Earning your degree online is an excellent alternative to traditional on-campus courses. The online format is flexible and designed with working adult students in mind. However, not all online colleges are created equal. If you’re considering earning an online psychology degree, or an online degree in any field for that matter, there are a few qualities you should look for in a school.
For starters, it is always advisable to consider programs provided online by an established college or university with a brick and mortar location. These higher learning institutions have a legacy and reputation to uphold, both on-campus and online. Read on for more qualities to look for in online colleges for psychology.
If you frequent this site, you’ll know we harp on accreditation a lot. That’s because it’s incredibly important! Accreditation serves the purpose of ensuring the curriculum taught at a school meets or exceeds national standards for excellence. Unaccredited degrees can cause problems for those who hold them. Many schools will not accept transfer credits from unaccredited institutions. It can be difficult or even impossible to gain entrance to graduate school with an unaccredited undergraduate degree. And, employers may not hold an unaccredited degree as valid for employment requirements. If you are currently enrolled with an unaccredited school, take steps to rectify this immediately.
Another important thing to consider is the curriculum offered at the schools you are considering. Is the entire program offered online, or is it a blended format? Are there multiple concentrations within the discipline for you to cater your degree to your career goals? If not, are there plenty of elective courses that will let you explore individual interests within psychology? What level of degree does the school offer?
Many schools feature a course listing for each major offered on their websites. If not, you can request a student handbook or schedule of classes from the student services office. It is also advisable to contact an academic advisor and discuss your career goals and what you’d like to get out of the program prior to enrolling. Be sure to ask about statistics on alumni of the program. Do they enter the workforce right after graduation? If so, what fields do they work in? If many alumni of the program continue their studies, it is a good indication that you will need future schooling to get the job you want.
Quality instructors mean a quality education. That’s true no matter what format classes are in, be it traditional, online or blended. It’s especially important to find dedicated, passionate teachers when considering distance learning, however. You’ll want to be sure that professors are responsive and provide ample feedback to facilitate the learning process. Ask former students to supply information about professors, or use sites like RateMyProfessors.com to find information. Look to see if instructors keep virtual office hours. Consider the class size, too, as this will influence the amount of individual attention your professor will be able to give to each student.
Keep in mind that teaching online is different from teaching in the classroom. Many teachers have been retrained for best practices in online learning. If possible, gravitate toward these instructors. Another way to size up the quality of professors and teachers at a university is to look at the ratio of full-time to part-time faculty. As a general rule, schools that have a greater number of full-time faculty provide a better education to students.
Teachers aren’t the only faculty you’ll want on your side when studying online. The best online schools also provide support in the form of academic advisors, student success coaches and in-house tech support. Find a school that has a built-in support system for students, especially if you’re new to online learning. It can make the entire process more seamless, and you’ll see better results from yourself and your degree.
While the tuition you will pay for an online degree is comparable to that of a traditional education, online students may encounter hidden savings and hidden fees. Of course, distance learners needn’t worry about room and board, relocation or commuter costs. Online students also do not suffer lost wages as a result of attending class. Some online colleges provide digital course materials for free, while others still use hard copy textbooks. It is also common practice for online schools to charge technology fees, and almost all colleges charge additional graduation and processing fees. You’ll also want to consider the cost of needed computer software and Internet access in order to get the full financial picture of earning your degree.
Graduate and retention rates are also excellent data points to consider when looking at colleges. While a higher graduation rate is preferable, be wary of online colleges with graduation rates that are too high. This can indicate that the school is a diploma mill and that it does not provide a challenging and complete education to students.
A school’s retention rate provides information on the percentage of students who return year after year. If a school has a low retention rate, it indicates that, for one reason or another, students are unhappy with the college or university.
Best of luck in your search for the best college for you. We hope this article has provided valuable information to help you on your way!