How to Choose an Accredited Online College

Considering earning your degree online? Before you put your career on the line, it's essential that you choose a high-quality online degree program that is committed to your educational success. If you choose a subpar program, you can find yourself floundering with little direction and on the fast track to high student debt. Fortunately, there are many excellent degree programs available 100% online that can help you affordably achieve your academic goals and find career success.

How to Find the Perfect Online School for You

Once you've decided you want to earn your degree online, it's time to pick a school. A quick Internet search will give you a ton of online school results, but you'll want some criteria to help you decide on the school that works for you. Take a look at this handy guide that offers some key points to consider before you make your decision.

1. Experience

Online learning is still an emerging medium, and you don't want to trust your education in a school that's still experimenting with online programs. Look for a school with a well-known brand, years of experience administering online programs, and a reputation for investing in the top technologies and methods for online instruction. Also visit the school's 'About Us' section to learn how many years of experience in online education it has as well as the number of degrees it has awarded.

2. Accreditation

Nothing is more important in your decision to attend a school than knowing it is regionally accredited. Accreditation means that the school is recognized as a legitimate institution and is not just a degree-mill. If you think you may consider transferring credits from an online university to a traditional one, this will not be possible with an unaccredited school. Additionally, employers will look at a degree from an accredited school with more respect.

3. Compare Program Lengths.

How long do you want to be in school? In many fields, you can get started with just an associate’s degree or even certificate, but you can also continue attending classes online to someday earn a doctorate in your field. For example, if you like biology, working in the medical field might be right for you. You can enter the industry quickly with a one-year education to become an LPN or you can get a PhD in nursing, which takes more time.

If you want to earn your bachelor’s degree online, you can expect it to take about three or four years to complete. Graduate-level programs often take about two or three years to complete, sometimes less, depending on the program. Doctoral programs vary in length. Some programs can take as long as ten years to complete while others take only four or five.

4. Technology

How effectively is technology being used to deliver the program?

The success of the program depends, to a large extent, on the technology used to deliver it. Find out about the learning systems used to deliver the content and the learning enhancement tools the system supports. Learning should never be passive, not even in an online environment, so tools and technology that enable application of concepts learned, collaboration, and engagement with students, faculty, and the content is essential for your learning experience. When it comes to engagement with faculty, find out about the level of contact with faculty that the program and the tools allow. For example, are the faculty members available for real-time interaction, such as office hours? How does technology facilitate your group work with fellow students?