Have you considered going to college via the Internet?
Of course, you have. Why wouldn’t you want to cozily sip
a cup of coffee, bathrobe tied loosely around your waist,
while earning higher-education credits for business or
pleasure? This article will show you how to get started.
There are a few points you should keep in mind when
you begin your search. One is whether you want to take
classes that are accredited or not. If they aren’t accredited,
they can still be fun and informative learning experiences.
But they won’t count in the pursuit of a degree.
Also keep in mind is that a college can offer online
classes but not offer a degree solely through the computer.
Some schools require some on-campus time. So if your
desire is to obtain a strictly online degree, make sure
the college and program you pick will take you all the
Next, take a good look at all the Web sites mentioned
here. I find it amazing that each of the sites below
offers a good listing of programs from various colleges
and universities that often were not duplicated at other
sites. The selections keep getting bigger and bigger,
which means more choices for us but a more difficult
job to keep track of. Also, each site tends to package
the information differently, so different kinds of information
about the programs are given.
While it may sound obvious, make sure your computer
system is compatible and that you have the necessary
software to connect before signing up. There is nothing
more frustrating than beginning a class and facing a
screen with annoying little red “x’s” over a graphic
you need to see.
Lastly—and this is one of those cautionary warnings—check
them out! Don’t let the word “college” or “university”
make you trust everything you read at their site. As
with everything else you do in your life, do your homework
here to see if they are legitimate. Unfortunately, diploma
mills do exist.
Is all of this generating more questions? Good. Questions
like, What is accreditation? Why might accreditation
be important? What is a diploma mill? and more can be
found at The Virtual University Gazette’s frequently
asked questions (FAQ) at http://www.geteducated.com/articles/dlfaq.htm,
created by Get Educated. This site also offers a number
of good services, such as a directory of Internet universities
and training institutes, with categories such as graduate
and professional programs, undergraduate programs, and
training opportunities and portals. Each list contains
brief information about the school and a link to its
Web site. Additionally, the site offers free downloadable
guidebooks in .pdf format, such as the Best Distance
Learning Graduate Schools: Education and Library Science
2003, which is 50 pages long.
Mind Edge at http://www.newpromise.com/home/index.phtml
presents a great overall look at colleges that offer
online classes in a variety of areas, such as Business
& Management, Colleges & Universities, Continuing
Education, and Graduate Studies, among others. In the
Colleges & Universities category, there are 47 offerings
for online degrees, which is further broken down into
listing the degree, which college or university is offering
it, and whether the program is currently open. There
is also a subcategory called Preparation, so if you
need certain skills before attending college, this is
covered too (those classes fill quickly).
eLearners at http://www.elearners.com/
allows you to browse for degrees, certificates, and
diplomas and separates the categories so that you can
look for continuing education or non-accredited programs.
Following the link to Diploma Mills provided a terrific
checklist on how to spot such a program. eLearners is
also partnered with Educaid, which claims to be the
sixth-largest student loan originator in the country.
On-Line College Degrees at http://www.online-college-degree.com/
has four categories for online degree programs: graduate,
undergraduate, design programs, and IT schools. The
site also cites interesting statistics from the U.S.
Department of Commerce showing that holding a bachelor’s
degree can enhance your earning power in the workforce.
An intriguing site is Distance Education in Criminal
Justice Megalinks at http://faculty.ncwc.edu/toconnor/disted.htm.
It is a very straightforward listing of each school
and what they offer in the field of criminal justice.
The list also briefly describes what format of online
education is offered. For instance, North Carolina AT&T
University uses a compressed video technique while the
New York New School Cyberspace Campus uses asynchronous
classrooms, which they call one-way teleconferencing.
Asynchronous usually means that students and instructors
can access their Web page at any time and interact by
leaving messages for each other. They are not required
to log on at the same time.
Classes at USA at http://www.classesusa.com/
provide online and telephone assistance to help you
decide which classes are right for you. This site allows
you to search by category or by its list of online schools.
One category is Liberal Arts & Sciences, which breaks
down into law and justice, social sciences, and literature.
Clicking on the law and justice link takes you to listings
of classes. The class information includes price and
the instructor’s name as well as the college providing
it but does not immediately show if it is part of a
complete online degree. Still, I find it refreshing
to see how reasonably priced the classes are. Browsing
in the degree or program section allows you to find
what you’re looking for within their choices, with links
to individual colleges for more information.
University Alliance at http://info.bisk.com/
features the option of having a representative call
you to help you decide on a program. The site features
six universities, including the U.S. Army, and offer
program information from each, along with online applications.
College Lookup at http://online-education.collegelookup.com/
features online education schools and correspondence
courses. It offers fewer universities than other sites
that offer online degrees but provides detailed information
on each program. Clicking on the online nursing school
program at the University of Phoenix took me to their
short questionnaire designed to save time. I was puzzled
at a statement I needed to answer yes or no to: will
I be at least 23 years old at the time of enrollment?
However, not answering did not prevent me from browsing
and checking out their programs. I went to their FAQ
and they listed “23 years of age” as one of the undergraduate
admission requirements for a business degree but provided
no explanation as to why.
And finally, remember that these sites are not complete.
While looking at individual colleges, I saw that more
and more of them are offering at least partial online
study. You may not be able to obtain a full degree from
them but you can earn credits for some of it and attend
campus classes another time. If the college or university
is near you, contact them to see this option is offered.
So, what are you waiting for? College is only a click
Judith M. Levinton is a freelance writer who’s
currently studying to become a hospital chaplain. She
lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.