receive both from their professors and from the school administration.

If you are concerned about having regular meetings with an academic advisor, rest assured that students in an online education program have access to the same amount of guidance that on-campus students do. In fact, you will probably find that communicating with campus administrators and advisors is vital as you work toward your goal of earning an online teaching degree.

How are online schedules determined?

There are two kinds of online classes offered today: synchronous and asynchronous.

  • Synchronous classes have predetermined starting and ending dates and they often utilize class involvement by following a typical quarter or semester schedule. Assignments are due at set times and class discussions (via email, forum or online chat) often play an important role in the class.
  • Asynchronous classes are self-paced. Students taking asynchronous courses can fit classes into hectic schedules by allowing themselves more time to finish, or they can work at an accelerated pace to complete the program more quickly.

What kind of technology do I need?

At a basic level, all you need is a computer with a high-speed Internet connection and an email account (often provided by the university) in order to get your entire education degree online.

However, some courses require the ability to use instant messaging, video streaming or conferencing software. Most schools also require you to use Microsoft Office or similar software to complete assignments. Social networking sites, proprietary or other learning management systems (LMS) will also come into play.

It’s important to keep in mind that these technical requirements are not very different from what a student in an on-campus program would use as well. And online teaching degree students receive detailed instructions (through short classes and/or online tutorials) about setting up their computers prior to starting their program.

In addition, private technical support lines are often open 24 hours a day to field questions and give technical advice.

Will I still need to make campus visits or go in for tests?

Campus visits are rarely required for those getting their education degree online. However, that doesn’t include practicums or student teaching that are required to earn your degree to teach. Some classes may still require students to attend proctored examinations on campus. As more students participate in online degree programs, many of those teachers are now offering secure, online testing options, or at the least, approving multiple locations for test taking.

Generally, online classes-and especially online degree programs-are offered independently from the on-campus learning component.

Sources: National Center for Education Statistics, The Sloan Consortium

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