Making the decision to go — or go back — to college can be challenging. In the age of online education, choosing the school to which you’ll give your hard-earned tuition dollars can be just as difficult. Just a few years ago, the choice of what college to attend could often be limited to the area you live in — since you typically had to be on campus to attend classes.
Now, hundreds of colleges and universities from around the world have flung open their virtual doors to students anywhere there’s an Internet connection. These include some of the best schools on the planet. With this many choices, it can feel like a walk through a minefield as you sift through schools, hoping you don’t make a mistake when you make a final decision.
To make your choice a little easier, take these criteria, suggested by EP, into consideration when looking at online schools.
Because one of the main benefits of online learning is convenience, a top online school should have enough program availability so enrolled students have no trouble getting spots in the programs and classes they want. Keep this in mind when choosing a school, so that you don’t enroll and get stuck waiting for the classes you want to take.
Look At Online Teaching Experience
Because online learning is a relatively new medium in education, you want to trust your education with a school that has experience in administering online education. The top schools have valid and current regional accreditation, a widely known school brand, years of experience using online learning platforms, and an industry reputation for incorporating the newest technologies and methods for online education. Look at schools that have expansive alumni networks that students can take advantage of as they search for jobs and develop their careers.
Look for schools that offer a wide array of program levels and fields of study so you can choose an academic program that matches your career goals. When you enroll in a school with many program options, you’re given flexibility to change your major based on new interests that you may discover during your time studying. The top schools we selected offer degree programs from the associate’s degree level to the doctoral level in a wide range of subjects, as well as many continuing education classes.
Flexibility and convenience are among the main benefits of pursuing an education online. Keep an eye out for schools that offer flexible options in terms of scheduling. Options like this may include asynchronous class discussions that span days instead of normal classroom hours, the ability to schedule exam times that fit your calendar, or viewing class video lectures at your own pace. Also take a look at schools with mobile learning options, and the following top schools have open enrollment and flexible start dates so you can begin your classes at a time that’s convenient for you.
When you’re learning from home, you need easy access to technical and academic support services. A top online school should have qualified tech support teams to assist you when computer problems arise, as well as academic support teams to help you as you plan your degree program and select courses. Pay special attention to schools with round-the-clock tech support.
Online Learning Environment
A learning environment with a well-crafted and intuitive design can make the difference between having an enjoyable or frustrating time learning online. Top schools have online classrooms that are simple to navigate, even if you’re not a computer whiz. The classroom technologies used by top online schools allow you to intuitively interact with your classmates and instructors, which provide a personal feel to the online learning environment.