Of course, you know that, for best results in ease of transferring earned credits and employer trust in your degree, you must choose an accredited school. Besides that, what else should you be looking for in a distance learning university?
A lot depends on what kind of student you were in high school, and what kind of degree you are looking for now. If you did not scoop up all kinds of awards and accolades in your teens, you might consider one of the universities originally set up for returning students. Distance learning institutions such as Kaplan University, the University of Phoenix, and Capella University are geared toward students with a high school diploma or G.E.D. who who now must balance their college studies with their work and home life. They require only a proficiency test to determine a student’s suitability for a particular degree, and do not rely on high school achievement, SAT, or ACT scores for acceptance into their programs.
Traditional campuses are set up to house, feed, and nurture fledging adults just out of the nest. In contrast, distance learning universities have established online systems so that a student can apply, attend, and graduate with a bachelor’s degree, all without ever setting foot on a campus. Even so, there are many ways to connect online with fellow students, including school websites and student-created social networks.
But the differences involve more than a classroom on a campus versus one in the cloud. Kaplan University, The University of Phoenix, and Capella University all make provision for the student who didn’t excel in high school from day one. Instead, these schools are willing to award credit hours for workplace courses and lifetime achievements. They understand that not every skill is learned in a classroom, and that students who are also working full-time don’t have the time or the money to spend acquiring knowledge that they already possess.
Online universities understand the time constraints on working students. They set up asynchronous classes, so that the student and the teacher don’t have to be available at the same time. They offer accelerated classes, so that a student can plan his sessions for those times when his workload lightens up. And their terms start more often, in keeping with the fast pace of today’s business environment.
As more students return to the classroom, all three universities also have evolved to offer onsite classes as well, to serve those whose degree tracks require a combination of face-to-face studies and distance learning.
If you’re not sure that distance learning is for you, check out Kaplan University’s introductory class. Here you have the opportunity to sit in on a real class for a period of time for free. You attend the lectures and turn in assignments just like any other student in the class, but you don’t have to pay for tuition or textbooks unless you choose to continue with the class once the introductory period is over.
Many universities also offer single classes, allowing you to dip a toe in the water of distance learning, without the fear of drowning.